You may have noticed my blogging has dropped off this past week. Sorry about that, but my heart and mind were quite preoccupied and did not cooperate much when I wanted to try and sit down and write. Even now, it is with a heavy heart that I type out these words. On Monday July 14th at 6:00 AM my father passed away a month shy of his 72nd birthday and a few weeks before he and my mom would have celebrated 51 years of marriage. My father had been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease for many years and had been in a care home for just over a year. The Parkinson’s slowly took away the man my father was and transformed him into a dim reflection of the man my family knew him to be. The last few years had been especially hard on my family as he grew exponentially weaker, dementia began to set in and he became unable to care for himself.
As my father began to lose who he was, our memories of him became more and more important. When he passed, as most families do, we began to share our memories. As they flooded to mind I started to realize all the things my father had taught me. Some through actual instruction but most through his example. So, if you all would indulge me for a bit I thought it would be good to write some of these things out and share them with you so you might get a glimpse of the man my father was. I know there are many more, but here are 5 of the 10 examples I thought of.
Full Disclaimer: This may become something I read at the funeral. So, if you’re planning on attending the funeral and like surprises you might want to refrain from reading any further for the next two weeks. I putting these up early because, honestly, I have no idea what else I could write and I am finding the process helpful in working through my loss.
1. The Importance of Being Involved in Church
Going to church was always an important part of our family life. But, one thing my father always encouraged and set an example for was involvement in church. My dad sang in the choir, helped usher, greeted people at the door, and was often seen vacuuming up well after an event had ended. My dad could never just come to church, sit in the pew and leave. There were people to talk to, things to do and probably something to clean up. My dad understood deep down that the Church was not a place where he consumed something and left. My dad knew that the Church stands because of the willingness of people to serve. My dad was one of the titans in our church who helped keep the walls up and doors open for all who wanted to walk in. To this day, I can never just sit in a pew either. I know that there are things I can do and love finding my place to serve in a church.
2. He Taught Me to Sing
My dad definitely never sat me down and taught me music theory or gave me vocal lessons. He never received any formal training like that and that just was not his style. What my dad did do was, probably because of him having grown up in the Salvation Army, was sing all the time. As I mentioned previously he sang in the church choir and he even served as an interim worship director for a short time. Even though there was no formal instruction, what my dad did demonstrate was that singing was important and okay for a man to do. Not only did he sing in church but he sang at home, sang in the car and sang pretty much whenever he felt like it. I see in a lot of church services that men often won’t sing. Whether this is because it’s seen as “not cool” or not a “manly” thing to do, I don’t know. But my dad never saw it that way and always sang along. Singing for him was as important as bible study and prayer. It is because of that example that I love singing in church, love the old hymns and (while you may never see me leading a worship service) I’ll always be singing. Whether that is with my church family, with my daughter as she watches Veggie Tales or by myself in the car, I will be singing because he did too.
3. How to Mow the Lawn
This is probably something most fathers teach their sons. We used to live in the country and had a *lot* of lawn to mow. Thankfully we had a riding lawn mower which made it easier and a million times more fun than the alternative. But, this taught me more than just how to cut grass in a regular and consistent fashion. In teaching me how to mow the lawn my dad showed me how important it was to do things right and in order. I could have just gone out and cut the grass in any old pattern and eventually got it done. I could have skipped out on regularly mowing the lawn because that dang grass would just grow right back. Mowing the lawn was not just a lesson in lawn upkeep, but a life lesson about process and making sure a job is done right. The grass will grow and it will need to be cut down again in the same fashion it was before. A lot of things in life work this way and it does not make those things any less meaningful because they are not spontaneous and irregular, but it means we need to take extra care to make sure we do it right and not miss the importance of regular good work.
4. People are Important
My dad LOVED people. He loved meeting new people, making new friends and inviting them over to hang out. At our church, my dad was almost always the first person to greet visitors and connect them with others in the church. Often once people met me and realized we were related they would tell me, “Your dad was the first person to shake my hand and welcome me to church.” Many people still go to that church to this day because he was there with a ready handshake and a welcome smile. My dad knew everyone on our street and could tell the stories of practically everyone he ever lived near. For dad, people were never strangers to be avoided but potential friends and people with stories that he wanted to hear. Because of his example I try to have this same perspective towards other people in my life. I love hearing about where they’ve come from and what their life is like. “Be interested rather than interesting” was something I heard recently that I think sums up my dad’s approach to people and one that I try to follow.
5. When Necessary, Swearing is Okay
My dad, along with most parents, did not encourage us to swear. In fact, I’m sure I got in trouble a few times for saying things that was not something a “good kid” says. However, I do remember the first time I heard my dad swear. I was driving with him and he was upset about the new garbage pickup the county was making us do and pay for. We lived out in the country and would often burn our trash free of charge. Now that the county was picking it up, it came with a fee for the service. My dad was less than thrilled with this and let a single swear word slip out while discussing the issue with a neighbor as I sat in the seat next to him. I was mortified to say the least. My dad had just said something they had repeatedly told me not to say and that, as my Sunday School teacher had taught me, was against one of the Ten Commandments. The interesting thing was, my dad never sat me down and explained what happened but I don’t recall ever hearing him swear again. This taught me that words are important and they serve a purpose. When we use them to hurt and disrespect others then any word can be a swear word. But, when used appropriately and to communicate in a meaningful fashion words are constructive. So called “bad” words have a purpose and we need to be wise about using them, but they are not bad just because they are words. I don’t go around swearing all the time, but I have used them when necessary to communicate my feelings and emotions. Sometimes to the surprise of others which probably helps communicate my feelings more.
I thank you for taking the time to read this. It has been helpful for me to think back and write out my memories. Hopefully, if you did not know my dad, you now have a small picture of who he was. Next week I’ll write about the last 5 things I thought of. If you had the pleasure of knowing my father I would appreciate you sharing your memories or anything you may have learned from him in the comments.