Disclaimer: This is not a typical hiking post but it is about subjects important to most who travel by foot.
On Saturday, January 12, 2019, my father’s 91-year old body died. He was a remarkable man as I shared in an earlier post, A Father’s Influence Along Life’s Trail. Today’s post recognizes the importance of food, fellowship, memories, and time in coping with heartache and loss.
Immanuel Baptist Church in El Dorado, Arkansas was my parents’ church from the 1950s until 2016 when they moved to Northwest Arkansas to be closer to us. Members provided a family luncheon prior to my father’s funeral service.
Mother had served as church librarian for many years, so when we arrived Librarian Joy Godwin gave us a tour of the new church library. The entrance and a stained glass window from the original sanctuary were highlights in the new church lobby.
The stained glass window might have been disposed of when new windows were installed in the 1970s, but my parents felt the need to preserve one. This window spent several years in our garage behind a freezer.
In the early 1980s, the church built a new family life center that would house a large library. This window was cleaned and framed by a carpenter named Buddy Lewis, (our next door neighbor) and displayed against a wall in the library. In 2018, when the church was moved to Hwy 82, west of El Dorado, this window was placed in the lobby where it continues to provide a visual connection to the original sanctuary.
When we entered the room where church members had prepared a wonderful lunch, my eyes immediately rested on a glass bowl filled with fruity jello and cream cheese.
I was having severe deja vu when Brenda Robertson approached and said she’d bought the bowl from mother’s estate sale. Mother had given her the jello salad recipe, and that was what she made for this day. We were all touched by her thoughtfulness and the tangible connection with family memories. The kindness of all who prepared this meal allowed us time to share family stories and memories.
Recently I was on the Ozark Trail in Missouri. Because of rain and approaching cold temperatures we decided to take a “zero-day,” the term distance hikers use to indicate a day off from walking.
While relaxing in my tent, thoughts went to family and those who provide encouragement and love in my life. I thought of the struggles my parents have experienced due to aging. I thought of my father and the influence he has had on my life and the lives of others.
As it turned out, the trail provided exactly what was needed and that “zero-day” was timed to prepare me for future events. During that day I thought of Jim Barton’s poem, “Faith of My Father.” I didn’t have the text but remembered that it captured how I imagined my father might approach death when the time came.
He didn’t have to polish it
when company was coming;
it never had to hang outside
to air out or dry.
It was nothing he could tear or muss,
or stain or ever lose;
it was invisible, it was visible
in everything he did.
And, when at last, he faced the end,
on linens white as snow
He filled his lungs and straightened out,
then slipped into the pool,
a lone and graceful swimmer
backstroking through the waves,
smiling with anticipation for
those waiting on the other shore.
Excerpts from “Faith of My Father” by Jim Barton, poet from Huttig, Arkansas From his book, For the Animals Who Missed the Ark
Thank you to Pastor Jimmy Meek for comforting and wise words and Peggy Hargett for beautiful music. Thank you to all friends and family who provided encouragement and shared stories of my father.
Below are a few photos from the dinner and visitation.