Sunday, October 10, 2010

My Dad...Still In Our Hearts!

This week marks 19 years since my dad died. I was at ACU as a college student at the time. It was incredibly difficult. There are still days 19 years later when the sadness is palpable. But, as anyone knows who has experienced loss, time helps in ways that nothing else really can. We miss him every day. He was such a fun dad and a great man.

A couple of weeks ago Sheryl was cleaning some things out and found a letter that my father wrote to me the day I left for college. It had been several years since I had read it. I sat and cried tears of joy as I read the words my dad wanted to communicate to me. I had almost forgotten the way he worded things...his style, his inflection, his openness...even seeing his handwriting. It was one of the best gifts I've gotten in a long time.

In honor of this anniversary, I wanted to share this with you...copied just as he wrote it. This will give you a glimpse into the man he was and the incredible heart he had. I am blessed! I have never published this letter. There's a part of me that wasn't sure if I should. But, Sheryl encouraged me to share it in honor of him. This is really meaningful to me and a treasure to my heart. I'm sharing it here to celebrate my dad and his legacy.

Dear Brandon,
You left today on the first leg of leaving home.You can't imagine the void I've felt all day and thought I had prepared myself for this moment--but now I find I'm overcome with a flood of memories. I'm exhausted from the constant flashbacks that have gone on in my head all day long. I'll make it through this adjustment time, but I ain't doing so well today. I'm surprised at my reaction, cause I've listened to many of my friends talk about their experiences with the empty nest syndrome and I've always been able to encourage them with the right things to say--and, now, today, the right words aren't there for me. For the first time I was able to understand the tears in my mother's eyes when I left home. It's a feeling you can't know until you experience it.

After you left this morning, we came home and tried to stay busy. I worked in the yard, but couldn't get in the mood to really work. I cut down the flowers under your window that had been damaged by hail--but kept thinking how much you liked the flowers and how you used to cut them and put them on the graves of our pets. Then I cut off the long rose stems and thought about how you liked for me to do that so they wouldn't scratch across your window at night.

I went around to the back yard then, and suddenly the little mound out toward the camper flashed a memory of your sand box--Do you know there is still sand under that mound?? I stood looking at it and then up in the mulberry tree where I could see a few boards left from the tree house we made. Remember sleeping up there one night?

I walked on back to the barn and inside I could see your go-cart and bicycle. In back of the barn there stands your old swing set, and Tiger's cart (my horse). I'm seeing all of this through misty eyes--I haven't been brave about this at all. Walking back to the house, the dogs barked and I thought again of all your pets and the names you gave them. Paisley, for a dog, has got to be the craziest name for a dog I have ever heard--and now, suddenly, it's beautiful.

So much for the yard. Right now I may never work in it again!!! I can hardly bear to look at the gazebo--I'll have to take it down soon and that will be a sad job.

I came in the house then and told Mom I'd help her change the bedroom furniture around. That turned out to be an all morning-plus-effort. After several trial layouts, we finally decided on one that'll be a little different. At least, the room got a good cleaning.

We stopped in time to go to Kristie Conder's wedding at Minter Lane. She married a Mike Jones. The wedding was really pretty. The singers were Harold and Jeannette Lipford, Ray and Kay McGlothlin, Burl and Jan McCoy. I kept thinking about you singing "Daddy's Hands" at Robyn's wedding.

I left the wedding and took Christie Rogers a book I had bought for her. She is doing well--looks better, but still can't talk. She is taking food by a straw. They all asked about you.

Next, I got a haircut and came home. It's still bad around here. The apricots don't taste quite as good now, and the house is awfully quiet. It'll take a while to get use to it--I'm already looking forward to you being at ACU and getting to go to the productions you'll be in. I'm very proud of you and I'm really glad you're getting to see the country this summer. It's a terrific opportunity. I wrote all of this down so that you'd know how your dad felt on the day you left. This has been a very long day and it's just 5:25pm now.

We're going with Dave and Ann to the Paramount tonight to see "Fountainhead". That'll help pass the evening away. I'll miss you in your spot at church in the morning, and at lunch when we go out to eat.

I'm not writing this to make you feel bad because this is a natural experience that all parents go through. It's just a chronicle of life and I wanted to share it with you.

God bless you!

PS: The show was pretty good. I'll miss going in and turning on your lamp in your bedroom tonight
You can probably see why this has become such a treasure to me over the years. I am pretty sure my dad knew how much it would mean to me...he knew the power of written and spoken blessing. He knew that words have power. He had the gift of expression and it affected many people around him. Here are a few pictures to celebrate my dad...

There is a school bearing his name in Abilene, TX. It's a wonderful place!
my parents on their 25th wedding anniversary

My buddy, David, and I posed recently in front of Sam Thomas Elementary

My dad

A Snowy Day by Sam Thomas--my dad was an amazing artist!

Dad, you are missed! Weekly, our kids refer to you and ask questions about their "Poppy". I wish you were here with us. Thank you for the years of memories you left with me and the heritage of love and faithfulness to our Father. When I think of the "great cloud of witnesses" as referred to in Hebrews...I think of you. I love you and miss you.


Tim Corder said...

Wow! Such a legacy. Just look at all of the ministry and changed lives that have been born out of his faithfulness to you and your family so many years ago. Thanks for blessing me with this tribute (and kicking my butt just a bit to make sure I'm trusting the Lord to help me do the same for my wife and kids.)

judy thomas said...

I am so glad he wrote that letter--I remember the day; it was long for me too! Let's get together this week. Love you, Mom

Simpsongirl said...

This made me cry, but in a good way. :-) What a precious father you had. Such a tender heart. Reminds me of my own.

Amy said...

Thank you for printing his words. So precious. You are right about the written word. What a treasure. I am crying because we are living that empty nest feeling right now with one gone and one leaving next summer. I know it is life...but it is heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. Love you friend.

annie said...

Brandon, What a sweet, sweet letter to have in your possession as a reminder of the wonderful man of God your dad was! Between him & your mother, no wonder you turned out to be such a caring son, husband, dad, & friend to so many. Thank you for sharing it with us, & I'll pray you have a really good week as you remember him.......

And, though the "empty nest" is good once you get used to it, my husband & I sure can empathize with the way your dad & mom felt, & the 'stroll down memory lane' he took after you left. All so true.....