Dan Wolboldt saved my life.
He didn't pull me from a burning building or rescue me from a frozen lake. But when I was suffering from a depression that had me constantly on the brink of suicide, he was the man who kept me on this side of the abyss.
He was my therapist, but that word is so clinical, and doesn't accurately describe who Dan was to me. Friend? Yes, even though I usually only saw him in the confines of the office of a mental health clinic in Warren, PA. Father figure is more accurate, I suppose, but whatever you call him, he was the one that convinced me that life was worth living. His office was the safest place on the planet. It was there that I felt most vulnerable, and most cared for. He is the reason I am still here today, rather than a memory, or at very least, rather than a human husk, withering away in a hospital for the remainder of my days.
He shared with me stories that a professional therapist shouldn't generally be sharing with his patient, and yet it was exactly the right thing to do in my case. I would record myself playing Christmas music on cassette tape and give it to him as a Christmas gift. I went to a church where he was a guest pastor one Sunday and marveled that this man could radiate such kindness and generosity. I read about his exploits with his boy scout troop, and wondered if those young men knew how fortunate they were that someone like Dan could be in their lives.
I also know that Dan was an imperfect man. But I wasn't prepared to discover that several weeks ago, this man responsible for me being here to share this story today went missing. Vanished from his house, his wallet and keys left behind. No note, no goodbye to his wife Penny, no sign of a break in, no indication that something was wrong. He was simply gone.
The police have searched, and the Conewango Creek and local branch of the Allegheny River have been scoured. No one knows if Dan, at the age of 69, wandered off to take his own life, or fell into the river and was washed away. Perhaps he was discontent and troubled, and decided to travel where he couldn't be found and live out his last days in peace. Perhaps he simply went for a walk to some unknown place and suffered a heart attack, and hasn't been found in spite of the exhaustive search.
But it doesn't seem that Dan is coming back.
The last time I talked to Dan was a few years ago. He sent me an email entitled "The real story...for those with a warped sense of humor." It was a typical viral email that people might send, this one with pictures of fairy tale princesses as they might have ended up. Snow White with her several babies and a good-for-nothing prince sitting in front of the TV. An obese Little Red Riding Hood wandering through the forest, sipping on a Big Gulp and carrying a basket full of bread. It certainly wasn't the most socially sensitive communication, but it's what I have.
I love you Dan. I hope that you are close to God now.
Edit: My mom shared this YouTube link with me of Dan leading vespers in 2012. http://youtu.be/dmVaCIoxeI0