Eulogy for Wes Thorp

Today, I gave a eulogy for my dad Wes Thorp. The funeral service was held at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Lansing, MI. Thanks to all who came out.

For those of you I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting, I’m Wes’s son Justin. 

My dad loved stories. 

He wanted to know your story. He wanted to know what made you tick. 

I remember when he worked in the Michigan legislature. We’d walk from his office to get coffee across the street from his office. What should’ve taken 10 minutes took 45. He knew and talked to everyone. 

Regardless of who you were and your professional affiliations, he cared about your story. 

It is one of the honors of my life to take a few moments to share and celebrate my father’s story and how that points us back to our Father’s story.

I’ll be honest, though…

It’s only slightly intimidating to write a speech about a man who was a professional speechwriter. 

As part of the Wes Thorp School of Communication, I learned that in a great speech, you say what you’re going to say, you say it, then you say what you said. 

So, ha! here we go… 

His Story

On August 31, 1946, in Bay City, Michigan, Wesley Dale was born to Frieda and Claude Thorp. 

At the age of two, my grandfather Claude walked out on my dad and Frieda. 

Instead of writing something, let me just read what my dad wrote on his blog.

In 2017, he wrote… 

“He vanished. He left no messages. He never called. He never followed up in any way, shape or form. My mom was left with a 18-month old toddler, me and no way to support either of us.” 

Later he went on to say… 

“I was left with personal uncertainty about my ability to have a loving relationship with a wife and my ability to love kids.”

The shame about being left by his earthly father ran deep. 

But that’s not how the story ends. 

Friends, what’s true in the light, is still true amidst the darkness. 

Our Heavenly Father loves us. 

God strategically put family and broader community into his life to remind him of the love of his Heavenly Father. Did you know that Wes had 11 aunts & uncles? That’s a lot of people speaking into your life. 

My Story

In 1984, on a hot summer day in June, I was born. 

Every day I felt my father’s love. 

He gave me an example of what it meant to be a man… a man with Christ at the center. 

I remember waking up in the morning at my childhood home to find my dad sitting at the kitchen table reading the Bible. 

Whether he knew it or not, I watched, which made a HUGE impression on me. 

In addition to giving an example, my dad gave me his time.

I could tell you about MSU football and basketball games. There’s a funny Jell-O shot story. 

There was going to work with him during the summer at the State Capitol Building. I remember when I was 11 or 12. Before the internet, He’d have me run down to the “Bill room” to pick up paper copies of bills before the legislature. 

You could hear my flip flops clack and clock through the hallowed halls. 

When I was young, my dad and I had thoughts about what my mom was getting at the grocery store. So, my mom said we should do the grocery shopping. 

We did, but we’d get a coffee beforehand. And when I say coffee, I mean a caramel cappuccino with whipped cream. There wasn’t that much coffee involved.

At the coffee shop, we talked about everything. 

This is what I miss more than anything. I want to sit down with him over a coffee or a beer and talk about everything. 

Over the years… through the conversations, there were lots of Wes sayings that stuck in my head. 

Never assume anything. 

Sell the sizzle, not the steak. 

My team at work knows that every time I say “don’t bury the lede” that they hear the voice of Wes Thorp. 

The most important saying was from when he heard a sermon when my parents were found to Ada Bible Church. Pastor Manion preached from Ephesians and talked about finding your identity in Christ. 

He boiled it down to “Remember who you are.” 

Remember who you are. 

My dad’s identity wasn’t in being abandoned by his father. 

My dad’s identity wasn’t in having progressive supranuclear palsy. 

God’s Story

I remember sitting next to him in church, and he was struck in particular by a song by the musician Stuart Townsend. 

How deep the Father’s love for us,

How vast beyond all measure,

That He should give His only Son

To make a wretch His treasure.

My dad was a member of the mug club at Eagle Monk Brewery here in Lansing. On the bottom of the mug, you could write a personal nickname or saying to identify your mug. His said “saved sinner.”

If you asked my dad how he’d want to be remembered, yes… Son, Husband, father, grandfather, mentor, journalist, legislative staffer. 

First and foremost, it was saved sinner. 

Remember who you are. Saved sinner. 

Thank you. 

Dear Dad

Over the last decade, one of the things that we’ve talked about the most is to “remember who you are.” We are first and more foremost and redeemed children of God. 

I am also you. Especially being Father’s Day, I just wanted to take a moment to celebrate that. I love it when I’m in Michigan, and I get randomly stopped by someone asking if I’m your son because we look so much alike. Beyond the genetic apple not falling far from the tree, you pour so much into me and each of us, in a way that points us back to that identity in Christ. 

One of my fondest memories from our house on Jones Street is coming down from our bedrooms in the morning and seeing you read your Bible at the kitchen table. I was so young, but I was watching. That made an indelible impression on me about your relationship with Jesus Christ. Thank you for being that example. 

Thank you for your time and the unconditional love that comes with that. I cherish the times when I went to work with you in downtown Lansing, went to MSU sporting events, Promise Keepers events, caramel cappuccinos. Later in life, it became trips to Urban Chestnut or Horrocks for beers or now beers at your condo.

Thank you for three or four years ago, suggesting that we set aside time every week to pray. I cherish the time we have together with Adam and Ken to connect, laugh, and pray for each other over Zoom. It’s become a highlight of my week and love that we’ve stayed consistent with it.

I think it’s so appropriate that your blog is called Daily Grit. (Still blows my mind that you’ve been blogging since 2004, since way before it was cool). I know the name was an homage to a newspaper that you read back when you were a kid. Wikipedia talks about grit as “perseverance of effort promotes the overcoming of obstacles or challenges.”  

Thank you for having grit. There are so many challenges and obstacles that you’ve faced. You’ve been through the abandonment of your father. There was losing jobs and having to figure out Plan B. Most recently; it’s been going through having progressive supranuclear palsy. You have and continue to face it all without losing sight of finding your hope in Christ. 

Now, as an adult with a lot more responsibilities, life has brought me all kinds of opportunities. But the hills of life have only gotten more prominent too. Thank you for teaching me how to persevere amidst challenges, while keeping my eyes on God.

I’ve become a big fan of the singer/actor Ben Platt. The bridge of one of his songs goes, “I have a hero whenever I need one. I just look up to you and I see one. I’m a man ’cause you taught me to be one.”

Dad, you’re my hero. I love you. Happy Father’s Day! 

Talk on FaceTime in a little bit.

-justin. 

Shaping Work Around Your Life

I’ve been working from home for the last six-plus years. It’s allowed me to shape work around my life vs shaping my life around my work.

I can get just all of my work done and I can have lunch with my family or play a quick catch with my son in the backyard.

I resonate with this from Charlie Warzel

I began to use the privilege of working from home to prioritize balance, not productivity. I often work out or run a few errands in the middle of the day — and use that missed hour or so in the evening to catch up on work that requires more focus when things are quiet. And when work does slow down, I try not to spin my wheels: I go for a walk, I play with my dogs. If something pops up at night, it doesn’t feel as soul-crushing when you haven’t spent the day chained to the computer.

A call to arms…

Seems like one thing we’ve been missing is a national (and really global call to arms). During the Cuban missile crisis, President Kennedy said

My fellow citizens: let no one doubt that this is a difficult and dangerous effort on which we have set out. No one can see precisely what course it will take or what costs or casualties will be incurred. Many months of sacrifice and self-discipline lie ahead–months in which our patience and our will will be tested–months in which many threats and denunciations will keep us aware of our dangers. But the greatest danger of all would be to do nothing.

During this pandemic, it’s going to be difficult, dangerous, full of sacrifice and surely test our resolve. BUT… “the greatest danger of all would be to do nothing.”

These are the words that we want to hear from our national and global leaders. It’s a call to arms to prepare for something big.

When I Need Protection…

There are existential threats to my life that loom so large that by my own will I can’t resolve or safeguard my family from them.

I can’t stop a terrorist attack. I can’t stop climate change. As we’ve seen, while I can play my part, I can’t own my own stop a pandemic.

There are BIG global problems that need a bigger solutions. There are big problems that need bigger resources to be marshaled in order to fully resolve them.

The hope is that the government will step in a lot… or at least most of these circumstances. They’re there to help mitigate that risk. They can see the problems that I can’t see… they can marshal the resources that I can’t marshal.

The challenging part is… the man at the top of the government has been creating more risk than mitigating it.

He’s suggesting unproven drugs that may do harm.

He’s suggesting people inhale bleach.

Wear a mask.

According to Vox

…in April, researchers at the University of Hong Kong and in Europe calculated that if 80 percent of a population can be persuaded to don masks, transmission levels would be cut to one-twelfth of what you’d have in a mask-less society. However, that study has yet to be peer-reviewed.

You could have Covid-19, not realize, cough, and give the disease to someone else. Best way to prevent that is to wear a damn mask.

Your personal actions have an affect on the public health. So, it needs to be regulated.

Vox has a fantastic video that dives into it more deeply.

Happy Birthday Mom!

In the Nehemiah 8:10, the people in the Old Testament we’re told to celebrate “for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Today, we celebrate my mom’s birthday. I’m so blessed by her and the joy that she exudes. She’s so firmly rooted in God’s grace and provision for her life that she’s confident in His strength. 

Growing up, my mom always had a song on her heart. At some point during my teenage years, I didn’t always appreciate my mom’s singing. Now, I wish I could hear it more often. I find myself singing to my kids the same songs my mom sang to me. And nothing makes me happier than hearing my children sing. My daughter would sing non-stop if she could. In them, I hear my mom’s voice and her joy.

Mom, I’ll never stop singing.

My mom’s joy in the Lord has always shown through in both the good times and the hard times. One memory when I was growing up, I was really young and going grocery shopping with my mom. I was likely sitting in the front of the cart, chowing down on a bagel, as it would keep me occupied while my mom shopped. It was the middle of the day, so I’m guessing my sister was in school.

All of a sudden, my dad showed up of nowhere. He’d just been laid off from his job. My mom looked at him and knew exactly what had happened. Her response, “Hey Wes, what would you like for dinner?” She trusted that God would provide, and he did.

So, today… mom… we celebrate you. Every day, you show me about what it means to live a life of joy and to find my strength in the Lord and His grace. You show me what it means to have the heart of a servant. I’m so thankful that I get to be your son.

Remember who you are.

In this current climate, I’ve been thinking a lot about political parties. They can be a great way of finding like-minded people to advance a common principle or ideology.

It becomes dangerous when people adopt a political party so tightly that it’s their identity. A person’s self-worth gets tied to whether the party wins or loses. It leaves a party susceptible to outside actors who help you win but at the cost of forgoing the principles, you held dear.

One of my dad’s favorite sayings is “remember who you are.” Oh, how easy it is to forget.

I like winning. I like power. I like getting recognized and having people say nice things about me. It feels great. But it’s ultimately not worth it if it means forgoing your integrity. The ends never justify the means. Plus, winning, power and recognition will never give you the real joy you’re looking for.

Look at the headlines… we have a President of the United States who purposely uses racist language to stir up his base and to preserve both his power and power of his political party. At one of his rallies, the crowd chanted “Send her back”, in regards to a foreign-born member of Congress. What sad times that we live in where this doesn’t receive universal condemnation?

We’ve forgotten who we are.

“Love your neighbor” doesn’t come with an asterisk saying it doesn’t apply to the opposite political party. “For God so love the world…” does not just mean the people that look, talk, and act like you. It means the. whole. world.

I’m so blessed to have incredible parents who’ve instilled those Biblical values in me from the onset. There are many others who’ve played influential roles in how my Biblical principles play out in the public square. It pains me to see some of them stay silent.

We can’t stay silent. We can’t let this behavior be normalized. This way of thinking is a type of cancer. “Oh, I can just cut this corner to achieve some greater end.”

All too often the news is filled with another Harvey Weinstein-type figure that has risen to incredible power but on the backs of terrorizing someone else. It all starts with compromising their values for some ends that starts to eat their soul one bite a time.

When will you stand up? When will you speak out? I don’t want this type of morality to infect another generation.

Unlike what the President says, speaking out against those in power actually makes you more American. The founders sought out to create a “more perfect Union.” The founding of our country was an act of rebellion against the British.

And don’t get caught up in some false choice. Objecting with the current status of our political leadership doesn’t say anything about your political party. While I don’t stand with the Republican party because of the Trump administration, objecting to it doesn’t make me a liberal Democrat.

Stand up for what’s right regardless of whether it’s politically expedient. Remember you who are.

The swamp is getting drained

In his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump started using the slogan “drain the swamp.” It was a rallying cry for those tired of the rich and powerful in DC getting more power at the expense of everyone else.

While most of the time Trump enables the swamp, his Justice Department has made some incredible moves to “drain the swamp.” And they’re not just going after the swamp creatures of DC. They’re looking for anyone that’s trying to use their power to tip the scales in their favor.

Most recent example is billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein who was charged for sex trafficking.

The newly released charges concern an alleged multi-state sex trafficking ring Epstein operated between 2002 and 2005 with the help of his employees and associates.

Donald Trump is a friend of Epstein’s. He’s been quoted as saying “I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”

Epstein was recently charged in Florida but got a lenient deal by then US Attorney and now Donald Trump’s Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta.

Epstein sounds like the epitome of a swamp creature. Excited to see him behind bars for the rest of his natural life.

But that’s not all the swamp draining news today. GOP super donor Elliott Broidy is being investigated by the feds for using his status with the Trump campaign & inauguration to illegally attract foreign business.

They say money and power don’t make you evil. It just amplifies who you are.

Well, as capitalism has become more unrestrained, we’ve seen the growth of the rich. More people know power than ever before. We need a rule of law and independent Justice Department that’ll hold the rich and powerful to account for their actions. It’s good to see it work today, even within the Trump administration.

Finding My Point of View

For a few years on CNBC, there was a show on called Restaurant Startup. A series of chefs would pitch concepts to a panel of judges, they’d do pop-up restaurants, and a finalist would get investment from the judges.

Famous restauranteur and show judge Joe Bastianich in multiple shows asked the chef contestants “what’s your point of view?” After their answer, he’d say “A restaurant without a point of view is a diner.” He’s saying that if you don’t want to be generic then you need to have something about your food that’s different and that you want to share with the world.

For whatever reason, this really resonated with me. As a marketer, when I’m trying to help educate the market about a product, I’m searching for its point of view. What’s unique about the product and what it’s saying about how it wants to change the world?

I also think about my own point of view. I feel like I have things to say. I feel like I was put on this earth with a calling to big things… to change the world.

I’m in a funny season of life. People have started to look to me for advice as much as I look to others. Of course, I really want to help. It forces me to think about what believe. It forces me to crystallize my point of view.

I’ve thought a lot recently about discipline. I want to create a discipline around sharing more point of view more regularly here on this blog. I need to practice writing. I hope you’ll join me on this journey.

To top it all off, in order to stay relevant, I need to be producing content. As Gary Vaynerchuk says, “Document. Don’t create!”