The following post first appeared as an article I wrote in the May/June 1992 issue of The Baylor Line. I have made a few minor changes, and brackets indicate where I have inserted new information. My father died in 1969; the experience and my mother’s wedding occurred in 1984; I wrote the original article in 1992.
—- Charla Moore Russell aka JoMo
I am siting in the shaded backyard to the house that was home to me for 23 years, having returned to celebrate Mother’s wedding. The Texas sun and the rich smells of summer are calling my memory back home, too, as I remember planting trees, playing baseball, and drinking cokes – all with you, all in this yard.
The trees are so big now, and as I look at them, and experience their protection from the sun, I chuckle to think how much you would have enjoyed their shade as well. Yes, Dad, your little trees grew up. The once shadeless backyard has now emerged as an umbrella of trees, and I can just picture you relaxing on the back steps singing, “There will be peace in the valley for me someday,” in your unmistakable monotone voice. But, none of us knew how soon that “peace in the valley” would come your way
We last saw each other when I was 12 – that day you walked out the door for a round of golf. I teased you about your new golf hat, told you good-bye and never saw you again. When Mother told me you had died I couldn’t believe it. My Daddy! You had always been there taking care of me when I was sick, reading to me because I loved books, and always letting me know that you were proud of me. Who would take care of Mother and me now?
The house, this yard, my life seemed so void without you. It was oh…so very very painful. God was faithful though, and His mercy was unending. God took care of me in ways I’m sure I will never know. [Looking back now, I see people who, as my precious friend Vickie Bare would have said, became “Jesus with skin on” to me.]
Some days were indeed harder than others though. I dealt with your absence at my graduation from Baylor by picturing you sitting in a remote seat of the auditorium clapping and saying, “She didn’t graduate summa cum laude, magna cum laude, or even cum laude. She just graduated, ‘thank the laude.’” I knew that somewhere I was receiving a standing ovation!
I felt most robbed of your presence when I walked down the aisle of Central Baptist Church in Jacksonville to be married — the same aisle you served Communion from so often. I wanted to know what you would tell me about marriage, I wanted to turn and kiss you on the cheek like all my other friends had kissed their dads when they married. But, I could only imagine how your participation in these events would have changed my life.
What kept me going, and what comforts me today, yet 15 years later, are the legacy of love and acceptance you so freely gave to me.
I am grateful to you for showing me love, for exhibiting humor and laughter, and for pointing me to and planting in me God’s way of life. I must admit, I went through a long hard period of extreme anger toward God for “taking you away,” and for not making your heart stronger to withstand the attack, which stopped it; but, Dad, it was through those years of anger, questioning, and painful memories that I finally realized God also cried the day you died. He never wanted to leave me without a father; but rather, God has asked me to face life, whatever it yields, in His strength. [and this, too, has helped me tremendously through other difficult times]. God will not always change reality, but He can provide the power to face reality.
Tomorrow, Dad, Mother is getting remarried after 15 years! I know you are smiling to see her happy again. I am aware that because she shared a special love with you, she can now love someone else. Sitting in my lap is my three-month-old son, David [now 30 years old]. He will know you Dad, because much of who I am stems from who you were. Like your little trees grew up, so did your little girl, and your legacy of love continues today through my little baby and through the wife of your youth.
And by the way, remember the pecan tree you and I planted 20 years ago? You wanted a special type of pecan because you thought it was the very best…so you grafted that variety to our tree. You were willing to wait as long as necessary to see the type of growth you desired. THIS year, Dad, this year of changes and growth, the tree is bearing fruit for the first time.
My Mom, Joann Moore Brown has been married to my heart Dad, Lamar Brown, for 30 years now!!! They are each other’s best friend! AND the pecan tree truly, truly did not bear fruit until 1984! The next post to my blog will be my Mom’s story of how they met!