A Letter to My Father

Dear Dad,

I am not sure if you can view this from Heaven, but since you flew there in 1999, I often feel you are beside me. But, of course, you know us earth-bound folks can’t see for looking sometimes, so I might have missed you.

A few things happened since you left.  I married again in 2005, and I believe you would like this guy.  He, just like you, reminds me to turn off the lights, close the doors, and keep the car clean.  You must have hand-picked him to keep me straight!  I know your dying wish was that I would not be alone, and I assume God heard your plea.  Thank you, Daddy, for praying.

The kids are all grown now and scattered.  We endured some tragedies that I hope you didn’t see or sense, but with God’s help, we mustered through and are fine.  I sure am glad folks do not suffer from cancer, broken bones, or shattered hearts where you are, but we still grapple most days with earthly tragedies occurring somewhere.  You taught me to stand tall and be strong, and even though I stumbled a few times, I picked myself up and courageously stood.  Thank you, Dad.

Updating Dad

I retired from design a few years ago and heard the Lord yelling for me to keep my promise that I would begin writing one day. And you know how He is; He doesn’t let you get away with not following through!  Many of my stories involve those you shared about life, family, and home.   You were the master storyteller, and I am so grateful I listened and learned.  Thanks, Dad, for being such a great teacher.

You are not going to believe what else happened! After you, Mom, and brother John left, I felt orphaned.  It was a strange feeling as if everyone flew to a glorious place and left me on the tarmac.  Soon after, I realized most of the Walker family you adored was gone.  I missed the roaring laughter, the twinkling eyes, and the family trait of never meeting a stranger.

However, my writing often took me back to the Tennessee mountain town where we were all born as I told the tales of our heritage.  I found cousins, friends, and folks who never meet a stranger.  And, Daddy, now I am an orphan no more. 

Teaching one to care

You taught me a valuable lesson, whether you realized it or not.  You never thought yourself old or useless.  Your sunny attitude was to keep doing and giving till you couldn’t.  You thought laziness and apathy were components of the Devil’s workshop, and you were right. 

Near the end of your life, I recall watching you slowly meander through the resident’s parked cars at your independent living facility.  You were armed with your Windex bottle and washing their car windows.  You worked to make folks’ days brighter until your light was extinguished.  Living is doing for others until you are done.  Thank you, Daddy, for always caring.

Our country is torn now, Dad.  People think what they believe is the only way. Compromise and conversation seem lost.  Thus, we witnessed people storming the Capitol, politicians behaving in the worst possible way, and racism raising its grotesque head.  All this happened in the middle of a pandemic that claimed over half-million of our citizens.  Fear gripped our country, and as the climate grew hotter, so did the vitriol.

His sensitive spirit

I wrote a column about how horribly you suffered because of the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918/20 that quickly killed your dad, your sister, and your aunt.  You cried when you would recall those days of grief and misery.  However, today, some folk’s hearts have hardened so, they cannot feel other’s pain.  I learned that empathy and understanding are necessary to survive because you wept.   Thank you, Dad, for your sensitive spirit.

I loved you when you were alive, Daddy, but I love you far more today.  Your wisdom, common sense, friendly nature, kindness, and wit resonate with me now more than ever.  People adored you and respected your ability to enjoy life and love people.  You were intelligent, dependable, and carried your feelings on your sleeve without any fear of doing so.

It was and is an honor to be your daughter, and I pray I have somehow pleased you with my words.  I hope I have shown enough gratitude to our family and to those who forged a path for us all.  Please continue to send me a story or two, and I look forward to the day in Heaven when you remind me to turn off the lights and close the doors.

 Happy Father’s Day, Daddy; I sure miss you,

Lynn

Where our History is Written in Stone

On the first Sunday in June in Monterey, Tennessee, where I was born, citizens celebrate Decoration Day.  There are two main cemeteries in this small town, and most of us whose heritage dates to the pioneer days honor the remains of those we love by decorating their graves with flowers.

When my parents and brother were still living, we tried our best to visit on Decoration Day no matter where we resided.  Every June, as we walked among the headstones, Dad would tell us stories regarding uncles, aunts, friends, or grandparents as tears fell from their memory. 

When many relatives were still living, we held large reunions complete with picnics after placing flowers atop graves in both cemeteries.  More old tales were recounted as laughter filled the air.

Before we left to travel to our various homes, we would drive by the old graveyards and view them alive with color as flowers adorned nearly every grave.  It was a sight to behold.

When silence replaced joy

After years passed, Daddy’s stories were silenced, reunions ended, and grief replaced joy because most of my family was gone. As a result, a sense of loneliness and longing began to creep into my soul.

 You know how God has a way of always working things out? Unfortunately, we often don’t recognize his plan, but sometimes it is as clear as the raindrop that fell Decoration Sunday on my Great Grandmother’s grave in Monterey.

After I began writing six years ago, it was a delight when I heard from relatives and friends in places I once lived as a child.  They were from Tennessee’s hills, valleys, and cities to Georgia, where I moved when I was 15.    I love communicating with these precious folks and sharing our memories of times together.

 Since a few of my columns evolved around my heritage, I reconnected with some long-lost cousins and an entire town.  I was only four when we moved away from our Monterey family. However, in the past year, a deep affection developed with this mountain town, where it doesn’t matter how old you were when you left;  they still welcome you home.

Long-lost kinfolk

One of those cousins is Bobby.  When I hear him talk or watch his blue eyes twinkle while he tells many a story, I am reminded of Dad.  Bobby says I talk a lot, and I do, but then so does he, and I thankfully realize the old silence is now broken.

On a prior visit to Monterey earlier this year, I met Patsy.  She is another of those long-lost relatives.  Our great grandparents buried two children and a grandchild due to the Spanish flu epidemic between 1918 to 1920. Patsy’s grandmother, Sallie Belle, and my grandfather, Sallie’s brother, succumbed to the flu, as well as my Dad’s little sister, Bertha Nell.

“Lynn, I have never been able to find my grandmother’s grave,” Patsy announced soon after I met her. 

“Well, I am sure it is in the older Whittaker cemetery.  Maybe her headstone is lost but I feel positive she is there.” I replied after she told me the story.  However, it bothered me that my great aunt Sallie Belle’s gravesite was missing.

Raindrops started to fall as I walked with cousin Bobby among the headstones on Decoration Day morning.  We put flowers on family graves in the old cemetery and looked for little Bertha Nell’s lamb topped stone.  I finally found it and laid dainty yellow flowers beside her.  Bobby and I were puzzled about why she was buried in a different location than her parents. 

The lost are found

I noticed there was a worn monument beside her that one could barely read.   When I touched the stone, I ran my fingers across the words which spelled ‘Sallie Belle,’ who died in 1918.   I called Patsy immediately, and joy began to replace a haunting sadness.

Near where they are buried, Sue takes donations to maintain the cemetery grounds under a green awning.  As I wrote my check, Sue asked, “Are you Lynn, the one who writes?” Then, after responding affirmatively, she began to tell me about another sweet uncle of mine, and the stories started to whirl just as my father’s tales once did in the mountains on a June Sunday. 

“I have a renewed interest in cemeteries!” Bobby texted after I returned to Georgia.  I responded, “Cemeteries are where our histories are written in stone.” But, as I typed those words, I also thought, it is where the lost are found, where stories spin around flowers as families gather, and where joyous memories replace sorrow.

God always has a way of working things out.  Have you noticed?

Welcome Summer with a Sunny Spirit

The pool is open, kids are squealing, gardenias are blooming, and the fish are hungry.  Summer is back!!!!  I believe it has been gone a very long time.  I wasn’t really sure we would see it again.  However, now, I want to yell like a preschooler coming down a slide, jump off the diving board, and cover myself in gardenia perfume! Yessir, summer has decided not to quit on us! Hallelujah!

I plan to relish every single day of heat, each flower that blooms, and every bite of ice-cold watermelon. I vow to thank the good Lord daily that my family survived to embrace each other and the joy of another summer.  We all should know by now that seasons can disappear, that people and life can change, and we are never assured of what new evil killer may lie ahead.

Some people are still arguing over elections, vaccines, science, masks, or anything they can create to yell about or make political.  However, they better not mess with my summer!  If they want to complain and fire fury, may their air conditioning break.  Should they choose to rain more violence and chaos on our country may their thunderstorms be frequent and only in their backyard.  If folks want to spread untruths and lies, may the locusts enter their houses in swarms and leave the rest of us alone.

Exhausted from woes

I am exhausted from all the woes and conflicts of the last eighteen months. But, unfortunately, some folks love to be embroiled in discord. Sadly, some media outlets know that to be true, and some politicians encourage such behavior to receive a vote.  So, why not let the sounds of summer and our children’s laughter squelch their nasty noise that permeates the air?  Isn’t our little one’s happiness and a healthy summer more critical than conflict?  So, may I suggest, turn the rhetoric off.  You will feel better, I promise. 

Every summer, my Grandmother toiled in her garden, fished in her pond, and loved picnics better than most anyone I knew.  She didn’t own a fancy grill, nor did she care about cruises or far away destinations. Instead, she enjoyed pushing the park’s merry-go-round for her grandchildren, catching the big bass, or eating fresh corn from her garden. 

She taught us all that we reap what we sow.  If we spread sorrow, we will reap anguish for years.  So don’t go planting any sorrow or sorry behavior in my garden if that is how you plan to spend your blessed summer.  Plant them instead in your garden of weeds.

Don’t interrupt happiness

If you do not like to follow the rules for travel this summer, walk to where you need to go.  Don’t interrupt my glorious happiness as I travel to see my children.  Walking to the North Pole to cool off for a while seems a good idea since summer may be too hot for your uncontrolled rage.

Seriously, however, I do not wish for locusts to swarm anyone’s home or that someone needs to go to the north pole, but selfishly unruly, untamed, unfiltered, and unkind actions must find a way to end.  This is the only way to enjoy the gifts God has given us all.

It is past time for us to be filled with gratitude for the sun, for the stars, for the air we breathe, and for the land we cherish.  If I had one wish today, it would be for everyone to just enjoy each day filled with appreciation. 

I know we don’t live in a perfect world with all good people.   Evil flies around us like a mosquito trying to bite for a sip of blood.   However, the only thing I know that kills a mosquito is a good repellent, and the only repellent I know for evil is goodness.

Appreciation is the key

Goodness is based on thankfulness and caring for others.  I believe if we are appreciative of a day, we might not ruin it.  If we are grateful for our freedom in America, we should strive for unity, understanding, and respect for each other.   Let us be thankful for the blessing of our children and grandchildren by giving them a future of peace.   If we believe in God, we must do what He asks of us.

Yes, I am grateful for summer in more ways than one.  This summer, I am well, and I will finally see a child I have not seen in 18 long months.  I will watch my grandchild turn sweet 16, take walks near the river, and look to the heavens above, and thank God for simply living.

Embrace your summer and be filled with gratitude that you can still watch a flower bloom and enjoy an ice-cold watermelon.