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Saturday, June 16, 2012

My Friend Dan

Two days ago, I lost a good friend way too soon.  Two days ago, someone who changed my life died.  I posted about a prayer request for his family.  Today, I'm asking you to pray for me.  I'm struggling with the fact that my friend died.

He was my friend first.  Unlike a lot of people who knew him as Coach, or as Mr. McClannahan and eventually got to know him, I knew him first as Dan.  Literally from the first day that I moved to Iowa, Dan was part of my life.  Oh sure, I grew up and he and his family eventually moved away, but when I think of Dan, I don't think of Coach or of Mr. McClannahan, the teacher, but I think of Dan.

Dan was huge.  He was a giant of a man.  Not many men make my dad look small, but Dan did.  As I grew up, I knew that Dan was the head football coach at the high school.  I also knew that he was a teacher at the high school.  I couldn't wait to take classes from him, but I knew that it would all come in time.

Some of the things I remember about Dan...

Birthdays.  He would give us our spankings.  This went on into high school.  He'd bum rush the house and pin us down and he would give us our licks.  Thank God he held back, because his hand was like a canoe paddle.  :)

Rebuilding our garage.  I sat out on the step of the garage and watched him work every day and talked to him as he framed the garage roof.

The talk that we had about going to high school.  He came over and we went for a ride in his Jeep.  As we were riding up to the high school, he said to me, "Andy, I'm going to be your teacher this year.  You can't call me Dan at school.  You can call me Mr. McClannahan or Coach, just not Dan. [...]  I have to treat you like everyone else, even though you're not like everyone else."

Storms.  He and my dad would stand on the front porches of the houses and yell back and forth.  God, he loved thunderstorms.

Knee surgery.  Dan had arthroscopic surgery on his knee just before I had my first knee surgery...and he was out shovelling snow the very next day.

In many ways, people have the exact same memories I do.  Everything they say about him is true.  Every word.  But, through my entire life, while he was mentoring them and working with them, I stood back a little and watched.  I knew what he was doing.  I knew how he was turning athletes into something more.  But I also knew that at the end of the day, they went home and talked about Coach.

At the end of my day, I got to go home and talk about Dan.

There are not many people who have completely had an impact on my life that I can purely say impacted me.  My parents, Mrs. Doris LaBounty, Monsignor Richard Schuler, Fr. Michael Larkin, Sue Milam (my grandmother), and Dan McClannahan.

When I go to the wake tomorrow afternoon and the funeral on Monday morning, I will stand back just a little while everyone praises the life of Dan McClannahan.  And they should.  They should until they cannot speak anymore.  Dan is worthy of every word that is spoken about him.  But I can stand there and at the end of the day I can go home and talk about Dan.  Not Coach, not Mr. McClannahan.  I can talk about Dan.

And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Don't grieve for me, for now I'm free!I follow the plan God laid for me.I saw His face, I heard His call,I took His hand and left it all...I could not stay another day,To love, to laugh, to work or play;Tasks left undone must stay that way.And if my parting has left a void,Then fill it with remembered joy.A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss...Ah yes, these things I, too, shall miss.My life's been full, I've savoured much:Good times, good friends, a loved-one's touch.Perhaps my time seemed all too brief—Don't shorten yours with undue grief.Be not burdened with tears of sorrow,Enjoy the sunshine of the morrow.

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