Filling a Father’s Shoes

It was a few days after the Oklahoma City bombings. I was behind a two way mirror in Florida eating handfuls of m&ms while listening to women discuss fiber infused yogurt when I got the call from my oldest sister.

“Ginger, you better come home.”

By the time American Airlines got me booked on a flight to Grand Rapids, my father had passed away. I could tell you the moment that he strolled into heaven wearing his loud golf pants. I wasn’t holding his hand while he took his last breath, I was  thumbing through a sky-mall magazine when I got tingles over my body followed by a feeling of peace followed by a six hour delay.

Funny how you never forget these things.

While my Dad had passed on, my Uncle Charles took on my dad’s duties but not his golf pants. Uncle Chuck was a tail gunner in WWII. His plane was shot down by the Germans during the bombing of Dresden. He bailed out of an airplane and  landed in a tree. It was my uncle’s faith that saved him.

As a kid, I would laugh as he told the story of landing in a tree in a tangled parachute. Farmers rushed to the tree with pitchforks. His back was injured, he was terrified. Before long, German soldiers were surrounding the tree as well.

My uncle, nineteen at the time, was certain he would be shot. When the soldiers asked him his name and he replied, “Krieger,” they put down their guns.

Saved by his German name.

Uncle Charles walked one hundred miles to a POW camp where he ate grass soup until the war ended, about six weeks later. He lost a good portion of his body weight but not his faith. Before he bailed from the airplane, my uncle had the time to grab one of two things: his revolver or a small bible that his sister gave him. Uncle Charles opted for his bible.

As a kid, the story made me laugh. As an adult, his story makes me shiver.

Until the day he died, Uncle Charles would have devotions out of that very same Bible, the pages worn over the years. And every spare moment he had, Uncle Charles would be “that crazy guy on the street corner” giving away free bibles.

You never really know what people have gone through, why someone leaves you a small green bible instead of a hefty tip or why someone dies while you are on a runway looking at a memory foam mattress for pets or why someone would pay $199 for such a thing.

But I do know my uncle’s story has impacted mine.

You can read it below.






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