Nothing else mattered

Published 5:10 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Our family is busy; just like yours. There are three lawyers, two teachers, a pastor, a clerk of a county court, and an events coordinator at a big-city entertainment arena. There are also young children who have got to get to school and to all of the other extracurricular activities that young’uns are involved in these days. In other words, we’re your typical, busy family with plenty of irons in the fire.

Last Friday afternoon, though, at about 4:30, something happened that brought all our business to a screeching halt. Daddy died. He passed very peacefully, thank the LORD!

The Common English Bible speaks of the patriarch Abraham’s death in this way. “Abraham took his last breath and died after a good long life, a content old man.” Thankfully, Daddy was an old and contented man.

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My daughter was asked if his death was sudden or unexpected. She replied, “Sort of, but he was 90 years old.” I guess we should expect the end at some point, but we are never really prepared.

Many of the family had gathered, but for this last moment, Daddy was surrounded by his wife of almost 70 years, his two sons, and his daughter. My brother made sure he knew, “Daddy, we’re all here.”

I tell everyone we had a great week of being together. It was an unusual way to express our attitudes in such a challenging place, but the fact is we laughed so hard remembering the good times and the joy of being raised by such wonderful parents. I kept thinking that the nursing staff was going to come in and ask, “Can we have whatever it is that y’all are drinking?” Not really, it’s our own special brew. You had to be there.

On the Monday before the Friday that Daddy passed, all three children had put aside all other business to come and be with Momma and Daddy. At the beginning of the week, we might have held some hope for a home-going for Daddy, but by Wednesday, we sort of knew that the home to which he would be going would not be on Stagecoach Road in Mitchell County, Georgia.

After his passing, Donna Sue and I waited with Momma until the funeral home came and got Daddy. “I’m not leaving until he does,” she said. “Do you understand that?” Hold his hand as long as you can, Momma.

The drive home was quiet, but once we arrived at their home, the neighbors had already gathered and we walked into the loving arms of people who had previously been served by Daddy in similar circumstances. A buffet worthy of a Sunday morning Golden Corral awaited. As the pastor son, I got fried chicken. Somebody had been assigned to bake a cake and the Red Velvet cake was still warm!

I am sure there are great communities all over the world, but in difficult times like this one, there is not a better one than the one that served our family for these past few days.

In the south, deaths are sacred times and will absolutely wear you out. Arrangements were made on Saturday and the visitation was on Sunday night. It took three hours for those who came to weave through the line that gently flowed like a huge river. Our entire family, including the grandchildren, stood the whole three hours.

Monday morning we had a packed house as we had the funeral. A preacher started it for a few minutes, but sons and grandsons finished it with tribute after tribute. Again, we laughed and remembered Daddy for the great man he was.

For now, I guess we’ll return to the business of life. But I am so glad that my family recognized that something happened and, for a few days, nothing else mattered.