Thank you, Amanda, for taking these pictures.
I slept amazingly well Monday night. I realize that it does not matter what your trial is, when you spend time alone with God and allow Him to comfort you, He will bless you through your night. Both the physical night and the spiritual night.
I woke up around 6:00 am Tuesday morning with thoughts on my mind about what I could say at the funeral about my dad. Mom had asked if I wanted to say anything and my initial reaction was no. Followed by the fear of breaking down in front of everyone. But I decided to, at least, write out what I might want to say. Just in case. When I was finished I printed it off, folded it neatly, and tucked it away in my purse. I did not tell anyone for fear it would lock me in, in having to actually stand up and say something.
I think I went back to bed after that. To be honest, I can't remember. That day, as well as the days before, is much of a blur. But I do remember cleaning up the house a bit, ironing clothes for the funeral, packing extra clothes for mom's house. Anything, really, to keep me busy and my mind off of the day's events. As I was getting dressed the phone rang and it was my friend, Amy, in West Virginia. It was so good to hear her voice and her words of comfort. To know that she was grieving with our family and praying for us. She called at a time when I really did not want to talk. But when I got off the phone with her I knew that things were going to be all right.
Today was the last hurdle. It looked a mile high compared to the others.
Two things my daddy did not like was, being cold and in the dark. The fall weather was trying to come in and the last couple of days had been cold. All I could think about was how in the world will I be able to leave him alone there at the cemetery today? The service would not be near as bad as leaving him there. It was cold outside and it would be dark. I kept reminding myself that what I would be leaving behind was only a shell of what used to be. That daddy was experiencing the warmth of the Father and the Light of His Son now. What a comforting thought for me!
As I waited in the car with the children for Bruce to lock up the house I saw him step out on the porch and then back in he went. He must have forgotten something. He came back out just a few seconds later, locked up the house, and got in the car. He buckled up and then he pulled my iPod out and plugged into the car stereo. He never messes with my iPod, but he did that day. He turned it on and had it playing He Gives Grace. Although I had not talked about the song with him, at least I don't recall talking about it with him, it touched my heart that he knew how much it had helped me and that he would have it playing for me as we drove away to the service.
Thank you, Bruce. You will never know how that touched me. Your gentleness and loving kindness through this most tragic event in my life, has been a rock for me. And I love you.
The church fed our family at the fellowship building before the service. I really was not up to eating anything. Aunts and Uncles and cousins seemed to be enjoying the food and fellowship. All I could think about was the service ahead of us.
We finished eating, drove back to the church, and had our final viewing of daddy before they closed his casket. I stood there next to my mother. We were both weeping, his "Poopsie" as he had called her for as long as they had been married, and his "B Rabbit", which is what he called me for as long as I can remember. We had one last look. One last touch. One last kiss.
As our family sat in a Sunday school room and waited until the service was to start, I can't remember what all was being said, I just remember it was idle chit chat to me. It would fall silent for a minute and then someone would whisper or say something out loud. I was still thinking about the papers in my purse. Still unsure of whether or not I could get up and say anything. And as we were lined up in the hall waiting for the funeral directors to seat us, my insides began to quake. No matter how hard I tried to hold them in, the tears were just too strong for me. No. I decided I would not stand up and say anything. I would just let John do it. When we were seated, though, something happened.
God showed up.
An amazing rush of peace filled me up on the inside. We stood to sing one of daddy's favorite hymns. I could almost hear his voice behind me singing tenor parts. Remember my friend, Amy, in West Virginia? Her husband, Brother Mark, had flown in for the funeral and got up to speak. Mom had asked him to sit with her. Daddy loved him so. He loved their whole family. I was glad he took part in the service!
And then Justin got up to sing. It was very difficult for him, but he found that same grace that had been sheltering me and as he played his guitar and sang Oh, Rejoice in the Lord, I could not bring myself to do anything other than just that. Rejoice. My dad was seeing and experiencing things he had preached and told about for years. His faith had become sight. How could I not rejoice?
I am sorry I can not remember the exact order of the service, but Pastor did ask John and I if we wanted to come up and say something about our dad. John stood up and suggested we go together. Which was quite all right by me! I had fully intended on dragging Bruce up there. Bless his heart, he would have been so surprised by that, because he had no idea I was even going to say anything until I stood up. But John suggested we go together and so we did. He said what was on his heart. I said what was on mine. And God carried us both through it just fine. Was I surprised? Yes, I was. I do not know why I was surprised. He helped the children of Israel walk across dry land, kept the Hebrew children safe in the fiery furnace, closed the lion's mouth when Daniel was thrown into the den...and yet He never ceases to amaze me.
Brother Johnny spoke. The Lord used his words to bring even more peace to my heart. God just kept giving it and giving it. I'm thankful for Brother Johnny Owens. He is a wonderful associate Pastor and he has the touch of God on him, let me tell you! Justin sang again with the Sons of Faith, I'm Gonna Drop My Anchor. It was one of daddy's favorite songs. He loved to hear those boys sing it.
And then Pastor Goodman got up. I knew when he stepped behind the pulpit it would be good. It always is. I have never known anyone to be as down to earth and as personal to the family, as Pastor is during a funeral. He gets on your level. God always gives him just the right words to say.
Well, while he preached I felt like we had done gone to meetin'! I was feeling the Holy Ghost all over me. After he was through preaching, Tradition got up to sing another of daddy's favorite songs, I Am Redeemed. I could not thank the Lord enough that my daddy had been redeemed, blood bought, and in Heaven! The church was packed and it broke out into a shout! Everyone standing to their feet, praising the Lord. Hallelujah!
We ended the service with two more songs. Tradition singing, When I Wake Up and a congregational, Victory In Jesus.
It was a praise and shouting kind of service that daddy would have been pleased to be in. I believe in my heart that God allowed him a glimpse of his home going service. I could just see him leaning down and smiling as he watched us.
The graveside service wasn't so bad after that. There were Gaston County Police officers that carried him to the graveside. Two Air Force men that folded his flag. Justin playing Taps on the trumpet. And a last and final word of prayer by Brother Johnny.
My mind did not see him in a casket. It saw him standing next to the Savior. His Savior. His Redeemer. His friend. My friend. My mind saw him with the many others gone on before. Those that are the blood washed, the redeemed!
The last hurdle that seemed a mile high that morning, became smaller and smaller the closer I came to it. And suddenly I realized that I did not have to jump over the hurdle, because the Lord was carrying me over it. In my weakness, He is strong. When I can not go on, He carries me through.
I'll close out these posts with daddy's life verse. A constant reminder that He is ever present and able to see us through our most trying times.
Isaiah 41:10 "Fear thou not, for I am with thee. Be not dismayed, for I am
thy God. I will strengthen thee, yea, I will help thee, yea, I will uphold
thee with the right hand of my righteousness."