Ex. 20:12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
When the springtime breezes rustle the leaves, gently blowing my hair, carrying the sweet scent of honeysuckle, I am immediately transported to a beautiful place. I reach for it, only to see it vanish before my eyes. But, I know it exists. In this place, I am very young. My blond hair is cropped short. My skin is beginning to show freckles. I look up to see a very tall man, with thick, dark hair. We go for walks around the block, each of us with our own walking stick. In this place, the summers are long and lazy. The late, late breakfasts on Saturday mornings are such a delight. We climb into the car and head for McDonald’s, where we each order a stack of hotcakes with plenty of syrup. Some strangers, who are visiting our town from out of state, pause to comment on how this man resembles Ronald Regan. We laugh, I talk, he listens.
The visions are of my Father. But that name is too formal, it doesn’t fit at all. He’s Dad. He graduated to Heaven seven years ago. It was one of the darkest nights of my life. If a daughter’s love could pull a man’s soul back to Earth, my Dad would still be here. As I lie in bed that night, crying into my pillow and fearing the worst from 500 miles away, I was just a little girl, who desperately needed her Dad.
We were “partners” – that’s what he called me. We worked on the car together. We made many a trip to the hardware store together, browsing the power tools. We rode to the orthodontist’s office together, as well as to school each day. His laugh is forever etched in my memory bank. So is his smile, and his tender heart. The smell of his cologne is also burned in my memory, as is the sight of his greeting my Mother with a kiss after a long day of work in Little Rock. Ahh…his work. I remember that, too. I remember how everyone in his office liked him. He didn’t think they did, but I could tell. Even at age nine, I could tell.
I remember his way of rousing me from the covers each morning for school. He sang “It’s time to get up” to the tune of “Reveille.” He would bend over and whisper “It’s time to wake up, sleepy head”, breathing his coffee breath in my face. He’d been awake for quite a while already. I remember how he was always in his pew in church, every time the doors were open. I remember his reading the Bible each morning at the breakfast table. I remember the furry throw blanket he and Mom bought me at Sam’s Club when I was twelve. I still have it! It has a teddy bear on it. Each time I curl up in it, I’m reminded of my parents’ love for me.
I remember the sad look on his face as he watched me grow into a woman; when I stopped working on cars and making trips to the hardware store with him. He was sad to see those days fade.
I remember the electric blanket he gave me after I was married. As Terry and I were loading up to go home from visiting them one evening, he brought it out to me.
“But Dad, this is yours, you all just bought it.”
“You don’t have one, do you?” He asked me.
“No sir, but we can get one.” I said.
“Well, we aren’t using this one, so you take it. The Bible says we shouldn’t withhold good from someone when it’s in our power to do it.”
“Thank you, Dad.” I said. As I placed that blanket in the car, I thought about the verse he referenced. I knew that Mom and Dad lived every part of the Bible that they possibly could, perhaps all of it! He and Mom had not just been Bible believers, but Bible doers. I’ve since had to part with that blanket…it just got too worn out to use. I snapped a photo of the kids with it though and I told them the story. I told them about one example, out of many, that their Papa lived God’s Word.
His Home-going was most unexpected. No one in my family saw it coming. In that moment, the entire world came crashing down around me. It was then that I truly realized the weight that he had been carrying all of those years. My Grandfather had died when Dad was only 21 years old. He told me more than once how he grew up overnight when Granddad died. He told me how he once heard Granddad whistling as he walked up the sidewalk to come home. Dad ran to the front porch, excitedly pushed open the screen door, only to find no one there. He realized anew that his Dad was gone. He would never again come whistling up the sidewalk. I didn’t understand Dad’s sorrow as I sat in his lap, listening to him tell me this story and watching his blue eyes grow misty. I just knew that my Dad was there, holding me, talking to me, making memories with me. I knew he would come home every night from work. He would kiss Mom, sit in his recliner, and then join us for supper. He would laugh and tell stories at the table, all the while fiddling with his napkin, turning it into all sorts of shapes. My childish mind could not comprehend death.
Then, on July 29, 2004, I grew up. I was 26 years old and had been married for seven years. I had two children, but I wasn’t grown. I now understand what my Dad was trying to explain to me so many years ago.
I remember those first days home after his death. His walking shoes were just where he’d left them. His glasses were on his dresser. My Grandfather’s crystal ash tray sat in its rightful place, filled with pennies, as usual. His Bible, worn and used, was right where he had left it. He had been reading the book The Prayer of Jabez, and it too, was just where he’d left it, with the bookmark neatly in place. Mom said he had begun praying that prayer a few weeks before his death. He was constantly growing closer to the Lord. I thought of Enoch as I observed my Dad’s things for the last time. Everything in my parents’ home pointed to the Lord. No, Dad did not get translated to Heaven like Enoch, but he did walk with God like Enoch. In my mind, they walked and talked so often that Jesus said “Ron, let’s continue this up here,” and then took him home. Perhaps that’s ridiculous to you, but it seems so logical to me.
I must now end this walk down memory lane. I hate to leave, really. It seems I’m happiest when I am there. But I know that too much time spent in the past causes me to waste the precious time God has given me in the present. I now realize what a valuable commodity time is. I don’t ever want to forget the sweet, wonderful, sincere Dad that I had. I want to keep his memory alive not only for my children, but for myself. I want to remember that a person can walk with God all the way to the end.
With a heart full of love,