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Papa Jack

Our final day in Budapest we ate at the Unicorn Cafe, because you have to eat at a cafe that looks like a unicorn vomited all over, yes?

Growing up my dad refused to be called Brother Schwab, by anyone, including the missionaries, who were on strict mission orders not to call anyone by their first names. And yes, even they called him Jack.

When he became a grandpa for the first time in 2002, he decided he preferred "Papa Jack" in lieu of "Grandpa," and Papa Jack he has been ever since.

Dad is many things: a world traveler (he imparted his wisdom to me on all things travel for instance, when eating street food,"Always make sure you can watch them make your food," and "NEVER eat runny eggs," a skilled builder (he can fix anything and create anything), a teller of excellent jokes, a movie buff (he loves to quote movies or name actors), a gifted scriptorian (how many people do you know who memorize entire chapters of scripture? Dad especially loves D+C 122 and Matthew 5), a loud laugher (must be where I get it from), devoted to service (the words of a familiar hymn come to mind, "I cannot see another's lack and I not share.," a giver of powerful blessings, and he is always there for his kids, when we make foolish mistakes and (more importantly) at our times of greatest need. He feels people's pain deeply (almost to a fault, but can that be a fault?), he loves people of all shapes and varieties, loves to eat and appreciates excellent food in all of its forms, but wasting food pains him.

He cooks using the "kitchen sink method." Case in point. I had some lentils soaking that I for our evening meal. I was missing a few key ingredients (onions, carrots and celery) and planned to visit the grocery store on the corner to procure them. I settled down for a late afternoon nap and awoke to find the lentils prepared.

A: "Dad, how did you make the lentils without those ingredients I was planning to buy?"

D:"I used what we had."

I later discovered that included pickles, green onions, and balsamic vinegar. The verdict? Absolutely perfect. And his eggs are out of this world. His secret? Add a splash of milk for every egg you add, lots of cheese, and whatever else is lying around. And when in the States, a heaping spoonful of cottage cheese for every egg added (none to be found in Europe, much to his chagrin).

He is intimate with grief and pain. Three of his seven children (Bethanne, Laura, and Elena) were severely handicapped and eventually died young of heart disease (ages 6, 15, and 10 months). He has lost money, endured a business failure, been buried in overwhelming medical debt, been falsely accused and cheated (he's got some unbelievable stories) and yet he's still standing firm in his love of God and humankind.

He plays the piano beautifully, though he says he has no talent for it. He is fiercely intelligent, but claims to have a head full of useless knowledge. He is endlessly curious about people and the world around him. He loves to sing off-key and isn't afraid to make a spectacle of himself. I think his natural state is joy, but life has beaten him down so many times that at various points there has been little joy. My hope for him is a more happiness and peace in his years ahead with his new wife, Lestelle.

Being on this trip reminds me that he has shaped who I am today. I work hard, because Dad showed me how to do that. I love connecting with people from all walks of life and cultures because Dad showed me that we're all the same and deserving of love, respect, and undivided attention. My love of the arts and turning my music up LOUD come from the many hours he spent toting us to art museums, musicals, and concerts, playing us his favorite music (Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, and Stray Cats to name a few) and sharing great literature and classic cinema with us.

Dad loves fiercely and is unfailingly loyal. Once you're in his circle, you're in his circle for life. Of course, that includes his four living children who have tripped up innumerable times, at times hurt him with their thoughtlessness, and rejected his help and advice when they needed it most. But he continues to love us because we are his.

Dad lifted my spirits immeasurably as Shane and I navigated Europe, cancer, and grief. And without an ounce of hyperbole I unequivocally state that Shane and I could not have done what we did without his logistical planning, love, kindness, sacrifice, and support. And how do you thank someone who has done so much for you and your family? This tribute is my feeble attempt.

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