Two weeks ago I buried my dad. At 62 years old, he and I were supposed to have lots of years left for me to learn from him and take care of him. But that wasn’t God’s plan. Since saying goodbye I’ve gone through the full range of emotions about everything that has happened. Thankfully I’ve not spent too much time in anger or sadness, but instead have been led back to honor and remembrance. Why? Because I’ve been inundated with stories about great things my dad did for our family and the community. My dad had been a Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper for 36 years when he retired a couple of years ago, so he was very well known. He was well respected in the community and as I’ve learned, touched more lives than I ever dreamed possible. I hope you’ll indulge me in today’s post to share some important lessons this grieving process has taught me because I truly believe there are lessons we all can learn from my tragedy.
- There is a great deal of value in a name. Over the years I’ve heard and read things about the legacy one leaves behind and the importance of a good name. I get it now. The local paper called to interview me about dad the day after he died. From everything I told them about my dad, what did they focus on in the final article? Proverbs 22:1: “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” My dad and I share the same name and for most of my life it was a burden. We would get confused on everything from the power bill to our library cards – it was a hassle to have the same name. But this process has taught me that carrying my dad’s name is a huge blessing because I also have the privilege of carrying the good reputation that goes with it.
- Honor still exists. Beginning before I even knew my dad died and every moment since, the Tennessee Highway Patrol has been outstanding. By way of an example, a THP officer came to my office to tell me of dad’s passing and to take me to the hospital because he feared it wouldn’t be safe for me to drive there myself. The head of the THP came from Nashville to be part of the funeral procession and present us with a flag. There were a dozen or more patrol cars that led us to the cemetery. Six officers wore full dress uniforms in 100-degree heat to be pallbearers.
- In the 4-½ hour visitation (yes, it was really that long), I met police chiefs, the mayor, the sheriff, judges and all sorts of other people we would consider important in society. All of them waited 2+ hours to pay respect and thank us for all my dad did.
- Grief sucks. Let me be blunt. I am not much of a crier and don’t get upset very easily, but this has been no fun. What has been the hardest moment of this whole process for me? Strangely, it was when the Appalachian Express Barbershop Chorus sang Precious Lord during his funeral. Why? Two reasons: 1) my dad was a part of that group and LOVED singing with them more than just about anything and, 2) that was one of his favorite songs. I’d heard the song many times and could sing just about every word, but seeing the chorus gather to sing it for my dad and WITHOUT him was painful and yet so beautiful.
- I’m thankful for my friends and family. I had two good friends wait in that long line just to give me a hug. As a man, hugs in my world are rare. I’m generally thankful for this fact. Nonetheless, Chris and Chad waited over 2 hours so they could simply give me a hug. If you knew these guys, you might get an idea of how much that meant to me. My family has come together and remained strong. Our distant relatives have come to offer support. My mom has more friends than I ever knew – and apparently is building a powerful legacy of her own.
- God is still good. Despite all the junk this ordeal has put my family through, I’m glad God is there. The most touching story I’ve heard about my dad is one that someone shared during the visitation. I can’t remember his name but he was a police officer who worked with my dad several years ago. There was a crash where someone was killed and my dad was first on the scene. Just after him arrived this officer who recounted that once dad had determined the man was dead, dad removed his hat and prayed for the man’s family and all involved. I’ll never forget what the officer told me. He said, “Barry, I worked a lot of wrecks. I’d never before seen someone do that and I’ve never seen it since.” My dad witnessed terrible violence and some of the worst of mankind and yet stood firm in his belief in God and love for Him. How can I do any less?