Last night was the 30th anniversary of my father’s death. I have been thinking about him quite a bit lately.
It took me about six months to get over being downcast after his death. It wasn’t that I did not not have hope. There were two major factors. (1) It was just the sense of loss that I felt. I could recall our time together, but we would no longer be able to talk and discuss matters of common interest. (2) I began to think of my life. If I lived only to the age of 65 what would I do with these few remaining years? Even though I have passed 65 by several years, I still think about this question.
My father was an intelligent man, but not an educated man. He finished the eighth or ninth grade, but he knew how to work and make sound financial decisions for his family. My father spent my earliest years living on the farm where my grandfather was a share-cropper. It was hard on farms in those post-depression years. My father was a good mechanic and carpenter. In 1943 he drove about 60 miles each week from Harvest, Alabama, to Tullahoma, Tennessee. There was some type of building project in progress. After his death I found a receipt showing that he had earned about $13 for the week. From that he paid his gas expenses, stayed in a boarding house for four nights, and paid 13 cents in Old-Age Benefits. This program, now called Social Security, was set up by the Federal government in 1937 to provide retirement benefits. He evidently had enough left to provide whatever store-bought food, and other things, our family needed.
My paternal grandfather was named Joseph Frank. My grandmother was named Mary Magdalene. They had 12 children, and each of them was given a Bible name. My father’s name was Bartholomew (Matthew 10:3). He had no middle name, so he just made up the middle initial when he needed a middle name. His friends called him B.M., or Barley, or Bolly. And, yes, he had brothers named Philip, Thomas, James, Matthew, and John. He had sisters named Ruth, Mary Magdalene, Eunice, Naomi, and Elizabeth. One sibling died young. Only three are still living. My grandfather heard my second sermon. (It was the same as my first one.)
Most of the members of this family had a spirit of independence and entrepreneurship. Several of them ran small businesses and none of them ever got involved with “big business.”
My Father set a good spiritual example for his family. Sometime when I was between six and ten we walked about two miles on a country road to meet with other Christians to worship. One Sunday morning some family members drove up about the time we were to leave for church. They had come from across the county to see us. My Dad invited them to go to church with us. When they demurred, he told them to make themselves at home until we got back. The next time they came in the afternoon.
Dad served for a short time as an elder in a local church, but when the others began to advocate practices he thought were wrong, he resigned and began to worship with brethren who thought as he did.
Perhaps I should somehow relate this post to travel. I was able to take my mother to the Bible lands twice after my Father’s death. About the time I told them that I was going a third time, my Dad said, “Don’t you think you have been enough?” I wish he could have gone with me.
He taught me a lot. I think of him almost daily.