We are inching up to the first heaveniversary of daddy’s death. I decided I didn’t want to forget the details of that day from my perspective. He was such a loud light in all of our lives and that is missed more than any of us can truly express. I know heaven is a louder and lighter place because of his presence. I still picture him arriving in heaven and it makes me grin ear to ear with a tear.
“Abby, It’s your dad. He’s gone.”
Those words came from a tear stained face and through a broken voice shattered with shock. My husband delivered the news. He knew how those words would devastate me in a way like no other bad news ever had. I had lost jobs, friends, a goldfish, car radiators and engines even, but never had anyone had to tell me I had just lost something as precious as a daddy.
“He’s gone.” Never something you prepare to hear and the word “gone” still rings oddly in my ear, almost a year later. I sat in Randall’s truck screaming ugly words that would have gotten me spanked by my daddy and hitting the dashboard. I felt like I was inside the cemetery scene of Steel Magnolias. If there had been an Ouiser near by, I would have whacked her!
It was a Tuesday afternoon in September. It was so humid that afternoon in the delta that I could barely breathe. Adding this heavy news to it, made the next breath seem almost impossible. I couldn’t imagine a world without him in it and the next breath would mean that was a reality. But, I had to keep breathing because he would expect that I do my best for his grandson. He had to catch this same breath twice for his girls when it seemed impossible. We watched him lose both of his parents. His daddy also died on a humid day in September. I knew I had to follow his example in loss and that was no small feat. Losing a parent doesn’t come with a manual and it’s not something you prepare for, especially on a normal, boring, predictable Tuesday.
|3 days before he died with Bull and lil’ Bull|
I was walking the track around the football field with a friend while our boys practiced football on that seemingly mundane Tuesday afternoon in September. We had talked of Daddy and how fun he had been at the first football game of the season on that previous Saturday. We laughed and talked about his visit. Daddy was never short on wise cracks or the ability to embarrass the fire out of his people. He proved that to be true as he attempted play-by-play from the bleachers during that fourth grade football game. He saw Henry play in his first game. The pride on his face as he sat right next to me at the top of those bleachers that Saturday will never fade far from my heart. No one knew the first game would also be the last. I know heaven is grand but I have to think he was pretty sad about this also. Daddy loved football and his grandkids about equally…so adding the two together was a heavenly experience on earth.
Before football practice that Tuesday afternoon Randall had called to say he would be home by supper after all because the combine broke down. I was not prepared to cook supper that night and did not receive that phone call with joy. I told him he better grab supper from a sack! He was also not receiving my response with joy. Tuesday’s in the fall working in agriculture are like this so it was nothing short of normal. It’s never invited, yet it’s expected.
As my friend and I were walking the track at football practice my phone rang and I saw it was that “hangry” husband of mine. I answered annoyed because I wasn’t over the attitude about his sack supper. He sounded quiet and numb. He asked, “Where are you?” I of course am a lot like my daddy when it comes to wise cracks so I let him know that was a dumb question and he knew where I was. He had to ask me three times and never changed his tone. I knew something was wrong. Randall then asked me to come out to the parking lot and meet him. (He knew I was on the track. He was simply trying to ask me where on the track so he could get to me quickly. That’s the kind of man I feed from a sack. Shameful of me, I know.)
|He went out swinging. (the day before he died at the wax museum.)|
I had decided in those ten seconds of dialogue that the dog was dead. (Funny how we think we can predict life and how the story goes). How would I live without my Dixie girl? What neighbor ran over her? My friend on the track of course heard all this and knew I was thinking the dog was in bad shape. She is also Dixie’s veterinarian so she was alarmed too. She offered to walk to the truck with me. I told her it would be fine and to just to keep watch over Henry and I would be back.
As I walked to Randall’s truck I had this overwhelming panic come over me. It was something else, not the dog. It was something dark and painful I was walking into. This was not feeling anything like a predictable Tuesday.
I called my sister, Julie, and got her voicemail. I then quickly texted and asked, “what is wrong? Something is wrong isn’t it?” My big sister always softened the blows and rescued me from hurt so where was she? Crickets…nothing from her. I was sure something bad was on the horizon.
As I approached the truck my mind was everywhere. I had decided maybe he was leaving me because of the supper from a sack. Wild thought but minds are funny things when in panic mode. Maybe this was a deal breaker after 16 years and he was ready for a woman who cooked on Tuesday’s in September. I opened the door of that Chevy and life as I had loved so well for 40 years and 362 days was over.
|Nothing like dying on vacation. So glad they had a few days of fun.|
Once the words were spoken and reality had filled the air, all manner of emotion and anger followed. Again, no how-to manual comes with this type of news. You can’t prepare for your reaction because love is something that doesn’t come with an expiration date even though lives do. I looked out the truck window and we were parked right where Daddy and I had parked three days before to attend Henry’s first tackle football game. Providence is real and it comes alive during great loss.
We had just seen him in the flesh a few days before this. He was upright, laughing and full of the spunk that always ran through his veins, so how does he die suddenly without a good-bye? I just kept asking this over and over.
My sister, Julie had received the call. A call no one expects to pick up at 5:00 on a Tuesday. She was so broken and shocked to the core. Julie was at her office and her husband, Stephen, happened to come there after he got off work that day. Stephen was standing there when she got the call. Thankfully, he could be the one to call Randall. He was so glad Randall was home and not harvesting in a neighboring state, as expected. They were going to drive 3 hours to tell me because they knew I could not process this news over the phone alone. The combine breaking down and getting Randall home at that exact time was Jesus. He had our husbands in the right places at the right time. If you don’t think the Lord is in every detail of our lives, than you need to read this paragraph again.
Daddy was on vacation with his wife, bonus daughter and her little boy having so much fun. That afternoon he went out for a little walk around the condo and never came back. They found him on the sidewalk and attempted to revive him but he was already with Jesus. Just like that, he was gone. He was pronounced dead in Sevierville, home of Dolly Parton, and returned to his beloved Memphis, Home of the Blues. Never underestimate the normal, boring, and predictable Tuesday’s.
More on this heaveniversary to come…