Last Saturday, my sister-in-law, Angie, and I were out for a long training run on the Poudre River Trail. For the first hour or so, Angie, working hard to keep a pace and be heard over the gusting wind, related a story about her father, Frank Straka.
Frank had been in the hospital in Salida recently after experiencing high blood pressure and what seemed to be minor stroke symptoms.
Although the family has been relatively close over the last few years, Angie and her siblings have had their share of difficult relational obstacles, many of them associated with their father, Frank.
Angie explained, as we huffed and puffed against the wind, that as she tried to discuss some of the recent family tension with Frank in his hospital room, he had asked her to stop talking about those issues. He could feel his blood pressure rising and didn’t want to spend his energy on those topics.
The next day, though, Angie had received a call from Frank. He related how he had experienced a deep regret the night before over focusing on petty issues and causing unnecessary dissension among his children.
Frank described how he had come to realize, alone in that dark hospital room, as he struggled with the symptoms of his high blood pressure, that it was quite possible his life could end suddenly, even though he was only in his 50’s.
In those moments, Frank recognized the relationships he had with his children were too precious to waste with insignificant quarrels. He explained to Angie that he wouldn’t waste that time any more, and they talked about how his relationship with God could bring peace to his own life and bring positive changes to his family.
As you would expect, Angie was excited about Frank’s change of heart and was looking forward to seeing how the family would be affected in days to come. We talked about how it seems that we often have to get ourselves into desperate situations to get the right perspective on life.
This morning, Angie’s sister, Kelly, who lives in San Diego, was taken into emergency surgery for a c-section to deliver a baby boy about six-weeks premature. Angie was supposed to have been at Kelly’s side for the birth in May.
As Angie rushed to make travel arrangements to go to San Diego, she was also trying everything she could think of to get in touch with Frank, whom she hadn’t spoken to for a few days, to be sure he knew about his new grandson.
It wasn’t until her plane was leaving the gate for take-off from the airport in Denver that David, Angie’s husband, called her with news about Frank.
Frank Straka was found today in his home in Salida. We don’t know exactly when he died. We only know that he’s gone.
Graciously, the pilot took Angie’s plane back to the gate, and she’s here in Colorado with her family. Yet, she’s doubly sorrowful, as she is unable to be with Kelly and her new nephew, having his own struggle to get to stable health.
Renee looked through our pictures tonight and found a photo of Frank with Gabriel, Angie’s and David’s 4-year-old-son, on his birthday in December, sitting atop the new bike he had just received as a gift from Frank. It’s a good picture, speaking at least a thousand words.
I barely knew Frank Straka. I met him at David and Angie’s wedding and have seen him on occasion over holidays and family events, but we’ve never had a real conversation, I guess. I can feel the weight of his absence tonight, though, as I think of his children and grandchildren and what they’ll miss about their father and grandfather.
I know that God does all things well. I don’t understand, though, how these things work for his good. For now, we’ll struggle to trust and hope, and we’ll hold the family in prayer.