Memories are a big part of what gets you through the days of inevitable grief when you lose a dear one to death. I’ve been amazed the past couple of days at how many times I’ve panicked thinking “Oh no. Who is taking care of Dad? Am I supposed to be there?” And then I remember the painful reality is that I will see his body tomorrow, but not HIM. I’ll have to wait a while to see the new “him.” When I do, I will know him and we will have forever to reminisce and catch up.
And then I go to the only place I can see him with clarity and detail–my memory bank. Here is one memory from 2010 about a “roasting” of my dad in his Prime-Timers group. I’m glad I wrote about it that night when I got home because, every time I read it, the sweet memory is newly etched in my heart. I know there are blessings all around and all 58 years that I’ve had my dad have been nothing but gifts. I know he is in glory. I know he is wholly healed. In fact, I cannot understand why my heart hurts this week; I just know it does. I think God must give daughters who have good dads a special insight into what devotion to a father is like, so they can be all the more devoted in service to THE Father. I hope it can be true, in my case, anyway.
Here’s a good memory from the archives. It was written during my dad’s 88th year:
Tonight I went back to the fellowship hall of the congregation where I attended the first five years of my life for a get-together of those sixty-ish and above. My dad is eighty-seven, so he is definitely the senior member of the senior group. He sometimes talks about how it’s fun to go be with those people except “some of them are just really old.” He sometimes tells me on those Thursday nights that he’s going to meet with the “Alzheimer’s group.” Tonight Dad took pimiento and cheese sandwiches and egg salad sandwiches. His egg salad is the best ever.
It was really fun to visit with them tonight because it was the night they were having a surprise roast—sort of a mini “This is Your Life,” for Dad. Both of my sisters were able to make it and all of his grandchildren except for my two were also able to be there. We listened as Robert Whiten and Homer Smith said some funny things about my dad; some stories from when he was a kid like how he tore apart a Victrola when he was a small boy so he could see the tiny people inside who were singing; and some stories from now, when he’s old, like how he accidentally microwaved his hearing aid in a bowl of jelly beans. There were some stories about his extreme frugality and some memories about his football and coaching days. There were a lot of things said that made me miss my mother and be really glad for the longevity of Daddy’s good life.
And then there was some serious stuff about how he had some good parenting ideas that somehow worked to make us all grow up to be Christians. There was a reading from Ephesians 6:4 about fathers training their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. There was a little history of the Jacksonville church; how that Daddy was one of the trustees when the property on which the building now sits was purchased back in the 1950s (he helped negotiate that deal); how that he led the singing on the first Sunday night in that old building. Someone in her sixties from the audience spoke up and said that he was her Sunday school teacher when she was a kid back in the old building that pre-dates the present location. Then someone pointed out that Daddy had planted 10 oak saplings in the churchyard back in 1959, when the property was newly purchased.
Now I’m sure that when Dad planted those trees, he didn’t think about how that his grandchildren would one day play under the shade of those trees. He didn’t think about the hiding places that those trees would afford kids in games of hide and seek. He probably didn’t think that one day the architects for the fellowship hall would give attention to the placement of one or two of those trees. He probably didn’t think about the preacher’s kids climbing them and tire swings perhaps hanging from them in the days when they provided shade for the preacher’s house that hadn’t even been built at that time but has now been removed. In fact, he probably planted those trees on a regular day, when he was thinking more about his job, his household budget, his wife and son, and the baby they were expecting (that would be me) and the new house he was buying about that time. He probably was sweating when he climbed back into his pick-up after digging those holes, unloading those little trees and packing the dirt back around them. He was probably thinking about supper that night, but not about a fellowship supper that might occur 50 years later at a VBS under the shade of a big tree you could no longer get your arms around.
Four of those trees remain today. They still make homes for birds and squirrels and they still make piles of leaves for kids in the fall…and they still make acorns which still hold the germ of life from that one acorn that first grew the sapling.
Well, I’m no philosopher, but it strikes me that there’s still a lot to be said for the ordinary life. It starts as something very unremarkable. My dad was just the son of a sharecropper. It just takes ordinary days … days of planting seeds; then days of dependence on God for the rain and the sunshine. Mother and Daddy were given four tender hearts into which the Word of God could be planted. They did this, in the most natural ways through days that have all run together now– in conversations, in choosing faithful bodies of God’s people wherever we lived, and in sacrificially making Christian education possible for us. They did it in benevolent actions toward friendless people and in going out of our way to pick up children we invited to worship with us; children that sometimes didn’t smell good. They did it by always being at every visitation meeting, working the bus route to bring kids to church and then going to every assembly thirty minutes early so we could go pick up the kids who signed up to come. Of course that meant staying thirty minutes late to deliver them home, too. It meant taking our friends who were from un-churched homes to Woody’s Drive –In for ice cream after services. (You know, one of my girlfriends from childhood who had no mom at home is now faithful and married to a deacon in the church in Virginia Beach? We made lots of trip to her house to pick her up for services and I helped her get the baptismal robes on when she was baptized.) It meant teaching us to use those old Jule Miller filmstrips and providing the cookies when we did show them to our friends. It meant sending us up the street to pass out invitations every time we had a gospel meeting. It meant occasionally walking a couple of miles in the snow when we couldn’t get down the mountain on Sunday morning in a car. It just meant lots of different things that we thought were very ordinary. As a matter of fact, I’ve never really thought about my dad’s life as being anything out of the ordinary at all. In fact, it really hasn’t been.
But God can use even the ordinary for His glory. He does it all the time. He took a little boy’s loaves and fishes, a widow’s mite, a shepherd’s rod, a few pitchers of water and, thankfully, a baby in a manger and provided what multitudes desperately needed. Whatever I have to give Him is surely meager. My time is so finite, my power so limited, my wisdom so irrelevant and my mortality so evident. But He can take my meager and make it mighty. He can take my finite and make it infinite. He can give my wisdom relevance and He clothes my mortality with immortality (I Corinthians 15:54).
I’m glad my mother and dad planted acorns on all those ordinary days—really glad.
Tomorrow will be another memory of an ordinary, although very difficult day. But one day…ahh, one day will be extraordinary.That trumpet will blow, we will rise and nothing will be ordinary ever again!