Part Two–The Death of My Father
I grew up in a semi-strict Baptist home. My father was a hardcore Southern Baptist and even some interim pastoral work whenever the opportunity presented itself. The ironic thing was that father was also an alcoholic, which my mother almost left him over in the early 80’s. Luckily, my father went to a Southern Baptist retreat center and dealt with his problem and it saved his marriage. But my father continued to have health problems. He suffered a heart attack in 1983 and from then on he seemed to have one problem after another. On September 18, 1986, he was rushed to the hospital with yet another heart attack. The doctors determined that my father needed a pacemaker and performed an emergency surgery. But my father’s heart was already too far-gone and the pacemaker would not help. The next day, one of my mom’s friends came to pick me up at school. I was in fifth grade. We drove to my home and I noticed a white wreath hanging on the outside of my bedroom window. I told my mom’s friend, “That’s a pretty wreath.” I had an idea then of what had happened. My suspicion was confirmed when I saw the chairs. I do not know why there is only one type of chair used by funeral homes. And I do not know why that is the only place that I have ever seen them used. I believe the chairs were green and they were plastic. I knew then. I walked in and I saw my mother being comforted by two women from our church. She was sitting in the middle of the couch and the ladies were on either side of her. “What is it, Mama?” I asked. “Your Daddy. I’m afraid he’s gone.”
“No!” I screamed. I collapsed in my mother’s arms and she cradled me. I remember specifically reaching around and pinching myself. I had heard that that was what you do when you thought you were dreaming and it would wake you up. I felt pain and I did not wake up. I was not dreaming. My Dad was dead.
They buried my Dad on September 21, 1986, the same day as my church’s Homecoming. If you are not familiar with what a Homecoming is, allow me to explain. It was considered the church’s anniversary. Every year a church would have one and they would consist of Sunday school, Worship, “dinner on the grounds,” (what Yankees call a potluck), and a special afternoon service, which usually consists of a singing group, more specifically a Southern Gospel group. It was one of my dad’s favorite days so maybe it was appropriate.