Yesterday I stood and watched my dad’s coffin being lowered into the ground. The funeral and burial were as beautiful as they could be, but it was all hard, very hard. Dad had died last Saturday, but I was home and in the midst of packing up Jim’s step-mother’s house for a move, so the weight of loss didn’t settle on me until the morning of the funeral. I was at my nephew’s house (Dad lived with him and his family) making room in the refrigerator for food that a friend had brought over and I came across Dad’s Gatorade bottle – the one that he filled and refilled with his drinking water. When I emptied the water into the sink and discarded the bottle in the trash, suddenly the tears came. Dad was gone. The wave of emotions came and went throughout the day as the events of saying goodbye unfolded. As I told so many who came to honor my dad, I am not sad for him – his suffering was shorter than expected, and he suffers no more because he is in Paradise, and for that I am happy – but I am sad for me. I will miss him until I see him on the other side.
My dad was a country boy, born in the back hills of Tennessee. School attendance was sporadic for him as working the farm was much more of a priority for his family, so he had less than a 6th grade education. But my dad was no simple man; he was full of profound wisdom and love that touched the lives of everyone who knew him. And even without the education to make him smart, he was incredibly smart. He taught himself to play the guitar from an early age and could figure out how to fix just about anything. He could solve puzzles that baffled others – like the peg puzzle at Cracker Barrel at which he knew how to get that one-peg solution.
As children do, I was learning from my dad from the time he first held me in his arms. Many times his teaching was intentional – like when he showed me how to do simple maintenance on my first car, or how to put my ear to a watermelon to check for ripeness (one I still haven’t mastered!). But much of his teaching was unintentional; he was pouring himself into me by just being the man that he was. And he was teaching all who knew him right up until the night he closed his eyes here and opened them in Heaven, because he showed us how to face cancer and walk the path of unwavering faith in God in the midst of the suffering it brought.
Two weeks before he died I got to spend five precious days with him. We sat out on the back porch for hours, went out to eat with his friend, attended Sunday service at his church where I saw them pour out love on him as they prayed for him, and just got to be together. When I cooked our breakfast of bacon, eggs, and toast, he told me that I had mastered the art of cooking bacon. Dad cooked bacon like no one else – it was always perfect. And now he told me that I was cooking it just like him.
In days to come, I hope others will see in me that beautiful character that lived in my dad. His pastor and dear friend said of him at the funeral that if you didn’t like Roy, the problem was with you, not him. He was a man who was greatly loved by others because of the love he gave out so easily. That is how I want to be; like my dad.
Someday soon I’ll be cooking some bacon for my family, though not today because it’s just too hard. But when I do cook that bacon, may it not be the only thing that is like Dad, but may the love that goes with it be what flows through me as it did through him continuously.