21 June 2020

My Last Father’s Day with My Dad

It must have been close to midnight when Dad knocked on the door of the Stubbs’ bunkhouse where Jim and I and some other family members had gathered. The unbelievable, the unthinkable had happened. Our daughter Rachel had been killed instantly in a car crash just west of Salt Lake City. We had been celebrating my dad’s birthday at a family reunion at Lake Mead and Boulder City, Nevada. The spot was chosen to honor him since he had spent many years serving there, both as bishop and a teacher at the high school. It was hot and miserable in the motel at Lake Mead where Dad was staying, and he wasn’t feeling very well. He hadn’t told us, but the illness that would end with his death in early September was already taking its toll on his body. However, when we called and told him about Rachel’s accident, he quickly got out of bed and came up the winding road to Boulder City to comfort us as we prepared to head home to Utah.
Bert N Whitney on a desert outing
The plan was to spend the next morning, Father’s Day, at church meetings in Boulder City, celebrating our dad’s service there in the building he helped build so many years ago. Now, Jim and I were traveling through the night to meet with our children and grandchildren in Utah, while the rest of the extended family reunion went on without us. In those early hours of what would be his last Father’s Day, he gave both Jim and I father’s blessings that would carry us through the hard days and weeks ahead.
I remember and treasure so many blessings given me by my father. He was known in our family, and perhaps beyond, for his gift of healing. He served me and my family generously with that gift over the years. The parade of memories as I consider this includes the time Carl fell off the top of the slide in Logandale Park, when Rachel fell into the window well of their home, when my eyes needed healing, times at the reunions and precious private blessings in his home. I always expected the healings to be miraculous and speedy until one time during a blessing when he counseled me that growing older meant my body would be breaking down in ways that were long-term and persistent. That warning proved true, yet I treasure the security I felt and still feel when he blessed me with protection as I go about my work in serving others.
Dad taught me to value and enjoy schoolwork. He was quietly proud of my academic success. I saw him continue to extend his own education year after year. That made it natural for me to have the same pursuits as an adult.
He gave me a love for the outdoors, especially the desert. I remember his patient instruction as I tried to climb up the red rocks. “Put your foot right there. Now, do you see the next place to hold on?” He didn’t worry about his beloved 4-wheeler when I turned it over. He encouraged me to get right back on and go again, this time a little faster.
I learned to love and respect my ancestors through his example. The Whitney reunions were sacred occasions that we never missed, no matter how young the youngest baby was. He never gave up learning the latest technology to help us keep our family history current. Dad was a private person but he wrote regularly in his on-line production of the family newsletter. His last family history goal was to find and photograph all of his great-grandparents’ graves. A worthy goal, in my cemetery loving heart. He was always the first to donate time and money to family history projects.
Dad gave service to so many in his public callings in the church and on the job. He was a schoolteacher and dean. He served in Church callings as a bishop, in the temple, and as executive secretary to the stake president of the Logandale Stake. He also went about doing good in his small towns he called home. He was a renowned handyman and would often be found helping repair something for someone. He built and remodeled our homes and church buildings. I thought he could fix or build anything. It was an adjustment for me to find out that not all men have the same talents.
This year (2020) his birthday and Father’s Day, always intertwined in my mind, are actually on the same day. I’m thinking about you, Dad. I’m grateful for you. I especially remember the first early hours of your last Father’s Day in 2005. Thanks for your service that day and so many others. I love you.