Not One Single Minute

You never know when it will be the last time.  Things that have been a part of your life for as long as you can remember will end.  At some point, you will have your last experience, your last bite, your last laugh, your last visit, your last tear, your last breath.
It's been almost a year since my daddy was welcomed into heaven.  I'm coming up on the anniversary of my last two visits with him in this life. The first of the last was at the beginning of September.  He was so energetic.  It was such a fun, good time.  I didn't know it was to be the last time I visited him in the home where I grew up.  I didn't know that and I didn’t know it would be the last time I would hear his voice.  

The last of the last was just barely over two weeks later and it was just sad.  He was already in the hospital by the time I got there.  God gave sweet time to all of us who loved him.  Mama, my sister, and brothers were close and overwhelmed with the sorrow we shared. Yet ...

Losing my daddy in this life has exposed sad parts of my soul that I didn’t know existed.  Death in this life is so final.  Having him here is all I have ever known.
So yes, it's been almost a year since my last two visits with him on this earth.  But we will visit again.
I've thought about many things as I've walked this grief road.  My mind has relived childhood memories.  I have felt  hollowness.  Yet  God has made my heart happy as He has allowed me to visit often with Mama and recall visits with Daddy.
When Carl and I and our little family moved from Texas to South Carolina 25 years ago, I had no idea the blessing it would be to live just two hours from my parents.
I could drive up and see them and be back in the same day. I made that drive often as my children were growing up – some times more than other times.  Sometimes I did it on a whim, sometimes on a plan.  I don’t regret one single trip.
And because they lived so close to the Interstate, I could drop in unannounced like when I was on my way to other places or on my way back from other places.  Just stop in. Just knock. Surprise!
There was a time I took my youngest son and one of his friends to see them. My dad joked around with them. My mom made fried potato skins and they both told them all about their old school days.
And when my youngest boys were still at home, the three of us made many trips to see my parents. We'd spend a night .... or two  .... or three.  Both my younger boys developed a closeness with my parents during those years.
I don't regret. One. Single. Minute.

And here’s the thing.   Holidays and family gatherings  are terrific!  It’s so great to be with siblings and cousins and aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews. I loved (and still do love) those times.
But ..... I really, really loved the times when it was just mama and daddy and me. And I really, really loved the times when it was mama, daddy, me, and sometimes one or two or sometimes all five of my children.

In the last three years when my daddy "got down" more consistently – I was there more consistently. I drove up sometimes for a day, sometimes to spend a night or two.   I made a conscious effort to go at least twice a month - sometimes more and every once in a while, less.  I don’t regret one single trip.

My only sister and I would let each other know too ... if we were going.  We'd try to meet there and visit.

On those times when it was just me, I had time to listen to Daddy.  Just sit with him and listen.
Unhurried. Sitting on his bed with him - looking at old westerns, discussing politics, actors he liked, watching infomercials. Talking about the Lord.

There were times we said nothing. There were times he talked about what I was like as a child and what I was like in high school. He reminded me how stubborn I was.  Sometimes both he and I would whisper an apology or two about things over the years.

Me? My disobedience. My ungratefulness.

Him? He told me he “reckoned he had teased me too much through the years about my Yankee husband.” I still remember his face and his words when he said with a grin, "I guess I just need to quit that.”
I told him how most of the time it was quite funny  . . . oh my, how I'd love to hear him tease me about my Yankee husband right now.

I often told Daddy how grateful I was that he was my dad. Did I ever tell him when I was growing up?    I just took for granted that he provided for me, that he made me sit in that swivel rocker when I was being a brat, that he protected me, that he was there.

So in these last three years, I made up for lost time. I told him how grateful I was that he led me to Jesus Christ. I told him how much I loved my happy childhood.

Good times.
One of my visits, well, I just didn’t want to forget it.
I wrote it down as soon as I got home.  This is what I wrote (I may have gotten a few details wrong but Mama can let me know) :
There we were - sitting in the room next to my 80-year-old Daddy and I asked him about the early years.  Not the early years in general. And not his childhood or teen years.  I asked him about his early married years – those years of his becoming a husband, becoming a dad, and what happened in his life for him to become so intentional about his faith.
He began to tell me. And as he struggled with some of the minute details of dates and places, we called Mama into the room.  Together, they told me their story.

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