Friends, my heart is heavy as I write this post. I want to jump back into all the fun holiday themed blog posts I had planned, but I just can’t do that without first filling you in on my life. Last Tuesday night around 5pm, my sweet Daddy had a massive heart attack and passed away. As you might imagine, this was completely unexpected and has rocked my whole world. He was only 57 years old, and I never in a million years imagined we would lose him so early. I want to take a moment to honor his memory, to reminisce, and to offer a few thoughts as a tribute to my Dad.
In preparation for Daddy’s visitation and funeral, my mom asked me to hand letter a few boards to display. I have always loved the creative side of my personality, and after reflecting this past week, I think that’s just another way Dad and I are very similar. Our creativity may manifest itself in different ways, but he’s always loved watching me be “artsy”. One of the boards I lettered consisted of a list of words we felt described him well. While the list could be miles longer, I want to share a few of those words and the sweet memories that go along with them.
My dad was so quick. He thought on his feet and always had a response that could make you smile. During our first visit to Somerset after adding Abe to our family, my mom was brainstorming what name she wanted her grandkids (and grandpuppies) to call her. She turned to my dad and said “Tee, what do you want them to call you?” Without missing a beat, my dad looked down at Abe and said, “I think I’ll let him decide.”
Over the last week I’ve heard countless stories of Dad saying the perfect thing at the perfect time. My favorite thing was how he would get so tickled at how funny he was, and he’d laugh from deep within. I will forever miss that roaring laugh.
If you know me well, you know I have a strong competitive side. I try to keep it tame, now that I’m out of the world of high school sports, but get me in a close game of Pictionary or ping pong and you’re sure to see it. Without a doubt, I know I get my competitive side from my Daddy.
I will never forget Dad sitting in the stands at my basketball games, cheering me on. He knew that if he yelled at the games it would only frazzle me, so we developed our own language of signals. I knew where to look to see if my shot needed more arch, if I wasn’t bending my knees enough, or even if I needed to stop thinking so much.
When I decided to play tennis in the off-season, he diligently learned every rule, although until he learned to keep score I had to give him thumbs ups or downs so he knew how I was doing. There was never a question, my little brother and I knew how proud he was of us.
If you’ve been to my house this year, I am sure you have seen my farmhouse table. I’m sure you’ve seen it because it is without a doubt my most prized possession. I show it off to everyone I can, because I’m just overflowing with pride about it. Last fall, I started asking my Dad to build me a table. I had dreams of a farmhouse table, but the price tags on everything I could find online made it clear that it wasn’t going to happen. After explaining this to my dad, and he smiled and said, “We can do it, Shelb.”
I showed him several ideas of plans, many that seemed pretty easy. Looking back, I should have known better than to even suggest simple designs. He was determined to make something we could both be proud of. I can’t even estimate the amount of hours he spent on my table. Anyone who knows him knows he’s a bit of a perfectionist, so it took a few months to get it done. I think he felt in over his head at multiple points, but he is truly the hardest worker I know. When he delivered the table to my house in February, he was glowing with pride.
It wasn’t just my table that he worked hard on, it was everything. He approached every task with determination and stopped nothing short of excellence. My last text message from him was a photo of a beautiful deck he finished for my mom. He sent me a picture to ask what I thought. The last thing he said was “Thanks Sis. I worked hard on it.” During our last conversation in person, I listed all the projects I wanted him to help me with around my house. His response never changed: “We can do it, Shelb.”
Since Graham has been added into our family, we have had a running joke. Every time we went anywhere with Dad in Somerset, we would guess how many people he’d know before we went in. It didn’t matter if we were up the street at IGA, making a trip to Lowe’s, or grabbing donuts at Amon’s, he was sure to run into someone he knew. His visitation Friday night was a testimony of how friendly he was, and how many lives he touched. The line to see him was hours long, and we had many people tell us that every spot in the parking lot was taken. We laughed and cried and greeted people for hours upon hours. Even though he hated being the center of attention, I have to believe he would have been proud to see how many people came.
One of my favorite recent memories with my Dad was attending our first NEEDTOBREATHE concert. We bought tickets to see them in September of 2012 at the Taft Theatre in Cincinnati. We made a full date of it, getting dinner on Fountain Square before the concert. Neither of us had a plan for where to eat, so he stopped and asked a man at a crosswalk for suggestions. He told me that he asked this particular man because he was wearing a suit and had a briefcase, therefore he must know where the best food is. On his recommendation, we went to the fanciest Italian restaurant I’ve ever seen. From the second we stepped in the door, we knew we were a bit out of place. Neither of us could pronounce anything on the menu, but it was some of the best food I’ve ever had.
Dad spent the rest of the night asking me to teach him what a “hipster” was. He called beanies “Cat in the Hat Hats” and asked if he was a hipster because he liked flannel. He had to be the oldest person at the concert, but he loved every minute of it. It was the first time he’d really been exposed to their music, and they played a huge part in our relationship since that night. We spent many nights listening to each song, analyzing their sometimes cryptic lyrics. Eventually, he walked me down the aisle to Multiplied, off their Rivers in the Wasteland album. Over the last week, I have been listening to their songs with new ears, identifying with the hurt and grief they often sing of. I know their music will continue to play a big role in my process of grief and healing.
One of the hardest things I’ve done over the past week was look back through all of our text messages. I wish I had more conversations saved, but the ones I have are enough. We talked about many things, but the thing that stuck out to many was how many times he told me he loved me. It wasn’t just every now and then, it was every single time we talked. I know he cherished me, and I will forever be a Daddy’s girl. Even in the hurt, I am thankful for the years of sweet love I shared with my Daddy.
Honestly, the last week has easily been the most difficult time of my life. I hear of trials and suffering and how every life is filled with it, but I never thought this could happen to me. I don’t want to paint a rosy picture that all is well, because truly it is not. But even in the midst of this deep pain, I have seen so many glimpses of God’s grace. From friends comforting me with their presence, to sharing sweet laughs with my family. I’ve seen small glimpses of God’s goodness and providence in preparing my heart for this tragedy. I hope to share these stories of hope in more detail as the weeks go on.
But for now, if you have made it this far, thank you for reading. I appreciate you helping me process and honor my sweet Dad. And if you’re a person who prays, please please keep my family in your prayers over this holiday season. I know the weeks to come will be filled with heartache and pain, as the void we feel will be strong. Finally, if you have the privilege to be able to call your Daddy, please do that for me. Please tell him you love him. I so wish I could have one more call.