BANGOR, Maine — As Edward Noonan sees it, what matters in life is not things.
“What matters is relationships,” the Bangor resident said Sunday during a Father’s Day talk at his church.
Noonan was invited to speak at Bangor Baptist Church by Pastor Jerry Mick, who also is a dad. Mick said that rather than deliver a typical Father’s Day sermon, he wanted to have someone speak to his congregation about “more than just being a dad but being a dad who has been through quite an ordeal.”
Members of Bangor Baptist Church who attended any of the three Father’s Day services on Sunday morning heard about faith and fatherhood during a conversation between two dads, who spoke to the congregation from a pair of comfy armchairs with a small table and lamp in between them.
In the early hours of Saturday, April 14, Noonan’s 20-year-old son, Clark, was killed in an early morning car crash near St. Joseph’s College in Standish, where he was a sophomore business management major and a member of the school’s basketball team.
The former All-Maine basketball player and soccer standout at Bangor High School was a passenger in a Mazda 626 automobile that veered off the road, rolled over several times and became entangled in a chain-link fence, according to reports. Noonan was pronounced dead at the scene.
His death stunned family and friends. An estimated 700 mourners packed Bangor Baptist for Clark’s memorial service.
Mick opened Sunday’s dialogue by reading the lyrics of “Cat’s in the Cradle,” Harry Chapin’s 1974 hit song in which a father who is too busy to spend time with his son grows old, only to find his now grown son is too busy to spend time with him.
Noonan said he is glad that he was a different kind of father. He recalled a long ago Sunday when Clark was six and wanted Noonan to take him to the park. Although Noonan had one weekend off a month and had his heart set on watching football — “and it was a good game” — he decided to concede to his son’s wishes and to the park they went.
They played tag, hunted for frogs, getting all muddy in the process, and then headed to a diner for coffee and hot chocolate.
“I recognized that I have a whole lifetime of football games but my son would only be 6 years old once,” he said. “Dads, you need to grasp that you cannot create a memory if you are not available.”
Their 30-minute talk about faith and fatherhood was interwoven with references to Bible verses, namely Ephesians 6:4, which is about fatherhood; and James 4:14, which addresses the brevity of life on earth.
Noonan said that while he and his wife, Christine, and their daughter, Allison, are still reeling from Clark’s death, they find solace in knowing one day they all will be reunited in heaven.
“That’s a great comfort,” he said.
After the 11 a.m. service, the last of three during which he spoke, Noonan talked about how he was able to muster up the strength to share his views on what it means to be a father so soon after the loss of his son.
“This is God’s grace. This is God working through me and you know the power and the ability and confidence to speak clearly without crying. I certainly cry a lot at home,” he said. “It’s been nine weeks. We still count [the days since Clark’s passing]. It’s been very brief, I know it has, but I’ll tell you it seems like years. It seems like I’ve been crying for years.
“The thing about my son’s death is that it’s given clarity to me about what’s important, like things I wish I had done. It gives me clarity about things I want to do with my daughter to be a better father to her.
“I wasn’t perfect. We had arguments. I made mistakes. I allowed him to do things he shouldn’t have done, I said no to things I should have let him do. But that’s part of growing up as a dad,” Noonan said, adding, “I have a perspective that I’m thankful that most people never will have and I hope they never will.”