Monday, March 10, 2008

C. Steffen Sanvik

My weekend this weekend ended up far different than I expected. For one thing – until about a week prior I thought I was going to be in Arizona soaking up some rays and enjoying spring baseball. As is sometimes the case though more important matters arose. I canceled (well postponed until later in the month) my trip and stayed home to attend a memorial service.

I grew up in the town of Snohomish, WA which is a small community north of Seattle. It was the epitome of “it takes a town to raise a child”. People were born and raised there. Families tended to move in and never leave. Many of my friends have moved back as “adults” and I don’t live all that far from there either. The draw for some reason is strong. There was only one high school and generally at the time I was living there, you knew everyone and everyone knew you. I think things have changed a bit now – the town is much larger and a second high school will open next year but in the 90s it was hard to get away with anything. In fact, one of my favorite stories was when my sister had just gotten her license and my parents had a rule that she couldn’t drive with friends for the first three months but she broke the rule. Well, of course someone from our church saw her and mentioned it to my mom. Busted. That was typical.

One of the families we were very close to were the Sanviks. Pat and Steff were very close to my parent’s age and they had two daughters – Kristin who is only a few months older than me and Talitha who was three years younger. Pat and Steff lived in Snohomish for only the first five or so years of Kristin’s life and then they moved abroad to teach. First they moved to Kobe, Japan, then Manila in the Philippians and finally to Singapore. The schools they worked for paid to send them home every summer for a couple of months. I saw Kristin every summer when they were home and she and I were pen pals for virtually our entire lives until she moved to the states for college. In 1995, I went to Singapore to visit her and her family for two weeks. Talk about a life changing friendship. Kristin is now married and lives with her wonderful hubby Travis and most adorable baby Hannah in Maricopa, AZ which is outside of Phoenix and part of the reason for my planned trip to the sun.

Kristin’s dad Steff was probably one of the most pleasant men to be around. He had such musical talent and I think it just came out of his pores. Anyone who met Steff loved him instantly and he loved you in return with the kind of love that you can physically feel. He had a way of changing a life with even a simple and brief meeting. I was one of the lucky ones and got to know him my entire life. Years ago Steff was diagnosed with liver disease. They do not know how he got it – there was speculation that perhaps it came from something he was in contact with in his travels. In June 2007 he suffered the first of three esophageal tears. The third one occurred on Christmas Eve 2007 and lead to him developing blood clots in his lung. He was at the top of the liver transplant list at that point but because of the clots was placed as inactive until the clots dissolved. Unfortunately, he did not live long enough for that to take place.

Steff passed away on February 26, 2008. He was surrounded by his wife Pat, Kristin, Tali and Kristin’s husband Travis.

His memorial service was the reason for staying home this weekend. I have been to a few memorials in the last few years but thankfully they have not been very many. This one on Saturday was totally heart breaking. I actually did not expect it to be so difficult. I don’t think it had truly hit me that he had passed away until I was sitting in the church where I was baptized as an infant surrounded by people from the old days and seeing his girls so sad. It made me realize not only had we lost Steff who was such a joy but it wouldn’t be that unrealistic to lose one of my parents.

I am very thankful that I took the time about a month ago to visit Steff. He had been home from the hospital for a few days and Kristin and Travis were in town to help and spend some time with him. It was a very emotional and exhausting visit but it was well worth it. I got to hear his infamous “hellostatue” joke. He was in good spirits and feeling better than he had for a while so we had a nice chat. This world is definitely a better place because Steff lived here. I have no doubt he is in heaven singing his lungs out and maybe even directing the choir of angels. And the music in his life has very clearly been passed down to his granddaughter Hannah. During the memorial there was a particularly powerful anthem sung by the choir and Hannah, who is only eight months old, was standing on Travis’ lap directing them with her arms – I mean that. Literally directing the choir. When they stopped singing she started to fuss for the first time in the hour and a half we had been there. Travis gave her a bottle and she settled down again but then the choir started singing again and she immediately popped the bottle out of her mouth and stood, transfixed while they sang. She obviously has her grandfather’s gift and love for music. It will be great to see if she has his Norwegian accent.

I guess he lives on even though he is gone.


Anonymous said...

I am so sad to hear about 'Mr. Sanvik''s passing. If this is the same Steffen Sanvik who taught music at Lynnwood Junior High in the early 70's. I've been looking for him for the past few years, hoping to say 'Thank you'. I missed my chance.

I've had a many good teachers, very few bad ones, and only a couple of what I think are great teachers. Mr. Sanvik was one of those. Too much to go into here, but he saw things in me I couldn't understand at the time, gave me confidence when I had none. Of all the teachers I had, two teachers changed my life. Steffen Sanvik was one of them.

My best to the family. Thanks, Mr. Sanvik. God Bless.

Bob G., one of his former trumpet players from Lynnwood Junior High, Class of 1971

Anonymous said...

I too am sad to hear of My Sanviks passing! He was a wonderful teacher! I still remember his encouragement and when we did bottle band! Best to his family and God Bless!

One of his former Clarinet players at Lynnwood Junior High!