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Good Words

Friends, my playlist is about to get a major Mama makeover.


Elliott and I have never been the kind of parents to keep our preferred music away from our son. Sure, some of the content got watered down once little man’s ears started to pick up on words, but we never fully converted our music of choice over to a Kidz Bop-approved variety.

Over the last year or so, Brooks – our son who is now five years old – has taken a special interest in singing along with me to the songs that are on my playlist. We sing in the car, he sings along with the music while I work out or while we run down back country roads. It’s kind of become our thing. When we get to the songs that are filled with uplifting messages – messages that reinforce our faith or encourage self-confidence – I always say, “Listen, buddy! These are good words.”

After a few months of me reminding him to pay close attention to the lyrics in certain songs, Brooks has now started to ask me, “Mommy, are these good words?” when he hears …

Lessons from my Daddy

My Daddy would have been 71 years old today. (And yes - this is the South, so even though I'm a grown woman, I'll never call him anything else.) I have been trying for nearly three years to find the right words to write about him, and I've come up short every time. I get a pit in my stomach every time I think about it. Nothing I could say or write could ever be enough. Words fall completely short to describe the life of a man who impacted so many people...and they could never encompass the honor and privilege that it is to be his daughter.

Let's start with the hard part first. My Daddy died suddenly and unexpectedly on October 7, 2015. He was 68 years old. As far as we knew, he was perfectly healthy...no issues, save the mild blood pressure and cholesterol issues that had lingered around for years. While there will always be unanswered questions surrounding what happened exactly, his cause of death was ruled to be a pulmonary embolism.

The point of this post is not to focus on his death, or the effect that it's had on my family, me and so many others. There will be plenty of time for that in future posts. Today is his birthday, and he would be 71. To celebrate, I choose to focus on his life - his incredible life - and a few of the lessons he left behind.

#1. Every day's a good day.
I can't tell you how often I used to hear these words. I guess pretty much every day. He would ask me how my day was...I would complain or mumble something relatively negative about work, and then ask how his day was. And then, without fail, I would hear these sweet words: "Beeba. What a silly question. Every day's a good day."

He believed it too, y'all. He lived those words. He considered life to be a precious gift, and he was truly thankful for it every day. His life was an expression of his gratitude. In almost all cases, Daddy was not a worrier - he lived in the present, soaking up whatever moment he was in. He wasn't afraid to show emotion, especially the older he got. He truly loved his life. He was content. He was at peace.

Someone shared a video of him on Facebook just yesterday, of a prayer he said in church not long before he died. It had to have been one of the last, if not the last, prayer he ever said publicly in a church service. The date was September 27, 2015. He typically started his prayers with the words, "Lord, we're here." But he didn't start that way during this particular prayer. He did, however, include these sweet words somewhere in the middle: "We thank You for life. We thank You for the opportunity to live it, and we thank You for the opportunity to serve You."

Hearing his sweet voice after all this time is like cool water running over my thirsty heart. I can't get enough of it, and yet I only listen to it once or twice, because it's almost too much to bear. But his precious words are such a reflection of his heart. He was a humble servant - these words are etched on his grave stone. He was thankful for his life. And even on hard days...every day was a good day.



#2. We have to learn from the past to successfully move into the future.
Daddy was a high school history teacher - most likely one of the best ones of his time. My sister and I are incredibly blessed to have parents who both made their careers out of influencing countless lives by being such impactful educators.

Although he was well read on most eras of history and could certainly teach it all well, U.S. History held a special place in Daddy's heart. He loved the South, and he was incredibly proud of his heritage. He was realistic about the sins of the past, and he held no illusions that our forefathers got it all right. But he taught his students to look beyond what the textbooks told them about the subject matter and to actually study the people. He made history come to life for them.

One of the most significant ways he did this was his trip to Virginia each year. This trip is woven into the very DNA of who I am - I traveled with him, my mom, a handful of chaperones, a motorcoach full of high school students and T.A. Kemp, our Motorcoach Operator Technician, to the Old Dominion every year for as long as I can remember.

This trip holds some of the sweetest memories of my life. For decades, my dad literally took his students back in time to places like Colonial Williamsburg, Lexington, Charlottesville and Appomattox. He showed them the homes where our nation's founding fathers lived, the battlefields where our nation was ripped apart, and the sacred place where it was put back together.

He challenged all of his students - usually at Jamestown, the very first English settlement in America, to find out about their own past. He would ask them: "Who are you? Where do you come from? Where are you going?" He believed that we must know about the people who came before us so that we can better understand ourselves.

The painting above was commissioned and beautifully done the year after he passed away. It is an incredible resemblance, and it captures him in his element, doing what he did so well and what he loved so much. It's titled, "Mike, Always the Teacher."



#3. Do it anyway.
Daddy never considered himself a musician, but oh my goodness...did the man love music. My Mama has a beautiful singing voice, but it was Daddy who instilled a deep love of music in my sister and me. He enjoyed a wide variety and certainly didn't stick to one genre, but he had a special place in his heart for good country music. 

One of his favorite modern female country music singers was Martina McBride. He, my sister and I got to see her perform at the venue where I work in the early part of the year that he died. The picture above was taken at the show that night.

If I had to say what his favorite Martina song was, and maybe one of his favorite picks overall in the last few years of his life, I would bet my money on her song "Anyway." He used to have me sing this song a cappella at the cemetery in Lexington, Virginia when the students visited the grave of Stonewall Jackson. Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson is famously known as a Confederate general during the Civil War. The facts about Stonewall that might not be so widely known are that he was a devout Christian, his life was peppered with hardships, and he had incredible resilience and determination in the pursuit of his life's calling.

Daddy would have me sing "Anyway" (lyrics below) to bring Stonewall's story into modern times and encourage his students that no matter what obstacle they faced, to "do it anyway." When Daddy died, we had this song sung at his funeral. Most days now, you can find these three words engraved on a bracelet on my arm. They have become a mantra for me now, in going on without him here. But he has left us with some of the most precious gifts...history lessons that he taught us, song lyrics that he sang with us, values he instilled in us, prayers he prayed over us. We are all far better people for having known him and loved him.

"Anyway"
You can spend your whole life building something for nothing
One storm can come and blow it all away
Build it anyway
You can chase a dream that seems so out of reach
And you know it might not ever come your way
Dream it anyway
God is great, but sometimes life ain't good
And when I pray, it doesn't always turn out like I think it should
But I do it anyway
I do it anyway
This world's gone crazy
And it's hard to believe that tomorrow can be better than today
Believe it anyway
You can love someone with all your heart for all the right reasons
And in a moment they can choose to walk away
Love them anyway
God is great, but sometimes life ain't good
And when I pray, it doesn't always turn out like I think it should
But I do it anyway
I do it anyway
You can pour your soul out singing a song you believe in
That tomorrow, they'll forget you ever sang
Sing it anyway
I sing, I dream, I love anyway.

Happy birthday, Daddy.
I love you,
Beeba

Comments

  1. Your daddy reminded me many times, standing on the edge of his or our lawn, that every day's a good day. He never directly taught me any of these lessons, but I certainly caught them by having the pleasure and honor of knowing him. What a great tribute to this wonderful man you call Daddy, and many of us were fortunate enough to call friend.

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