Coping with the death of a parent I hardly knew

They say our loved ones live on in our memories.

Or in the words of poet Thomas Campbell, “To live in hearts we leave behind. Is not to die.”

When grief wraps its spindly fingers around our hearts, we overcome by turning to recollections of our time together.

What do you do, though, when the pool of memories is slight, and the pool of disappointments runneth over?

When my dad died Tuesday at 2:44 p.m. Texas time, so did the fantasies I’ve been clutching for three decades.

It doesn’t feel like I lost a parent, it feels like I lost someone I’ve been longing to know — someone who looks just like me.

I’ve met my dad five times — six if you count our first reunion when I was 6 years old.

When I look back on those encounters, it’s not bliss that overwhelms me.

Nervous excitement ran through my veins the first time I met him when I was a little girl. It was at a gas station in Albuquerque. He bent down and gave me a hug. I remember his boots and jeans and jacket, but not his face. I remember the tears that followed after about two weeks, when he disappeared once again.

Anger seized me 13 years later when I saw his deep blue, discomforted eyes at an airport outside of Marshall, Texas. Sadness and frustration enveloped me when I said goodbye — sadness, because I wasn’t sure if I’d see this man again; and frustration because our time together had washed away the ire I wanted so badly to cling to.

Thus was the circle of emotions that came with each visit. It was a grueling vortex of sentiments — one I don’t particularly want to turn to in this time of grief.

For me my dad won’t live on through joyful memories, but through regret. I regret not knowing each other better, not having a seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th visit; but I also know I did my best. And, somehow, I can also sense his remorse. I saw it in his eyes. I heard it in his jokes. And more recently, I read it in the comments he left on my Facebook page.

Some, in efforts to console me, have said he’s watching me from above now. I wish I could believe that, but why would he start guarding me now?

No, I won’t find comfort in memories or thoughts of his watchful spirit. True relief lays in forgiveness. His abandonment will always sting. But I feel no resentment, no fury. I’m thankful to have met him, and by meeting him to have met my two half sisters. I’m thankful they were kind enough to hold the phone up to his ear for me in his final hours, so I could finally say, I love you.

SpokaneFAVS wins its second national journalism award


This week the Local Media Association named SpokaneFAVS the Best Niche Site Produced by Local Media for unique visitors under 100,000.

The judges said SpokaneFAVS was, “Well designed, easy to follow. Interactive for its target audience.”

The judges said they were also impressed at how open the website was to all faiths and beliefs.

The Local Media Association is the only non-profit, professional trade association specifically serving the local media industry. Each year it holds numerous contests to make sure that “the best are nationally recognized.”

Abbotsford News was name the second place winner and Columbus Parent Magazine took third.

In 2013 SpokaneFAVS won its first national journalism award when it won third place in the Harold Schacerrn Award for Online Religion Section of the Year by the Religion Newswriters Association.

In April SpokaneFAVS celebrated its second anniversary.

Instructor wins national award for community journalism


By Darin Watkins, Edward R. Murrow College of Communication

Tracy-Simmons-webSPOKANE, Wash. – A religious online media project started by a Washington State University instructor has won a national award for “Best Local Community Initiative” from the Local Media Association.

“This is really a unique, local initiative that identified a community need and responded,” wrote judges for the association, which is made up of 2,400 traditional news organizations that serve as the dominant sources of local news in their markets. “Though this is a startup, it offers lessons for other news media.”

Respectful religious dialogue

Spokane Faith and Values (SpokaneFaVS) was launched in 2012 by Tracy Simmons (, an instructor with The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at WSU’s Pullman campus.

The nonsectarian initiative partnered with the national Religion News Service, local Spokesman-Review newspaper and area universities to create a place for respectful dialogue on ethics, morals, values, politics and faith. The site has more than 50 writers offering opinions and viewpoints across a wide spectrum of religious ideologies.

“I think religion lends itself to the digital medium,” Simmons said. “People want to have these conversations in a safe and respectful environment.” Read more at

Fostering understanding face to face

Online discussions sometimes lead to in-person conversations – with panel discussions, pub or coffee talks, mixers and “faith feasts.”

“I didn’t want just a website offering the latest headlines and conversations,” Simmons said. “I wanted this to be a tool for starting offline conversations aimed at fostering understanding among people at a time when many conversations have grown so divisive.”

Simmons is an award-winning journalist specializing in religion reporting, digital entrepreneurship and social journalism.