This summer I experienced a miracle pertaining to my father, Randall Kreiling.
For five years, Ron, the kids and I have gone to Italy for the UD Summer Rome Program. Ron and I have taught, and Ron has directed the program, thus making it a work trip.
This past summer, however, the administrations told Ron, “Please add a one week trip to Greece.” That is because the Fall and Spring UD semesters to Rome have a week to Greece, and the administration would like the summer program to reflect the other semesters as much as possible so as to draw more students.
What that meant for me is that I was taken to Greece on business, going to Greece at age 44 for the first time since I went there as a girl to be with my father who had a house there. The last time I was there I was 18, the last of a string of summers that began when I was maybe 8 years old. My father loved his house there and loved the island, Hydra, on which he built it. My memories there are so fond–memories of sunsets, sailboats, and swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. My father was always on vacation when we were together, and so I remember him there as relaxed, content, and enjoying being with my sister Kim and me, and that last year, our wonderful sister Melia, too.
Well, the miracle begins when the Dean of the Rome Campus advised Ron, “When you go to Greece, you should consider Hydra. That would be a great place to take your students. Go check it out.” Having to go to Greece on business was interesting, to say the least. But to be instructed to go to the very island–of all the islands!–that my dad had lived on was just astonishing. So, indeed, Ron and I kept that in mind.
The trip this past summer took us as far as Nafplion, a coastal town near Athens. Once the students left, Ron as director had several days of work to do: to check out new hotels, new restaurants, new museums, excavation sites and ruins, all with a view to maximizing the learning experience and to better monetize the trip. Ron mentioned to me going to Hydra, but thought we had to travel into Athens, and then take a hydrofoil to Hydra, which would have been too time consuming.
But no kidding, one day I was walking down the street in Nafplion, when I saw a sign written in chalk: “Hydra and Spetses: 34 Euros.” What?? You could get to Hydra from Nafplion? I was amazed. I could not believe it. So I booked us on the next boat.
Our whole family piled onto the boat and we embarked on our day trip to Hydra and then Spetses. It was so mesmerizing that I felt numb: I recognized the waters, the islands, the views. They were the same as the dozens of times I had traveled by water from Athens to Hydra. I could hardly breathe. How was I hear, again? I pondered. We had not even tried to make this happen!
In a stroke of luck, Kim sent me the email address of the owner, and the owner was there and welcomed us to come visit. So, our little ferry pulled up, and we stepped foot on the island. We walked the 176 steps to the house, and she and her family welcomed us like royalty. They have preserved the house exactly as my dad left it. “It is a work of art,” they said. “No one can own this house. It will always be Randy’s house.” It was such a privilege to see his house so well respected. His artistic genius and the best of his soul are reflected in that house.
Well, in short, I think UD would be happy for that ferry ride to be added as a day trip that future summer programs take. It is convenient, affordable, and a great way to get a feel for Greek islands, since the rest of the program is on the mainland.
The miracle is: without trying AT ALL, without making the slightest effort to ever get back to Hydra, somehow Ron’s and my work just lured us right to that island. And it might just be that we will HAVE to go there, annually, on business. What???!!!! Who HAS to go to Hydra on business????!!! No one, I can assure you. It is just a little no-name island, beautiful but historically almost insignificant. There are countless Greek islands. The chances of the administration of UD telling us that Hydra is the one we should consider including is astonishing. That we found such a convenient way to integrate it into the program is even more astonishing.
Miracles are for a purpose. What is the purpose of this one? I think that it is the ongoing chance for God to remind me that I am loved. It is a reminder of my father’s love for me. I certainly felt loved by my dad those weeks and months I spent on that island. I felt his full attention. I felt his planning special days and outings for me. I felt his affection and we talked, laughed, played, swam, and took pictures together. My dad failed in so many ways. He was a truly imperfect person. I think it is God’s grace when He helps us remember people at their best. I pray that my children and loved ones will think of me, and one day remember me, at my best. This is God’s way of helping me remember him at his best. Which is as it should be.
On this anniversary of his death, Daddy, I love you. God, may he rest in the peace of your loving embrace. Amen.