This is the fourth in a series to honor men who have been helpful by their examples.
All of the men I’m highlighting are both more interesting and more fallen than I can capture in five or six hundred words. That may be particularly true for this man.
My father-in-law, Miles Hahn, was a German Lutheran farmer who fit nearly every stereotype that those three things conjure. The German part of him kept most of his emotions under wraps. The Lutheran part of him kept his faith private. And the farmer part of him meant he knew how to work hard, fix things, and trust God to provide the rain and the sun that would turn seeds into a profitable harvest.
He also had a complicated relationship with all his children, not all of it happy.
But, he also had a sly sense of humor and loved to be with people. He would be the first to volunteer to sing in the church choir. One pastor who came through their little rural church wasn’t being clear on some important Biblical principles, so Miles read passages from the Bible and asked her to explain them.
And though he never really understood anything I did for a living, he knew that I loved his daughter and would seek to take care of her. He also loved his multiply disabled grandson, and he loved his oldest granddaughter, also with multiple disabilities.
I didn’t really know what to do with myself when we would visit the farm, so I started tagging along with him on occasion to pick up parts and the like. At minimum, that would mean an hour in the truck with him by myself. This, at first, was a frightening proposition because I didn’t really know anything about what he was good at, and he wasn’t that interested in what I was good at. But we were now related.
And God made something special happen. I remember our traveling to see his grandson (my nephew) in some sporting event that was more than an hour’s drive away. And as we drove he talked about some of his regrets in his own parenting of my wife. He was being very vulnerable, especially for him, and clearly warning me away from some of his behavior. I appreciated it deeply.
A couple years after Paul was born I wrote a little paper about disability and the church that I shared with David Michael and a few others. I also sent it to Miles, and hoped he would read it. To my surprise he called me – he never did that – and wanted to talk about it. It was a pivotal moment in my relationship with him.
God took him from this life very suddenly in August 2000, so he only knew Paul for a few years. But those were good years. I was honored to be asked to speak at his funeral and I still miss him.
He taught me there are lessons to be learned in failure. And obviously he lived with the hope that in sharing those lessons maybe I could be a better father and husband than he had been, for our benefit and the benefit of our children.
That humility and wisdom is something I cherish, and something I want to pass on to my children.