Five years ago today, my dad died. I was awakened by a frantic phone call from my mother around . I rushed over there and was assaulted with the vision of fire trucks and police cars in front of their house. I pulled into the driveway and was stopped by a police officer who told me to slow down and compose myself before I went in. I must have really looked frantic. I was the first of my brothers and sisters to arrive and they wouldn’t let me see him. When my brother, Lex got there (he is an attorney), they let him go back.
Just ten days before, all of my brothers and sisters and I sat in the surgery waiting room with our mother in the middle of the night as he underwent emergency surgery for internal bleeding from a perforated ulcer. Daddy had a heart attack on the operating table and was placed in intensive care when the surgery was over. He spent ten days in ICU. It was a very long and scary time as our very large family camped out in that waiting room and took turns going in to see him for the few minutes we were allowed. All of the college kids came home and saw him, too because it really looked like we were going to lose him.
However, he started getting better. We were thrilled when he got to go home on Friday, March 28. He was so happy to be home in his own bed. He died of a massive heart attack that night.
My dad was an emotional man who cried easily and loved deeply. He loved his family and he loved God. He really loved my Mom. I grew up witnessing true love. He kissed her hello and goodbye every day and showed us all so much affection. He kissed me every time he saw me and told me he loved me. I am so lucky that he was in the hospital those ten days because I got to kiss him every single day for ten days and tell him I loved him.
I still miss him so much. He never got to hold his first great grandbaby. He didn’t get to see me finally get my college degree. He won't see Karen get married this coming fall. It seems like I am constantly thinking that I should tell Daddy about this or show him something and then I remember he is not there. I know he is happy being with his Heavenly Father and is no longer in the constant pain he was in while here on earth. He no longer has to use that cane that was his constant companion.
A few years before, I received a letter from him in the mail. Now, we only lived a few minutes apart and I saw him in person every couple of weeks. However, he wanted me to have something from him and he sent me this excerpt from a booklet written by his great grandfather that he had read as a young man. Here is a part of what he wrote.
“I have enclosed a copy of the piece from his little booklet, published in 1905. I urge you to read it, and study it closely. Even though you have never seen it before, I think you will recognize some of what I tried desperately to pass on to you as you grew up. I hope so. I also think you will see that it just as appropriate in today’s environment, if not more so, as it was when it was written, almost one hundred years ago. I urge you to share it with Curtis, and most especially, with your children, and their friends and with anyone else you might choose to. Since it was written so long ago, some may feel uncomfortable with the contextual gender. Just change it! The message is what is important, and the message knows no gender.” He signed it “I love you dearly, Daddy.”
From an original publication by Henry Ford in 1905
There ought to be something in a man greater than any book he ever writes, than any sermon he ever preaches, than any pleas he ever makes at the bar, --greater than any invention ever devised and greater than his most famous discovery—something which lives after every material evidence of his existence has been annihilated,--something which will persist while time lasts, --and that is his character, that indestructible principle of his manhood.
Emerson said that those who listened to Lord Chatham felt there was something finer in the man than anything he said. “Character must stand behind and back up everything, --the sermon, the poem, the picture, the play. None of them is worth a straw without it.” This is the philosophy to teach the child of today, that “There is nothing in the world great but man, but there is nothing truly great in a man but character.”
Manhood overtops all titles; character is above all riches and greater than any career. This motto should be framed and hung in every home and in every school in the land. Mothers should engrave it on the hearts of their children.
People do not put their confidence in property, or in position; they put it in the Man. That man is only rich who has the confidence of his fellowmen, who have never betrayed his trust, who has never gone back on his word, or smirched his honor, or who can look his conscience squarely in the face without flinching.
There is only one thing that persists through all history, and through all changes, which not only is not tarnished or dimmed by time, but which will grow brighter though all eternity, and that is character. Nothing can annihilate it, nothing can stop its onward march. It is a living principle, as indestructible as the laws of mathematics.
My daddy had character. He was a good example. I loved him and I miss him.