One evening Uncle Bob took Melinda and me out to ride in the country and look for varmints. Melinda and I were excited to get to spend special time with one of our favorite uncles.
The night was dark, the sky was full of stars and Melinda and I chattered to each other as Uncle Bob drove in silence, finally coming to a stop along a lonely dark road. We sat quietly, ears and eyes straining for some form of life in the darkness when Uncle Bob spoke, “Girls, I have to tell you some news…….” We both stopped and turned our faces up to look at Uncle Bob in the darkness. He continued, “Your Daddy has been sick a long time. The doctors have done everything they can do for him. He is really sick. He is going to die.” My ears heard, my heart choked, it began to crack, I sat stunned. I knew Melinda was struggling as I was, I could feel her body tense. I broke into tears, die? That same year Aunt Katy had died, Papa Simmons had died. What did die mean to a 9 year old? They went away, never to be seen again! When I grasp the reality of my Daddy, my precious Daddy going away forever my heart cracked more. Melinda and I sat crying. A little body can only cry for so long and then Uncle Bob began to comfort us. His talk was quiet, his words were soft and his heart spoke gentleness.
After a while he started the car and we began once again to travel down the dark, lonely road. The lights of the car shone on the road and at different points rabbits, badgers, skunks and coyotes could be seen crossing the road or skulking in the ditches. We quickly turned our attentions away from the pain and began to talk, giggle and look excitedly about us for more varmints.
A week passed and Uncle Hartley took Melinda and me to Pampa to pick up our new glasses. We were both so excited, everything looked so perfect through our eyes. As we arrived home we entered the house through the backdoor and there stood Granny Morgan. “Junior’s gone,” she announced. Melinda and I stopped and looked from one adult to the other. “When, where’s Jo?” questioned Uncle Hartley. They talked quietly between themselves as Melinda and I strained to understand. Uncle Hartley left through the door, Granny Morgan picked up the phone and started dialing. Melinda and I stood looking at each other, looking at the door, looking at Granny Morgan.
“We have had a death in the family. My son is dead. I’ll need you to stay on this line and help me make calls” she told the operator. As I stood outside the door and listened to each phone call I would strain my ears to hear with my heart as she made call after call, passing on the information to uncles, aunts, cousins, neighbors and friends, and the crack grew.
Saturday morning the sun shone bright as we dressed for the funeral. I didn’t want to go, Trey, 3 years of age didn’t have to go, why should I have to go? I was angry; everyone was making me go where I didn’t want to go. Wouldn’t anyone listen? Melinda and I were usually inseparable, where was she? Did she want to plead too, “Stop, please someone make this go away, make this a bad dream.” But there was no one there, no one to listen, no one to take me in their arms and make it ok, the crack in my heart grew wider.
I refused to listen to the words. I refused to listen to the songs. I refused to look at the casket that held my Daddy. “They should open it up, if he is really in there they should open it up.” I snuggled closer to Momma and held tight to her sleeve. Everyone was standing; we were standing, my mind kept screaming “NO” as my little body walked down the aisle toward the casket. My feet were heavy as if they were suddenly incased in cement. Was it really me walking down that aisle? It didn’t feel like me, I didn’t want it to be me, but I looked down at my left hand with the missing pinky finger and knew that it was me.
Uncle Hartley gently touched my shoulder and pulled me to him. His big arms were holding me and whispering words I couldn’t understand. I listened again, “Don’t look. You don’t have to look.” As I looked up, his meaning was clear, the casket was opened and my heart broke! I buried my face deep within him coat.
A few minutes later we were in the big white limo heading out toward the cemetery. I looked out the window, was the sun actually shining? Didn’t it know? It had to know! Why wasn’t the whole sky crying?
Momma spoke the first words I remember hearing since I listened to all the calls made by Granny Morgan three days ago, “Girls we’ve got to be strong. We have to remember all the funny things he used to do.” And then she began to tell stories of him fishing for gophers, getting stuck in a 6 foot snow drift, chasing ducks with a speed boat, sweeping popcorn under a rug, laying in a tire swing while using a broom to smooth concrete for the driveway….We came to a stop and the door opened. As we got out of the car Melinda and I reached for Momma’s hand.
Thirty-eight years has passed since that time so long ago. The old saying “Time heals all wounds” is true, but it still leaves scars. I now know that I will see my Daddy again, he is not gone forever as once thought. Daily, I hold fast to God’s words and promises through His Son.