It will soon be time for me to leave this life. I have fought a good fight. I have finished the work I was to do. I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:6-7
It was a warm North Florida Sunday morning that would change everything. I was raised in Jacksonville, Florida and was fortunate to live in one place and one house all of my growing up years. Our house was a converted World War II army barracks with a couple of rooms added on. I’m not sure who moved it there, or who added what, but it was home…my home. I lived there till I graduated from high school and joined the Air Force. My Daddy had some heart issues while I was still in high school and unfortunately, they went from bad to worse. This was before all the miraculous medicines and surgeries that we have now. So, times were hard for him…and us.
In the summer of 1974, somehow it came about that we, the family, would get together and paint the house. It was a wooden structure, and time and weather had taken a toll on the outside. The old wood siding looked pretty rough, and as I remember it, Daddy said he wanted to have the house painted before he died. Now that is my memory, and it may not be entirely accurate but something like that is how we ended up painting the house in mid-July. Several, if not all, the brothers were on hand as we scraped and painted the house. I don’t know if my sisters were painters or not, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were.
As darkness crept up on us on Saturday, July 13th, the house was just about painted. We worked until nearly dark and finally, it was done. It looked amazingly better and Daddy and the rest of us were proud of our hard work. Daddy did little, if any, of the painting because of his health. But there was something he did do. Several of the wooden windows needed the panes reglazed, so he was working on those. We had a wash-room built onto the house and he was working on that window when darkness fell Saturday evening.
The next morning, Sunday, July 14th, Momma when in to check on Daddy in the bedroom they shared. That was when she found that sometime early in the morning, he slipped from us. I clearly remember the chaos of those moments as we called the ambulance and tried to perform CPR, but it was too late. Daddy was gone. All of a sudden, those last days of working and painting together became so important, so special. We had pulled together and given Daddy one of his desires. It is almost like he was waiting for the job to be done so he could go home.
Later that day, as we were trying to figure everything out, someone found that window he had been working on the night before. It was laying on two sawhorses with a rag and his tools still in place. As it turned out, it was the last work he did on this earth. Someone snapped a picture but as far as I know it has been lost to time, but in my mind I can see it as clearly as if I was standing there. Daddy’s work on this earth was over and yet he lives on. He lives on in heaven and he lives on in our hearts. The freshly painted old World War II barracks was a reminder of our love and respect for the man we called Daddy.
All of that was 47 years ago today. It is hard to imagine that so much time has passed since he passed from this world into a better world…a world where bad hearts have no place and where time doesn’t matter. One day, because of God’s good grace, I will see my Daddy again. My Momma joined him in heaven just four short years later…both were just 62 years old. But when I get there, when we get there, all that won’t matter because God is going to make it all right…all new.
I supposed the whole purpose of this Grits is just to allow me to relive a good memory of a good man. I suppose it is just to help me make sure that his memory lives on here, as he lives on there. And I suppose the big truth for this Grits is that we should live each day to the fullest and do whatever it is we should do. It might be painting a house, or glazing a window, or it just might be showing someone that you love them. We don’t know what day will be our last day, so we should live each one to the fullest. Then, we can say something like Paul said when he wrote, “It will soon be time for me to leave this life. I have fought a good fight. I have finished the work I was to do. I have kept the faith.” And my friend, that is a legacy worth leaving.
Losing my daddy at twenty years old was hard, very hard. Then mama was gone, just four short years later, which left me feeling they were both gone too soon. For some of you, that hardness is yet to come. But from the voice of experience, let me say, you don’t have to walk it alone. When you are drowning in the sea of sorrow and confusion, He will not leave you to bear it alone. He wants to walk with you, carry you, and whisper as only He can, “I’ve got this.” And He does. Bro. Dewayne