My father was born one-hundred years ago today. April 17th doesn’t go by without my thinking about him, so even though he is not here in the flesh, today is no different except to think of the date in terms of the century’s marking it as a milestone.
Although I wonder what he would look like and be like as a senior citizen, Daddy will never grow old in my eyes, because he died without warning from a massive heart attack just before turning fifty-seven.
Being twenty-seven at the time, in my shock, I recall riding in the back seat of a car through the city where my parents lived, seeing a much older man on a sidewalk, and angrily thinking, “Why is he still alive and Daddy dead?” As though someone had shone a bright light in a dark room, that was a turning point in my grief, because the thoughts that tumbled swiftly behind said, “But Daddy doesn’t have to deal with the sorrows of this world anymore.” I could envision the straightening of his slumped shoulders and the tears drying from his eyes because he, like the Apostle Paul, had carried the weight of the church in his heart over the years since his becoming a Christian.
As time softened the blows of Daddy’s departure, I knew I had more reasons to look with thankfulness over the few years I had had with him. Daddy was a man of few words but when he spoke, as with the financier, people listened. I do not recall Daddy ever telling me he loved me but he showed me by laying down his life for me in ways I wish today I had noticed instead of, as a child/youth, taking for granted. During my pre-teen/teen years, he worked as a machinist where his work required that he stand all day. Frequently he rode a bus fifteen miles to work, often walking through severe Maine winter weather great distances in the early morning hours, in order to make the bus connections to be at work on time; the return trip was better because the bus route came closer to our house by that time of day. Between the metallic dust and the public smokers haze acceptable during those years, he suffered chronic sinusitis. At the end of many of those days, he’d look at my mom and say, “I’m not new anymore,” referring back to a childhood comment I’d made on one of his birthdays. I don’t know how old I was, but I had said, “Daddy’s old,” to which Mamma had replied, “Daddy’s not old!” My response had been, “Well, he’s not new, is he?”
During his years at that machine shop, he used his lunch hours to hold Bible studies with the men who wished to partake, and as a result, Daddy became more determined to go into ministry fulltime, which is what he was doing when he died so suddenly. As a result we found notes he’d made for his next Sunday morning’s lesson, so we knew what he had been thinking minutes before he died. We have many of his handwritten Bible Study/sermon notes. More reasons to be thankful.
Daddy was there to pose beside me with a smile while I wore my high school graduation gown and cap and to greet me with pride following an award surprise. I married at nineteen: Daddy was there to give me away and pray at the wedding. We have three children; Daddy met, loved, and played with each one, although our youngest turned three about the time of Daddy’s death. I saw his eyes shine in admiration at my mothering abilities. The last Thanksgiving he lived, our family, including my brothers and their wives and kids, gathered at our house and he and I shared a private smile over some dates I was filling with walnuts. He said, “You’re going to save some for me, aren’t you?” (Meaning leave some with no walnuts because they caused canker sores in his mouth.) Through the years when I have missed Daddy, I have thought about that last Thanksgiving and while I hated that he had to leave us so soon, I have been thankful he is with God, freed from the cares of the world, that would have included seeing how old age infirmities affected my mother, and I have always been thankful that although I never told him enough, he knew that I loved him.
Many happy returns on this day of your birth;
May sunshine and gladness be given;
God in His goodness prepared you on Earth
For a beautiful birthday in Heaven.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DADDY!
Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13 (NASB)
© Marilyn Sue (Libby) Moore 4-17-2010
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