Memoir Nonfiction

A Greater Plan: A Son Remembers His Dad on Father’s Day

June 2009

Not in the least do I find a tinge of coincidence that my first full day as a husband, as the head of a household and of my own new family, is the same day as Father’s Day, Sunday, June 21—a day, which, as I awake, I will reflect on the great man, husband, and father my own dad was: to his parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, my mother, and his children, Jennifer and me.

When I proposed to my girlfriend of nearly two years, Allison Watkins, the weekend of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, Saturday, January 17, 2009, it never occurred to me that in less than two months, Friday, March 13, my dad would begin the fight of his life as he was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML).

I bought the diamond ring, proposed to Allison, and then, as most wise men do when it comes to wedding planning, I got the heck out of the way, just smiled, and said, “Yes, dear,” “Oh, wonderful idea honey,” “Whatever you decide I’m sure will be perfect, just perfect.” (If you have yet to marry, remember those words. They really are the gospel) By Sunday, January 18, Allison had already decided on a date: June 20. Apparently, she really, really loved me and was ready to do this thing. In less than twenty-four hours, the caterer had been called, the DJ, the preachers, the church booked, the whole of the event was in order.

I was told I needed to run get fitted for my tux and decide who would be my groomsmen. All I wanted was some lunch and to take a trip to Barnes & Noble. At the time, I did not realize Father’s Day was June 21. You see, I didn’t plan for my first full day as a husband to be Father’s Day; but maybe Someone else did.

Since March 13, 2009, Daddy’s target date for remission had been June 20, the day of my wedding. Monday, May 18, three days before he died, he told my mom how much he wanted to be there. Mama and Daddy talked with the doctors who said it was a good possibility he could be given a furlough from the hospital for just that day. There was a point also, I may add, in which Allison and I spoke of postponing the wedding. My dad would have none of it. His target date was June 20 and June 20 would remain. Even before I asked Daddy if he would be okay with us postponing the wedding, I knew what his answer would be. I asked nevertheless.

Through my tenure writing a column for Press Media Group & The Lynchburg Ledger, I have reviewed many books, but the greatest book of them all is a book I have yet to cover in my column—until now. On May 21 when Daddy passed at Duke University, succumbing to a bacterial superbug that had found its way into his body overnight, Allison’s mom, Pam, my soon-to-be mother-in-law (and now mother-in-law by print time), was visiting with her family in the Richmond area. Her niece, Katie Wagner, asked what the date was: 5/21. She turned then in the Bible to John 5:21 and began to read the passage, “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.”

Pam relayed this to my mother upon visiting us the day after Daddy died. When I returned to Charlottesville the following week, I pulled my Bible from atop the bookshelf and read the passage in its full context. It comforted me to a degree far greater than I can ever attempt to portray in words. For those that followed my dad’s condition since his diagnosis, all know he had his good days and his bad; he received good news and then not-so-good news.

Wednesday night, May 20, when he went to bed, he was doing very well—considering. In less than three hours, his condition worsened to a point of no return and in just a few hours, he passed away, on his own, with my sister, mom, and I by his side, as well as my fiancée, Allison, Daddy’s sister Gloria, and his brother Rodney and wife, Kim.

Tuesday, two days before he passed, good news had blessed my dad: his brother, Rodney, who was born exactly seven years to the day as my dad, October 26, (the number 7 in the Bible is a very significant number, symbolizing “completion”), it was confirmed, was a “perfect match” as a bone marrow donor for Daddy. A “perfect match” is, in all senses of the term, a rarity with AML. A bone marrow transplant had been my dad’s sole hope of beating this aggressive form of Leukemia. Daddy never made it that far.

Because of this news concerning Rodney, it had upset me that, if God knew all along the outcome, why tease us with hope and potential remission when that was not the ultimate plan. Reading this passage of scripture in John answered this question: “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.”

I took this to mean that although my dad’s hope from the doctors and our hope were in a physical recovery, by his dying and his knowing his fate was in Heaven, he was not truly dead but reborn in the wonders of an eternal life with God and Jesus in Heaven. Through his own children and family, my dad will always have life and live through us, will also always live through me, his son, and in my son when Allison and I bear children one day. That was the greater plan.

My dad may have been known by many names throughout this life–Wayne, Reggie, Reginald, Skeebo, Mongoose, Mr. Pillow–but to me I simply knew him as Daddy, the man with the strong forearms and signature mustache, the man who taught me how to ride a bike, drive a stick-shift, and throw a slider.

As I awaken, Sunday, June 21 on Father’s Day, in my first full day as a husband to my beautiful wife, Allison, I will reflect on these lessons Daddy taught me; and as the good book teaches us, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.”

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3 replies on “A Greater Plan: A Son Remembers His Dad on Father’s Day”

Your writings are so uplifting, loving and bring your Daddy so sharply into focus I can almost see and hear him! Keep writing Jeff! You have a God given talent for it!

Thanks Meg. I try to use this little space I’ve carved out on the world wide web to do just that. Sometimes I wish I had video of my dad. Other times, I don’t, only because I’m not sure what it would do to me seeing him. Might make me too sad. I can only think of one video that exists really (surprise 21st party for me) and I have no idea where it is. It actually has my dad and my friend Jeremiah in the same video. It’s a VHS, somewhere at my mom’s house I presume.

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