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…
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.
“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.
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.
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.