I remember my mama waking me up gently. The boy was sleeping with me and I didn’t want him to wake up yet. I went downstairs to help daddy get ready for the day. It was Sunday so I knew he would get visitors. Here he was at the end of his life and still he had people coming to visit daily.
Everyone loved my daddy. You couldn’t help it as he was so easy to talk to. Even in business, he was respected and did a job he loved for over 40 years.
He was a man’s man and a gentleman. He played sports and seemed to be good at everyone he played. He started playing golf when he was young and we called him the “Yoda” of golf as he was the most serene golfer I have ever seen. We played tennis as a family and tons of games. We learned to be competitive and how to lose with grace. He grew up hunting and fishing. I was in about the 2nd grade before I realized not everyone ate venison and fish as staples like we did.
He was known as the negotiator and for his peace making skills. He was quite calm often in a sea of chaos.
When I was a young teenage girl dating, he was quite intimidating to any guy who wanted to go out with me. He used to interrogate anyone I planned to ride with. He would clean his gun, clean a deer or practice his bow and arrow (he was a great shot) all while questioning the young man’s intentions with his daughter. I knew how much my daddy loved me by everything he did.
I know a handful of times that I made him so mad he wanted to throttle me. We talked about it often. I had so much respect for him because as a teenager, I had a temper and he taught me how to control it. Not that I didn’t get in trouble as a result of my temper and actions, but I knew he loved me no matter what.
He told me he used to have a bad temper when he was younger and all it did was get him in trouble. He learned how to control it and channel it. He learned to read people and anticipate their reactions. He learned how to be kind to others when they all but spit in his face. He learned control.
He also learned kindness and compassion as well as good business practices. A person’s handshake meant their word of honor and you did not break that. He taught me about respect.
He taught me the love of the outdoors and the beautiful of the world.
He taught me to look beyond the outside of a person and see who they truly are. There are many wonderful people and may people who would do you harm. He taught me everyone is equal.
He fought for the equality through his business as this was the south and southerners can be hard to change their ways.
I was the firstborn. A daughter. My brother followed 3 ½ years later. We talked of how the world was more open to men. He saw the differences in how anyone who was considered a minority was treated and he worked to change and made a difference. No small feat here in Alabama where nearly all men of his stature in that time were expected to be a bit more narrow minded, see only one color, one gender and class was everything. He didn’t. He saw the human being where others saw the poor, females and those of a different color or class. Like his mama, my GrandMaMa, before him, he taught me so many things you can’t learn in a book. You have to open yourself and see things as they really are. Then you have to focus on the good and what is right.
We tend to almost saint those who have passed away. I am not doing that, I am honestly sharing how amazing this man truly was.
I haven’t always been the “ideal” daughter. I tended to push the boundaries and tried my parents on so many occasions it’s amazing they didn’t ship me off. I felt I had “failed” at so of life’s big moments. My daddy helped me see that I didn’t fail. Sometimes I had to learn the hard way or maybe in a way that wasn’t the easiest, but he would never see me as a failure. He saw me for who I was and accepted me for who I was. Flaws and all.
That morning I went downstairs with my mom, I saw my daddy. I knew that it was only a matter of time before he left this plane and the pain of the disease that took over his body. The pain and disease that could claim his body but could not lay claim to his heart, mind and soul.
It is clear to me, 2 years later on this very day, every detail about that morning. I remember my last conversation with him. He was so very weak. He was saving all of his energy I realize now, so he could tell his family how much he loved them. He told me how much he loved me and how proud he was of me. He asked me to be strong, as he knew I would be.
When I left his room I knew this was the day. I got the boy dressed and talked to my family as we were all there.
I had gone to the store earlier for his medications and was running back again when my sister-in-law called me to tell me to come home then. I am sure I broke several laws but all I could think was “Please hang on daddy, I’m coming.” I knew he heard me. I pulled into the garage and turned the car off and jumped out as my sister-in-law opened the door. “Go, I have this. I love you.” As I ran to the bedroom I passed my aunt and son.
My mother, brother and uncle were all around my daddy. I felt like I just slid into base. More like into place. We surrounded him with love as he left this life. Peacefully and just like that he stopped breathing. I know I felt his love surround us. I remember looking at my mother, brother and my uncle. We were all crying. My uncle prayed a beautiful prayer.
To this day it gets to me. I feel my breath stop because that’s what it feels like. Your breath just stops and you wonder if it will ever start again. My heart hurts. 2 years and my heart and my soul can still feel like they are being ripped apart with grief. Knowing I can’t call, I can hear you voice and feel your arms around me undoes me at times. I miss you so much daddy. Your little girl still needs you. I know you have made me a better human being, but sometimes it’s so hard.
Yet I push on just like I did 2 years ago today.
The anniversary is hard. It can be numbing, emotional and static like all at once.
The greatest man I ever loved passed from this earth on February 9, 2014.
At his funeral I sang his favorite song, Amazing Grace. Afterwards, someone asked me how I could do it. That’s easy, I love him and that was the least I could do for him after all he had done for me.
Go tell those you love how you feel. No matter their reaction, just let them know. We never know how much time we have here.
Keep Hope Alive.
Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I’m found.
Was blind but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Then when we first begun.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found.
Was blind, but now I see