I schlumped onto the top of the three steps that led to the big living room my dad built onto the front of our house. The wood-burning stove was hot--signaling the cold I would encounter when I walked to the bus. I was irritated that I ran out of time to finish my hair and drink my tea.
My brother was already in the room. Sitting in a chair close to my dad. Kristen, too. Her morning routine was not nearly as involved as mine as she got most of the raw beauty and talent in the family. Not that Sam isn’t talented or good looking—he is, in spades. But Kristen has a natural way about her that made it SUPER easy to get ready for school when we were in high school.
I knew I couldn't be late. It was the time we had devotions every single morning for as long as I can remember. All of us together in the living room. During the summer, the time was a little more negotiable. But that morning was not a summer morning.
"Swords up!" my mom enthused, sitting in her red rocking chair by the fire. We all thrust our Bibles into the air. Some of us a little more enthusiastically than others. I was still worried about my hair and my tea. My school stuff was in my bag behind me. My mind was ahead to what I needed to do at school.
Mom read the scripture reference. We all searched through our Bibles. Whoever found it and read the first few words got to read the scripture that morning. Some mornings, we would each read one verse at a time going around the room until the whole thing was read. Then, mom would read a story about friendship or greed or loving-kindness or selfishness or whatever was on her mind or in the devotional book.
I remember some of those stories. Some of them left lasting impressions. Some were juvenile. Some were confusing. Some I didn’t pay any attention to (but don’t tell my mom).
After devotions we all prayed. I don’t remember if we always went in the same order or if we went youngest to oldest or what. I just don’t remember. But I do remember that every single day, my dad would pray for my spouse. For his safety, his purity, his education. He would pray for someone he had never met.
Or so I thought.
I was halfway through the first quarter of my freshman year of college when Tim and I started dating. November 4, 1994. (I was an infant when I started college.) I called my dad one week before Thanksgiving to tell him I had stopped dating the five guys I had told him about the last time we talked. That I had met Tim and I was pretty sure he was the last guy I was going to ever date.
I didn’t get much out about Tim before he said, "I know."
I was stunned. What, exactly, did he know? Did he have spies? Were my roommates calling him?
"He’s blonde," my dad started. "He’s plays guitar, he’s smart and funny and he loves you."
Now, at that point, Tim had not yet professed his love for me. He had mentioned marriage, but not love.
"How did you know?" I asked.
He told me a story about an imaginary friend he had when he was a child. Named Timothy. He told me about this friend. What he looked like. His hobbies. The fun they had together.
It was eerie. (Other words crossed my mind, but my teenager reads this blog.)
Then, I took Tim home to meet my folks. From the minute they met, my dad and Tim were friends. Both of them love me more than I deserve. It was the best feeling knowing that my dad and the love of my life got along so well.
I looked over my mom's shoulder and made eye contact with my Tim. Our gaze never faltered. His arm was around Isaiah’s waist. His eyes red as tears gently streamed down his face. My sister was softly sobbing next to me, her head down. Mom was whispering to Dad. Isaiah boldly and bravely read the Psalms. We surrounded Dad with the things he loved most. His family. Singing. Scripture. Prayer.
Dad took his last breath.
When he traveled around the country singing in churches for revivals, there is one song that he sang in every concert. I wish I had a copy of him singing it. It is an amazing song. And to hear my dad sing it was an experience. Something I took for granted most of my life.
"It is finished..." he would belt out. "The battle is over. The victory won."
I remember like yesterday what it was like to see him stand on any stage with a microphone or his trombone and sing with all his heart. It was the same way he loved us. With abandon and without apologies. With his whole heart.
And now, it is finished. His battles on this earth are over. His victory is won.
It is finished.
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