Dad had originally been named “Deo” – but when he was in his teens he learned “Deo” meant God, and he thought it was a little presumptuous to be named “God” – so he changed his name to Dee.
Dad was not a religious man. But he was a spiritually-minded person. He told me once that he felt closest to God when he was in the mountains. I could relate to this. I’ve always felt that Nando Parrado’s thoughts about God in Miracle in the Andes expressed really well my own feelings about God, and probably Dad’s feelings, too: “…I did not feel God as most people see Him. I did feel something larger than myself, something in the mountains and the glaciers and the glowing sky that, in rare moments, reassured me, and made me feel that the world was orderly and loving and good… It was simply a silence, a wholeness, an awe-inspiring simplicity. It seemed to reach me through my own feelings of love, and I have often thought that when we feel what we call love, we are really feeling our connection to this awesome presence… It wasn’t cleverness or courage or any kind of competence or savvy that saved us, it was nothing more than love, our love for each other, for our families, for the lives we wanted so desperately to live.”
I asked Dad once what had inspired him to become an adventurer and explorer. He said a book he’d read as a youngster – The Royal Road to Romance by Richard Halliburton – had been a huge inspiration to him. He quoted these words from the book: “Live! Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you. Be afraid of nothing. There is so little time that your youth will last – such a little time.”
And live that wonderful life my father did. All 101 years of it.
As many of you know, my mom was a Christian Scientist – she wasn’t very religious, either, in terms of following a human organization and institution – I think she thought of CS more as a way of life than a religion – and she loved the idea found in CS that “God is Love” and that she could actually use the power of Love to heal. The great mountaineer, Pete Schoening – who saved my dad’s life and the lives of four other men in The Belay on K2 – had also, coincidentally, married a Christian Scientist. So the Molenaar and Schoening kids had (and still have) a lot in common.
And all this leads up to a message I got from Pete’s daughter, Lisa Schoening Jertz, yesterday. She brought me a much-needed laugh:
“Your father has always been very personable, warm and funny the times I have seem him. He must have been a great father.
“Many years ago he was visiting us at the house on the lake in Kenmore. It was just before the 40th Anniversary Reunion of the K2 1953 Expedition in the Wind River Range was to take place. Dee was helping me iron and fold the commemorative K-2 T-shirts.
“He told me how much he appreciated and respected Colleen’s Christian Science faith. He told me that he had learned from your mother that when he was scared or felt uncomfortable he would say ‘God is Love’ and this helped him greatly with the situation.
“On the day of the visit it was also my father’s birthday. Unbeknownst to my father my brother Mark had just gotten his pilot’s license at 18, including the Seaplane rating. As a surprise Mark flew in with a seaplane to take him for a birthday ride. Being the host Pete was, of course he invited Dee to go along. They all got into the plane and as the door of the plane was closing I heard a soft voice say ‘God is love’– that was your father. It made me laugh.”