Not polished... just heartfelt...
A date and time that are engraved on my memory because three simple words changed my life forever… “Daddy’s gone to heaven.”
How can I describe in a few words a lifetime of what he meant, no, means to me.
I’m going to try my darndest.
It started when I was born because that was the day I almost dad. I remember my mom telling me that I had tubes sticking out me everyplace. It was so bad that she couldn’t see me, it hurt her so much. But she said, my dad came to the hospital after working 2nd shift and sat with me. Not once or twice, but for the whole time I was in there. This set a pattern for the rest of my life; whenever I woke up from surgery, and I’ve had many over the years, I’d open my eyes to see him sitting there smiling at me. I found out a few weeks ago, he did this for all his children. My said I’ve always was sick as a baby. She would be exhausted from the day, but he would get off work, get me out of the bed and sit up with me for the remainder of the night. Wow…
I can’t even begin to tell about the time he spent with you. He wasn’t the type of dad to go to work, come home, grab the paper and a beer, put up his foot and shut out the rest of us. Nope… he was always involved in our activities. First of all, he didn’t drink, we’ll not alcohol, ice tea was his choice. I have great memories of the badminton net in the backyard and he playing with us. Trips to the park to show us how to throw and catch a baseball; Bar b ques in the back yard; Taking us to the amusement park. What I am saying is, he was involved. Another memory… teaching us to ride a bike and later to drive. That man had the patience of a saint. He was not a yeller or screamer. He was calm and quiet and would tell you want to do. I was learning to drive a stick and got stall under a light trying to make a left turn. He quietly and patiently said, “Just ease up on the clutch and take your time.” Other cars were honking and giving dirty looks, but he never got rattled. This was his way of dealing with everyone. This is not to say that he didn’t discipline us. I also remember the spankings. But it was never in anger, but with love. In fact, the only way we knew he was angry- he had a soul patch and he’d tucked in his lower lip, that’s when we knew he’d reached his limit. Now, I’m selfish, but he made time for his other children as well. I remember when he was mom for a week.
Our mother was in the hospital, I’m not sure if it was for her operation or if she was having my younger brother, so dad was trying to take care of us. Poor man, he did his best to comb our hair, I think I was about in the sixth grade and sis in the second. My brother would have been in the eighth. He also tried to cook, but his specialty was oatmeal. Being kids, we begged our aunt to come and help him out. Kids don’t appreciate, but we grew to later on in life.
There were five of us and two older half-children that I was privileged to meet and get to know. In fact, on one trip, we meet his first wife, and I’m happy to say I have her words on tape. She told us all that she left him because she was young and stupid. He never did her wrong; she just didn’t want to be married anymore. But if she had just thought about what she was doing, she wouldn’t have let him go. I hate to say it, but at the time I thought, Your lose was our gain.
He also had special shows he watched with us. Ours was the late night horror host, Hoolihan and Big Chuck. One sister was Little House on the Prairie and there were others with my other siblings. He took the time to make something that was our own with him. He also helped anyone who needed him. It didn’t matter, day or night. You called him and he was there. Once again, the midnight call from Chicago to Cleveland. “I want to come home. I don’t want to be here anymore.” He was outside of my door eight hours later with mom and the rest of the siblings in tow. But none of us were surprised, that was who he was. Babies loved him.
Any crying babies give them to my dad. They calmed right down. Then and again, he took care of his siblings when his dad passes. He died when my dad was in the sixth grade. As the eldest, he took care of all of them and there were 12, if I remember correctly. He could wash and powder with the best of them. And he also left school to work. He told me of his adventures of driving a coke truck at age 12. Anyway, it didn’t matter where or whose baby, they fell in love with him. He’d pick them up; they’d snuggle to him and fall asleep. I think I have the opposite effect. They holler louder. *sigh* My youngest sister told me that when he dog gave birth, if anyone else tried to come near the puppies, she would growl and snap at them… not my dad. She let him pick them up immediately without protest. Even she recognized a gentle and kind spirit.
He loved his mom. Every, and I mean every, summer he took his vacation in August. And for one week of that vacation we’d be in Alabama visiting the grandparents. Since my mom’s parents weren’t too far away, he’d take us to see him too. About five years ago, for family reunion, my sisters, my brother and I found the hotel that we stayed at during that time. It was hard to believe that all of us fit into that little room. This was back in the 60’s so there weren’t the amenities that are enjoyed today, but we made it work. He loved going to family reunions. I was older and thought I was too grown up to go and when I finally started going back with them, I couldn’t believe all the years I wasted thinking it would be boring. It was anything but. Food and fun is what we had. I ‘m blessed that I was able to video the ones I went to. I wish I some of my older relatives and their stories.
Yes a great man, and what made him even greater- he was a Christian. I’m not kidding on my Facebook when I said, “Jesus took his hand and took him to heaven.”
It’s a dirty word now to be a Christian. The media only highlights those who bring shame to the name of Christ, but I dare them to show people like my daddy. You’d never see it, because the world would discover true Christians in action.
My dad didn’t go the seminary, but he knew what he believed. He didn’t go to high school, but he wasn’t a stupid man by any means. He retired out of Chrysler as a welder combination repairman. I can see him now with the manuals he brought home with him to study. And he passed with flying colors. As I said, he knew what he believed and he believed the Bible unashamedly. If the Bible said it was so, it was so. He didn’t have blind faith, he believed it because he studied, talked to God and proved that it was true. He trust in God and God rewarded his faith. Dad should have passed away when I was about five or six. He lived until I was 53. Even the doctors didn’t know how he did. He told them, “God.”
Now, my dad read his Bible, believed his Bible and even quoted from it, but he never thumped it. People who met him came away changed. He had a quiet conviction and was willing to share his faith with anyone. He was a deacon in the church for many years and he took his calling seriously. Every Sunday, he was on the front bench, leading prayers and praising God. He tried to build up the church and the saints of God anyway he could. He shared his faith on the job and at home. He wasn’t just lip service, he was action. Helping whom he could and praying for those he couldn’t. I can’ tell you how many relative and non-relative stayed at our house because he opened it up to him. He had my mom’s trust. He never cheated on her nor did he want to.
Marriage was sacred to him because it mirrored Christ relationship to the church and he would never dishonor that. Finally, if you didn’t believe what he believed, in his own quiet and gentle he’d take you to the scriptures and show you, “Thus saith the Lord.” But he was never nasty or degrading. If the Bible said it was wrong, he’d just showing you chapter and verse and let you make up your own mind. He never forced anything down a person’s throat. And he isn’t the only one. There are millions of us like that, but you’ll never see a Christian portrayed that way in the media or television. But they’ll be there whenever Westboro shows up. Yes, we were all raised Baptist. He knows the power of Christ and his resurrection, because he is alive and well with him.
My sis said the day before he died, dad told her that he was tired. He had been sick for over 40 years. Rheumatic fever as a child, congestive heart failure as a young man and when he became older: diabetes, high blood pressure – from his meds, high ammonia, a stroke earlier this year and finally falling and breaking his hip. He bounced back so many times from the others, but he was tired. I had prayed to the Lord that in my selfishness I wanted him here another 10 or 20 years, but if he is hurting and tired, please take him home and the Lord granted it. My sis said his last breath sounded like a sigh of relief. When he prayed his last words were always, “… let me lay my head upon your breast and breathe my life out” and that’s what he did. He had spent the night before talking to Jesus and Jesus told him, I’m taking you home.
He was so happy on Monday. My mom and sisters say that he was up and feeding himself. Walking around, he pulled open the front door, which is no easy feat- they have the heavy oak front doors. He and sis were on the front porch laughing and joking. He was in his right mind and just like our dad before all the illnesses. He was strong and ready to give life another chance. That was the gift our Lord gave to us. He let our have our dad back once last time. He infirmed as he had been for so many months. He was our dad again. So when he fell and broke his hip, it was a shock to us all. And when he passed….
So what can I say about a man who life a rich and Christ-like life?
I say thank you Jesus that you gave me someone who set me on the right back, and even when I strayed showed me the love that you have showed me. I am so much richer because Joe Nathan Sturdivant was on this earth for 81 years. Lord, keep me in your ways so I can see him when it’s my time to ... “lay my head upon the Lord’s breast and breathe my life out….”