Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a deacon dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Category: dad (page 1 of 2)

Potty Training

The other night, Toddler J was falling asleep. She was getting close, reaching that stage where the eyes roll back, eyelids close, and head hangs loose. Suddenly, her head popped up and said, “Daddy! Potty!”

I asked her, “Did you potty already?” “No!” she answered, “Potty!”

I scooped her up and headed downstairs. Once in the bathroom, we were on auto-pilot. The Minnie Mouse seat positioned just right, and the toddler, sans diaper, set on the Minnie Mouse seat.  I was instructed to sit in my customary spot on the floor.

And we waited. . . . . and waited.

We waited until I was sure that this was simply a well orchestrated tactic to keep herself awake. I scooped her up, and got a clean diaper. As soon as her PJs were secured around her waist, the protest began.

“No diaper! Potty! No diaper! Potty!”

I heard the cry of my child, and we returned to the bathroom. Back on the Minnie Mouse seat, within seconds, there was the sound of a faint trickle.

So I ask, who is training who?

A Letter to my Dad

dadMy father, Bruce C. Stanley, passed away on Sunday, April 15, 2001 – Easter Sunday. This time of year always proves to be hard at different moments. The joy is always accompanied by the sorrow. The bustle of family and friends visiting is now the companion of an emptiness of missing him. Continue reading

Since Jesus Passed By


A number of years ago while part of a work camp in Durham, North Carolina, I was assigned to work with a group of young people on the house of an elderly African-American woman. Before even meeting her, I was informed that she was a cancer survivor who had adopted her two granddaughters. I decided that I was not going to get to close to this woman. I was going to be there for the young people and minister to them. That, I had decided, was my purpose that week.


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Because He Lives

“I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

risen_8008cI have sung the Gaither-penned Easter hymn Because He Lives countless times. About fourteen years ago, the hymn became deeply personal. It took on a whole new meaning when my father died on Easter Sunday, April 2001. It changed the way I understood Easter and the resurrection.

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A Special Announcement

My Call to Ministry Part 1

When I was in high school, through the combined experiences of youth group, being on the Ashland District Youth Council, and participating in a summer work-camp called Richmond Metro Workcamp, I began to experience a call to ministry. I don’t remember sharing it with others. But it did reach a point where they shared it with me. It all became very real when the pastor of the small United Methodist Church where I grew up asked if I had ever thought about going into the ministry. As I finished high school, I was much more comfortable with the idea that God was calling me to ministry.

But, doubt would creep in. I would go to community college and get an Associates Degree in Early Childhood Development. I envisioned myself getting a teaching degree and teaching in a school. After getting that degree, I got a full-time job at a United Methodist church working with their weekday children’s ministry. During that time, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer and in about eight months would claim the promise of the resurrection. Those eight months would send me into a whirlwind of thinking and rethinking my vocational call. The reality of death and loss hit much harder than Bambi losing his mother ever did.

This whirlwind sent me through many days and hours pondering in an empty church or walking alone on a nature trail. I was asking myself questions like, “What do I want to do with the rest of my life? What is my purpose?”

Me on my wedding day with the window dedicated to my dad.

Me on my wedding day with the window dedicated to my dad.

My father claimed the promise of the resurrection on Easter Sunday, April 2001. Before he passed, two things happened. I applied to Randolph-Macon College, the college I had wanted to attend since I was six, and I applied for a new job as the Youth Director at another United Methodist church. A week before my father passed, I was hired as the Youth Director. When I told Dad, he replied, “That’s good, Son. That’s what you’ve always wanted to do.” (Two months later, I was accepted at Randolph-Macon.)

In June of my first summer as a Youth Director, I took a small group of youth to Durham, North Carolina for a youth work-camp. The work crew that I was assigned to worked on the home of an elderly African-American woman who had adopted two teenage girls and was battling cancer. I had resolved, subconsciously, not to get attached. I did not want to experience the grief and pain that I had just experienced through the loss of my father.

During lunch on that first day, the youth on the crew had invited the home owner to eat with us and join us for our devotion time. The youth had decided that we would eat lunch in her bedroom because she was unable to move freely on her own. I was the last one to enter the room, and when I did, the home owner announced, “There’s the minister!” I was quick to correct her that I was a not a minister, and she was quick to correct me that I was. “When you walked passed me this morning,” she said, “I felt the Holy Spirit move through you.” Not sure how to respond, I politely said, “Thank you,” and sat with the youth for lunch and our devotion.

The Doorbell

When I was growing up, it was rare that doors were locked. I can remember as a kid roaming around and randomly going into my grandparents’ home next door. No knocking, and certainly no ringing of a doorbell. We would just walk in. But now that I think about, we haven’t asked my grandparents how they felt about any of us randomly walking in their house.

Then, at some point, the world changed. And doors were locked. It was strange. In order to go into someone’s house, we had to use the doorbell.

The Doorbell - dog rings bellIt was a little creepy at first. You didn’t know what was going to happen. The doorbell was a strange object. “We’re just suppose to push it?” we wondered. “That’s all?” We would push the button and wait to hear if anything happened. In some cases, the “bell” would be so loud it would freak us out a little bit. Others we wouldn’t be able to hear it ourselves, which meant we had to push the button again, right? Because if we couldn’t hear it, how could the people inside hear it?

It also seemed so formal. Like we had to wear our Sunday best to visit someone. We were not formal people. We were country, where everyone knew everyone. Honestly, though, everyone was related to everyone – which is a whole other blog post.

Doors were no longer open. Being invited in was no longer taken for granted. We had to ask to be invited in.

When the doorbell rings, we have been trained to go to the door. We may peek through the window first to see who is out there. Maybe we are expecting guests or a delivery, and we wait with anticipation for the doorbell to ring. The power of who comes in is on us, we who are inside the house. If it is a salesperson, we do not have to let them in. If it is some annoying grandchildren, we do not have to let them in.

When I lived in an apartment in the West End of Richmond, a group of Mormons from Central America were making the rounds in the apartment building. I knew when my doorbell rang that it was this group of people. I knew what they were selling, and decided that I needed to bury my  head into my textbooks instead. I figured after they rang the bell and no one came to the door, they would move on to the next door.

However, the bell kept ringing. After awhile I finally got up from the table where I was studying, and answered the door. The elder member began chatting me up in a quick pace of Spanish that I did not understand. I finally realized that they had the wrong apartment. They were looking for my neighbor, who was a relative they were looking for.

About the same time that Dad got sick with prostate cancer, I brought home  a black lab. Dad named her Lady. She had been left on the side of the road near the church I worked at at the time. She was malnourished, to the say the least. And as a result, she spent the first few months inside the house.

As we got better, she would spend most of her days outside. At some point Lady learned that if she jumped up and pushed the doorbell, one of us would come and answer the door. And I don’t mean a neat little trick where she uses her nose to push the bell. No, she would jump up and lean on the door. Once “standing,” she would use her paw to ring the bell. It looked a little bit like this:



And because we had been trained to response to the doorbell, we would always check to see who it was. Imagine our surprise the first time we realized it was not a person, but the dog!

Lady was not surprised. And once we started answering when she rang, she would continue this habit. Especially when she sensed a storm coming. Lady was deathly afraid of storms. On these evenings, she would ring the doorbell at the front door, and if no one came soon enough, she would run and ring the bell on the back door. This would continue for awhile until my Mom would wait patiently for her at one of the doors to let her in.

One evening while Dad was in the hospital, I was home with my two younger brothers. Lady had gone outside. Not long afterwards, the doorbell started ringing. I – the older brother – told my brothers, “Don’t answer the door. It’s just Lady, and she needs to learn to stop doing that.”

The doorbell did not stop ringing.

Finally I got up, annoyed with the lab, to let her in. Only, there was no black lab waiting at the back door. Instead, it was one of our neighbors bringing us a casserole. I was only slightly embarrassed.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I thought you were the dog.”

On Shaving

Last month I participated in No-Shave November in memory of my father who passed from prostate cancer. I wrote about it in my post, Why I Am Not Shaving.

There was a small thought floating in my head that I might end up looking like this guy a the end of the month:

Phil Robertson from A&E's Duck Dynasty

Phil Robertson from A&E’s Duck Dynasty

This is what I really looked like:


This was Thanksgiving Day with my PaPa (my dad’s dad) a prostate cancer survivor. When my aunt saw me on Thanksgiving, she told me that I looked just like Dad when he first started trying to grow a beard. You can’t really tell from the picture above, but there are bald spots on either side of my face. Having gone a month without shaving, I still could not grow a complete bread.

I’m not a fan of shaving. But I have to do it. My mother kept hinting when I was in the eighth grade that I might want to start shaving. I guess I didn’t get the hint, because that Easter, settled in the fake, green grass of the Easter basket, was a razor and a can of shaving cream.

Shaving would irritate my skin. I was allergic to certain shaving creams . . . or to shaving in general, I’m not sure.

I recently received a new razor, the MicroTouch One.* The razor has been coined “the modern version of the timeless classic.” The razor is made of solid brass and chrome plated. It comes with a travel case and clear instructions on how to use it. It also came with a set of razor blades.




So, on the first of December, I was ready to shave. The One razor has a “butterfly” opening that allows you to easily insert a clean razor blade, as well as to keep the blade clean of shaving cream and whiskers.

I used my shaving brush and a round bar of shaving soap. The soap sits in its cup. With the wet brush, the soap turns into a lather. You can get the lather as thick as you want by the degree of wetness on your brush.




The One razor, with its one blade, has been perhaps the best shave. Much better than a disposal razor, and much better than the razors that claim to have multiple blades. Some of said that it is just as good as a barber shop shave.

Because it is solid brass and chrome plated, it is a little heavier than the disposal or multi-blade razors. Which means the razor takes some time to get used to. But once you do, it’s all good.

The cost for the razor, case, and 12 blades is $19.99. Some have seen the razors on late night tv infomercials and big-box stores. 

I’ll keep shaving and leave the beards to these guys:


*In full disclosure, while I did receive the razor free, I was not compensated for writing this blog post. 

Why I Am Not Shaving

It is rare that I don’t think about my father. When we sing a certain song in church, I remember singing it with him. When a song comes on the radio or iPod shuffle, I remember sitting the wooden pew listening to him sing that song in church. When the car makes a funny sound, I think about in what seemed like no time at all, he would be able to identify the sound. When I watch the CBS Evening News, I remember how that was a part of his evening ritual when coming home from work.

And I miss him.

I miss that he would always be there. I miss that he always seemed to have a fix, no matter the problem. I miss how he deeply listened to people, hearing them to speech. I miss how helping and serving others was important to him.

There is a glimmer of a memory watching my dad shave. The sink full of warm water, the shaving cream spread across his face, and razor in hand. A skill I would need to master. My parents gave me shaving cream and razors for Easter one year while I was in middle school. Shaving would become a ritual for me just it had for my dad.

But not this month.

This month I have not been shaving.  No razor or shaving cream has touched my face.  I have decided not to shave in observance of No Shave November. According the No Shave November website, this is “a unique way to raise cancer awareness.” The monies donated support the American Cancer Society. But a quick Google search will show that there are other organizations that encourage men to participate in some form of No Shave November to raise funds and awareness for their causes.

I have decided to do in memory of my father, Bruce C. Stanley. Dad had prostate cancer and died from it April 15, 2001. Easter Sunday.  That previous September Dad had started experiencing unbearable back pain. It was treated for a pinched nerve. After a month of the pain continuing, Dad went to get a second opinion and that is when he learned that he actually had prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is one of the leading diseases in men. It is the second cause of cancer death in men, only to lung cancer. According to cancer.org, the American Cancer Society estimated that in 2013 about 238,590 men will be newly diagnosed with the disease and that the disease will be the cause of death for about 29,720 men. Roughly about 1 in 36 men will die from prostate cancer.

Dad just happened to be one of the 1s.

Dad always had facial hair. For the longest time, it was full fledge beard.

But, not always. When he and Mom got married in 1975, he had a simple, conservative mustache.


After I was born, he sported his awesomeness, circa 1979-1980.


As the ’80s continued, the mustache became the beard.


Over time, it returned to a simple mustache. The switch came after much debate in our house as to whether Dad should shave his beard or not. I don’t remember what the deciding factor was, but it was a compromise to keep the mustache. And he held on to the mustache for as long as he could.

In the first few months after learning he had prostate cancer, there wasn’t too much change. But eventually, Dad would have to limit himself to the amount of physical labor he could do. The pain was just too great. While we worked in the yard, he would sit on the back deck watching, and wishing he could be out there with us.

As the cancer got stronger, Dad got weaker. He would eventually not have the strength to support himself to get up or to sit down. Family members would come by and, in a day, build a wheelchair ramp on the front of the house. Dad would be wheeled out in a wheelchair on the new ramp, lifted up out the car, and sat into the car.

To see my father – the essence of manhood – so weak and unable to do “manly” things, was heartbreaking. He was the one who worked on all kinds of automobiles. He was the one who chopped wood so we had firewood for the winter. He was the one who built a doghouse for our dog. He was Dad.

He was the one who carried us when we were not able to make it on our own. Yet, here he was in a hospital bed barely able to raise himself up. The more the cancer grew, and the more medicine ravaged through his body, the less hair he had. Including the facial hair that was a part of his identity as much as it was a part of his face.

The loosing of hair marked the lost of strength.

And so, I’m not shaving to remember, to honor, to raise awareness, and most of all, to be strong for all the times my father wasn’t able to be.

For more information about No Shave November, visit their website here, and consider making a donation to the American Cancer Society.

Why Scott Simon’s Tweets Matter

Scott Simon of National Public Radio tweeted the last days of July while at the bedside of his ailing and dying mother.

The tweets were light-hearted, emotional, and real. If you read through the tweets now in the aftermath of his mother’s death, it is quite moving, mostly because Simon has done a remarkable thing using social media to share very vulnerable thoughts and feelings.

This is why it matters. It matters that he tweeted this experience because it shows the rest of us, especially men, that it is okay to be vulnerable. It is okay to be emotional about life and death. It is okay to be open, not just with others, but with ourselves.

When I was in my early *early* twenties, my father developed prostate cancer. It was the hardest news that I had ever received. For eight months my family and I held on tight to the cancer roller coaster we were all on. The rounds of chemo and radiation that left my father so weak he could barely lift himself up. The early morning the ambulance came to take him to the hospital, while I was on a youth retreat. And the Sunday afternoon when two women whom we had just met told us that my father would need to enter hospice care.

Translation: Your father is dying.

That was Palm Sunday, 2001. That was a weird day. I have often looked back at that time in my life and wished that I had journaled starting that day. And maybe I did, somewhere, but it is no where to be found today. I wish that I was able to reflect in such the way that Scott Simon did as he lived next to his mother in her last days. I wish I had that record of the things my father said when the pain medicines were not clouding his mind. I wish I had moments to sing the songs he loved so much. I wish I had one more conversation out by the tractor shed.

Translation: Watching your dad die, sucks.

And Simon captured that awkwardness with a tenderness that made it less awkward; almost spiritual.

Easter Sunday, April 2001. Dad had been on hospice care for a week. It was a different Easter, and it felt strange. During worship (I still can’t believe I went to church that morning), I was suddenly filled with great anxiety that I would get home and Dad would be gone. Thankfully, that was not the case. The afternoon and evening were surreal. On a day when the family would typically be gathered around a table – or in our family’s case, tables – family was in and out visiting, spending time with Dad.

In a few quiet moments, while his father sat by his bedside talking with him, my father slipped away.

In her book Death: The Final Stage of GrowthElisabeth Kubler-Ross states that “death reminds us of our human vulnerability,” which is why there is a sense of dread surrounding this life event. This idea that we as humans are uncomfortable with death because it makes us vulnerable is spot on. I don’t know too many people who like the idea of being vulnerable. But that is exactly what Scott Simon did with his tweets. He became vulnerable before his mother, God, and the world. I have often reflected back on the months of my father’s illness and the weeks of his active dying and wondered what I would have journaled to capture the emotions, the thoughts, and the vulnerability that I experienced. Maybe I would have expressed some of the same things Simon did.

He shows us that we can embrace the vulnerability. He shows that while death may make us uncomfortable, we can be present in the last moments to experience the circle of life. This is why Scott Simon’s tweets matter.

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