As I lay in bed this morning, I watched the sun peek through the window. I wish I knew how many mornings I've had the sun peek through an east-facing window to greet the mornings with me. Of course, most of the time those windows were in a milk-barn and my Daddy would already have walked through the morning darkness with a Pepsi and cigarette in hand and grunted, "Morning, bud." I would have grunted something back and we would continue on our way to get cows milked, silage and hay fed to them, and any other needs of the animals responsible for providing our livelihood met so that they could go out into the pasture to lie down and rest before the next milking time. Then, we would have real conversations that were more than just a grunt. We are not really morning people.
This morning I was thinking about how the tables have turned and today we will be laying my Daddy to rest on a hillside. So many thoughts marched through my mind as I watched the sky turn from a glimmering soft pink to a full sunshiney morning. I recalled how almost every single person who passed by us yesterday told me, "Your daddy was a good man." They might also share a little tale of an experience they had with him or words of wisdom he had imparted or a tear or two as they let me know he would be missed. Whew! I miss him already.
Daddy was a good man. How I know it. He would have loved yesterday's tribute to his life. There was a room full and a long line of folks who wanted to show their respect for Daddy and the life he lived. Daddy would have done his utmost best to hug, squeeze hands with, pat on the shoulder, or kiss each and every one of them. He would have told tale after tale and smiled through the experience. For all the children he would have had a piece of candy or bubble gum. We stood there at the chapel and greeted folks for about seven hours and it took my whole family - my Mom, sister, brother-in-law, children, nieces, and aunts to greet those folks when Daddy probably could have done so all by himself and left each one feeling as if they were the most important one with whom he had the opportunity to visit.
Daddy taught me so many things and, while I already knew it, I certainly realized last night that he also enlightened so many others as well. This will be one of the hardest days my family and I have ever had to face in life. But I know we will handle it with grace because that is what Daddy would expect of us. Daddy was a man of many words and so many of them are rattling around in my head this morning. I am heeding those words and counting on him to get me through this hard day.
"You put your britches on just like everybody else - one leg at a time."
"There is always time to share a little kindness because that may be the only kindness the other person gets that day."
"It is fine to disagree with somebody but when you walk away from them, let them know that you still love them just the same and treat them with respect whether they deserve it or not."
"Do the right thing and you will never have any regrets."
"Strive to be the person you want your children to be and they will rise above you."
"Genetics make you a woman, behavior makes you a lady."
"The mark of a good southern woman is the impression she leaves with others. You should be able to stand hip-deep in cow manure and thirty minutes later look and smell like a rose."
"You can do anything you want to do, just do it with class."
"Talk to people in a way that they leave you feeling like you just shared a piece of chocolate cake and they got the best bite."
"A true leader is right there in the trenches - elbow-to-elbow working with the folks he is leading."
"Folks will follow you anywhere if you treat them like you know they are important."
"Treat other people the way you expect them to treat you."
Today my Daddy's words will be guiding me and giving me the strength I need to do the hardest job I've ever been expected to do for him. I certainly hope I don't disappoint.