Today, I’m changing the meaning of the phrase, “For Pete’s sake.” Usually, that phrase is spoken in exasperation or frustration, like the time my brother took the saw from me because I was cutting a crooked line and he said, “For Pete’s sake, here, let me do that.”

The reason I am changing it is that today I will bid my last farewell to a man I admired greatly, Pete Hampton. Pete has been my neighbor, my friend, my huggable hero for the better part of three decades.

For Pete’s Sake, I will:

Put my family first. Pete had one child, Annie, whom I watched grow up in our small town. She had cystic fibrosis and for the twenty years her life graced this earth, Pete had one mission; keep her alive. Annie was country-girl beautiful and tom-boy tough. She was as sweet as the cherry pie that she would serve you at her Grandma’s Kitchen, yet feisty enough to pin some knuckle-head boy to the ground during recess. A trip to the doctor, or hospital, was a 70-mile round trip from our little town to Wichita and Pete made that trip with, and for, Annie thousands of times in her life. I suppose that’s why, when you drove by Pete’s house, he always seemed to be repairing a vehicle.

Do whatever it takes to survive: That’s the part of Pete I admire most; he did whatever it took to survive. He couldn’t hold down a regular job with hours because Annie’s condition required countless emergency trips to the hospital. Pete did whatever he could to make ends meet, picking up odd jobs and scraping to get by.

Face fear with courage: I had the opportunity to spend a couple of sacred hours with Pete a few days before he died. Cancer had taken his burly body from a tough-guy you want in the trenches with you to a fragile skeleton of his former self. Oh, he was afraid – none of us know for certain what’s on the other side of death – but he faced the daunting journey with courage.

Have simple faith: Pete reminds me that faith, in its purest form, is quite simple; it’s to hope for something you can’t see or prove. Pete believed in God, although he admitted he was still mad at him over Annie dying. Pete clung to the hope that Annie was with Jesus and, when his own life was over, he would see her again. 

The last time I was with Pete, I reached out for his hand to say a prayer with him and he grabbed both of mine. “I need a two-handed prayer,” he said. The large “Jesus” tattoo on his forearm reminded me of his simple, yet profound, faith.

Be creative: Pete and I shared, in common, the joy of working with our hands. He liked working on cars and being a mechanic; something, I admittedly don’t enjoy. I, on the other hand, enjoy working with wood. Pete commented on the various pictures I put up on social media of the things I made in my shop, then he gave me one of the most precious gifts I’ve ever been given; a walking stick he made as a young man. He told me that he always hung that walking stick above the shop door and he’d like it if I would do the same. So that stick’s hanging above the door to my shop. 

On the last day of Annie’s life – she passed almost seven years ago – she penned these words in her notebook. Pete had this tattooed on his back; I think, instead, I am going to have a piece of wood laser-engraved with these words and hang it by Pete’s walking stick:

If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. If you don’t write, draw, sketch, create, the rough feel of a pencil will begin to feel foreign caught in a grasp between your fingers. If you don’t paint with punctuation, your sense flow will start to chop, sputter, and dry. Your straight line will have a subtle curve. If you don’t use it, you lose it.  

So, from now on, I’m going mean something entirely different when I say, “For Pete’s Sake.”

I often wonder what their reunion in heaven looked like. The stuff Pete hoped, he finally got to see. Pete got to see his baby girl again. He’s not mad at God anymore, especially when he saw the look on Jesus’ face admiring his tattoo.

On second thought, I think I’ll change the phrase again. I think it sounds much better if I say, “For Pete and Annie’s sake.” 

They made our world such a much better place in which to live.

 

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