Perhaps like you, I learned in the early morning hours of February 21st that Billy Graham had died at 99 years of age. And as my daughter and I wound our way through the slushy, snowy roads toward her school that day, we listened as our radio station payed tribute to this man who for so many was a hero of the faith. One of the radio co-hosts mentioned that while she couldn’t say Billy Graham’s gospel sharing had specifically crossed her own walk of faith, he reminded her of key people in her life who’s sharing did. Through remembering Billy Graham, she remembered those people who spoke life and hope to her along the way.
After hearing this, my thoughts immediately turned to my daddy. And really, this happens a lot these days.
In the early hours of February 5th, my daddy, a giant of a man with a tender heart as big as Texas, went home to heaven. I shared on Instagram recently and on my blog further back that my daddy had MS and these last several years suffered no small amount from it. While I miss him here on earth, I’m thankful he’s healthy and whole and walking in heaven, talking with Jesus, and no doubt hoping to convince his favorite country music artist, Johnny Cash, to sing a duet with him.
Reminders of dad float past me all the time. When I hear Blake Shelton speak on The Voice, I hear my dad’s Okie accent. When my daughter cracks a whip-smart joke, I think of dad’s propensity for the same. Every time I see my James lean all long-limbed against the counter or Ethan sit with his hands folded just so, I see my daddy’s very same mannerisms. It makes me grin ear-to-ear every time.
It’s like taking in 3 dimensional memories of him.
As loss and goodbyes ask us to do, I revisit memories, especially those found at the corner of my childhood and adolescent years. Sifting through them, I find those consistently making their way to the top of the pile are all the “daddyisms” or expressions he said from time to time, some serious and some hilarious.
“Hey good lookin’!”
“Honey, you don’t need makeup. You don’t wanna look like a floozy.”
“Young lady, you may be in college now, but you better stay outta those honky tonks.”
“Kristen Nicole O’Neill, that skirt is way too short. If you bend over, anybody can see clear to Dee-troit.”
“There’s no such thing as acceptable locker room talk, and if someone you meet engages in it, then you best skedaddle the other direction as fast as you can.”
“Young lady, your attitude is big as Dallas. Simmer down now.”
“God is with you always and everywhere.” (Said to me all the time, but especially before two things that made me sweat a gallon of anxiety: math tests and dentist visits.)
“Jesus loves you and so do I.” (Daddy had a way of loving from the overflow of Christ that made you not just know but really believe you were loved.)
My daddy also loved a well-placed idiom. Lots of people in my family use them, including me. More than once I’ve had to explain to others what they mean, especially to folks who didn’t grow up near my neck of the woods.
“Man, I could hum that ol’ apple in there!” Translation: Dad reliving his glory days as pitcher for his baseball team.
“You’ll drive a little dighty-doe before getting there.” Translation: The road will wind and turn before reaching your destination.
“I’m not whistlin’ Dixie.” Translation: I mean business.
“It’s catawampus.” Translation: It’s crooked.
“Every whipstitch or so…” Translation: Every once in a while.
“That’s a 10-4, little darlin’.” Translation: Yes, darlin’.
Great day, reading these makes me want to write a fiction book just so I can find a way to put my dad in it. He had a voice like few others, and I miss hearing it.
For a long time, those of us closest to daddy felt him slipping away, yet it helps to remember he was really slipping toward his final home in heaven. And while it’s more than okay to mourn the change his absence brings, we do so with arms around the hope found in embracing the truth of where he is today.
Before Christmas, my son Ethan asked me what my favorite memories were of himself and his brother. I immediately responded, “Oh, the little things, I guess. Taking walks around the neighborhood, eating ice cream on the porch, and playing games or watching movies late into the night. Stuff like that makes up my favorite memories.” He put my response in his pocket until Christmas when as a gift, he and James made me a large cork board tacked with pictures of all those little moments comprising life with them these last eighteen years.
Of course, I took in that gift like the Rock of Gibraltar I am and didn’t cry one bit.
Or yeah, maybe the opposite of that happened.
Our tears always show us what’s important to us, don’t they?
I suppose this letter here is my version of that cork board to my dad, because now that he’s home in heaven, I realize my favorite memories comprise the little things, too.
Little things like his way with words. Little things like the acts of kindness he lavished on his wife, daughters, family and friends.
The little things are the big, important things that build a life remembered by others. In my dad’s case, they’re proof of the thousand everyday ways he loved so well.
A thousand everyday things that are meaningful and important to me.
Yeah, just ask me how I know.
Ruth Samsel says
Oh Kristen! This really touched my heart! And yes, it is the little things. How blessed you and I are to have such sweet dear daddies!
Yes we are. Love you to the moon and back, Ruth!
This. Is. Beautiful. I just got home from speaking at a retreat where I tried to teach women how to capture their stories and why these things matter for their family histories. THIS is such a beautiful example of just that. Love it so much.
Thank you, friend. And I just love your retreat topic! I know you knocked it out of the park. xo
Jenny C. says
My dad died after a very unexpected sudden cardiac arrest last year on Easter Sunday – April 16, 2017. I miss him SO deeply. But I think of him freed from the pain of this life and enjoying the glories of heaven with the Lord. I hope my dad gets to meet your dad : )