When my dad died suddenly at 64 years of age, I was devastated. I felt as though someone had taken a steel-toed boot and kicked me in the gut. That particular evening, we were entertaining a single young man from our church for dinner. We did not know him well and were wanting to make him feel welcome in our church and in our home. The phone rang and Darlin answered as I continued to visit with our guest. Out of shock, he turned to me and flatly told me my dad had just passed away. I ran from the table and fell into a crumpled heap on the floor. This could not be real...could not be real. How could he have been taken so suddenly? I had talked to him just a few hours before!
My world as I knew it would never be the same. This Daddy's girl was lost, and there was no time to find her bearings.
The sadness and grief I felt permeated every part of my life. My days were on autopilot. For weeks I literally couldn't attend church because every song , every scripture, every piece of the worship experience reminded me of him. You see, my dad was a Baptist minister and even the tiniest part of my faith experience was introduced to me through my parents, especially through my dad. The weeks following his death, I experienced a new kind of emotion in worship... I became very angry at God.
I wanted no part of Him....or His rituals. I wanted my Daddy back. End of story.
Curtis Simpson was not the kind of person people shied away from because he was a minister. He had a way about him that drew people to him without much effort. I have thought many times about this charismatic part of him and I think it was simply because he exhibited a genuine interest and concern for everyone he met. Many times he would go shopping with mom and I, and when we were ready to leave, we would find him talking to people he had never seen, laughing with young parents and their children. He loved children! I always enjoyed the fact I could go anywhere with him and before we left, there would magically be people whose stories became known simply because my dad cared to know them. What a gift!
My dad was not a great orator. I am sure there were members who looked forward to his sermons for their midmorning nap. This used to worry me until I realized that my dad's best sermons were found in his daily life. He was the first person there to comfort a family when someone passed away, the one families called when there was trouble of any kind, and he was also the person they wanted with them when there was great joy in their home. Daddy shared his compassion openly and freely with those he knew.
If I could name his favorite pastime, besides his faith and his family, it would be sports of any kind, but especially football. He was quite an athlete in his day and this passion continued to burn throughout his lifetime. He rarely missed a football game wherever we lived. Friday nights were almost as sacred as Sundays to him. As the grandkids began playing, he was their biggest fan. His love for them spilled out in every cheer and encouraging word. Even though he never attended, my dad was a huge Baylor Bear fan. The biggest thrill for him was getting to attend any Baylor athletic event. I smile thinking of this year and how thrilled he would have been to celebrate the victories Baylor has enjoyed.
Finally, my father loved, absolutely loved to laugh. I don't mean a chuckle, a giggle, a snicker....I am talking about genuine full bodied, raucous laughter. He would begin laughing and because his laugh was so loud and uninhibited, the room would resound with everyone echoing his own kind of full on joy. I remember a particular Thanksgiving the family all decided to go to a movie. It was a comedy and by the time we arrived, the place was packed. As we watched the big screen, my dad (who was not an avid movie-goer) didn't catch the punchline until a few seconds after everyone else. The crowd laughter would die down and then my dad would erupt with his huge belly laugh....the crowd began laughing at my dad's laughter and it became a constant rhythm of my dad laughing and the audience laughing and so on. I don't think I have ever laughed so much at a movie in my life!
As the weeks and months passed following my Dad's death, I began to see glimpses of healing through my grief. It felt like sunshine peeking through a dark cloud. I saw my Dad's gentleness demonstrated through his grandchildren's personalities. I saw compassion in his son's lives....I saw his joy when we would gather for holidays and watch football. I felt his laughter in the oddest moments. Crumbs of hope, but healing never comes in full pieces. And one day, randomly, a Daddy thought tugged at my heart, and all that I could feel was a warm smile tugging at the corners of my mouth.
So on this Father's Day weekend, I remember my Dad, Darlin's Dad, my brothers, brother in laws, uncles, and cousins, who are wonderful Dads. I think of my son in law with his passion and commitment to be a good father, my own son and what an extraordinary dad he will be, and finally, Darlin' and the powerful example he is of a loving father. And I can't help it... I feel such gratitude. The faith I grew up with and the faith I have now are largely in part due to the models of the wonderful fathers the Heavenly Father wove into the tapestry of my life. Thank you, Daddy....Thank you Father.
Happy Belated Father's Day