Wednesday, March 28, 2012
A Father's Final Instructions
The Dad must have known that his time was near. So he found a small piece of paper, and surely with his big heart breaking, he wrote what he knew would be the final instructions. The final instructions that would help his son grow from a boy to a man. The final instructions that would help his oldest son guide the family in his absence - to be a help to his mother, and a leader to his six siblings. The final instructions that would show the boy that the Dad had faith in him, and believed that he was up to the task. I would think that he would have known that his instructions would have meant a lot to the boy, but I'm not sure that he would have ever dreamed just exactly how much.
The boy was 14 when the instructions were written by his Daddy. That boy is today a man of 54. He still has that little note that his Daddy wrote to him. He keeps it in his wallet and carries it with him everywhere he goes. It is tattered and worn, from the boy's reading it over and over again. Some of the edges are frayed, and the words are worn away. But the boy (now man) has those words tucked deep inside his heart, where use and time won't wear them away, it only makes them stronger - both the words, and the man.
I have the privilege of knowing the man. And was honored when he shared his precious story with me. He pulled the note out of his wallet, and handed it to me. It is now laminated, to prevent further wear and tear. But I didn't have to read it, because he quoted it to me, and explained what pretty much each phrase meant to him.
I never knew his Daddy, my uncle. He passed away before I was born, but yesterday, when my cousin told me the story, and showed me the note, I felt as if I met my uncle for the first time. I had a glimpse of his heart, and I saw the fruits of his labor, sitting across the table from me. My uncle would be proud, if he could see his son today - Proud of the man he has become. He has followed his Daddy's final instructions, and much, much more. Not to say that it wasn't extremely tough for him, I know it has been, but he has done a fine job, at being the man of the family in his Daddy's stead.
With permission from my cousin, I share with you his Daddy's words...
Dear Bugsy (My uncle had a special nickname for each of his 7 children),
I'm sitting here looking out of my hospital window. I can almost see you in your short pants picking up eggs, or maybe checking the feed, or catching the hens that got out on the backside, or picking up the dead ones. You can haul them off on the pipeline.(All of these things were tasks that were done, because they had a chicken house. It is how the family made a living after my uncle's death. The pipeline ran parallel to the back part of my grandparent's land.)
Be careful on the highway. (My cousin had been driving since he was 12, out of pure necessity.)
You had better get in some pine for tonight. It will be cool. (Showing the fatherly concern for the wellbeing of his family.) Help Wob (another son's nickname) with his lessons. Yeah, you can have some ice cream if there is any left. (This line breaks my heart every time...It was my uncle's way of telling my cousin to make sure that everyone else was taken care of before taking care of himself...his way of telling him to be a man. And out of seven kids, I bet there were very few times when there was any ice cream left over. My cousin's wife says that he took this to heart, and is still that way today. He always sees to the needs of others before meeting his own.)
The letter doesn't end there. There is at least one more sentence. But it is so worn, that neither my cousin nor my aunt could remember what it said. Maybe it is best that way. Maybe they were personal words that the rest of us were never meant to share. The letter was written about four weeks before my uncle's death. Precious last words from a father to his oldest son.
I, too, have a letter written to me from my Father. And when I heard the story above, I was cut to my core. I had to ask myself if my Father's words meant as much to me, as my uncle's words meant to my cousin. Are my Father's words worn away from my reading of them? Do I have them memorized? Do I know the instructions that each sentence, each phrase holds for me? Do I really understand the depths of love behind the words? Do I truly take them to heart, and live them out, so that I may be a better person? Do people who have never met my Father catch a glimpse of Him simply by knowing me?
I know that my Father's words have become more dear to me after learning of this precious story, and my hope and prayer is that it has the same effect on you.