There were lots of really kind tributes paid to my dad when he passed away on 5 August:
A gentle giant who impacted my life….
A true elder and a man of God. To know him was an honour….
A true friend, counsellor and encourager….
We all were blessed as a result of knowing him….
There was healing for us as people shared their memories of the man dad was – because in the midst of the dementia of the past few years, we had almost forgotten that man.
We heard from people who remembered him as a bible teacher; others who shared memories of his care for them when they lived in the home for missionaries’ children which my parents had for several years in Belfast; others who described dad as their mentor.
But for me, he was my dad. Simply my dad. But completely my dad.
Someone reminded me today that there is a special bond between a father and a daughter.
Here’s why the bond between my dad and me was special.
He was a Provider
(Of course I have to start each one with a ‘P’ – dad was famous for the Seven P’s of Bible Study which he taught to all of us who studied with him at El-Nathan!)
Growing up, I took it for granted. Whatever I needed, dad would provide for me. Not always what I wanted – but certainly always what I needed. Sometimes I wondered how much he earned, but I never asked – probably because I knew better and probably also because it didn’t concern me – I knew that, whatever I needed, he would provide. That could range from everyday needs of food and drink to special needs like pots and potions when I was sick (how he loved to prescribe home remedies for us all!) to more exciting things like Christmas or birthday presents.
I have very fond memories of Christmas morning growing up. Dad would make us all breakfast, which we had to eat before anything else happened; then he would line us up according to age (I was number three!); then we could all go into the room where the presents were and start opening them.
He was a Protector
The instinct to protect their offspring is powerful to more than the human species – but I saw it beautifully lived out in my dad.
One vivid memory is when I was a schoolgirl of about 8 or 9 years old and suffered from hives which were all over my body, including the soles of my feet. They were incredibly itchy and grew into blisters, necessitating bandages to cover them up. I remember my dad carrying me into school so that I wouldn’t have to walk on those itchy feet.
He was a Pastor
Dad had a few different jobs but one of them involved him working as a salesman for an animal feeds company.
That meant he travelled all over N.Ireland, visiting farmers and getting to know them and their animals. He loved animals and I remember him taking us to the zoo as well as to farms, encouraging us to touch and feed the animals. Here are my 3 siblings and my mum – I’m not sure where I was!
This photograph was taken during the last stages of dad’s life when he was practically unable to communicate in any meaningful way because of the dementia. The nursing home had very creatively introduced animal therapy to the residents. They told us later that dad caressed the lamb for a long time and when eventually they took it away, he patted his chest as if to say he had felt its heartbeat.
I wonder if that experience evoked memories for my dad of times when he would have held a lamb for a farmer? For me, the photo evokes the nurturing side of dad – the fact that so many people have talked about how he cared for them, nurtured them, counselled them and encouraged them. He cared for many sheep – not just the 4 in his own little flock.