Posted tagged ‘saying goodbye’

The Box

March 8, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                March 8, 2018


It arrived yesterday, filled with familiar scents and memory items that no one else would see with any value.

It’s been three weeks since my dad passed away. My sister and brother-in-law have been sorting through his belongings after moving everything out of his apartment. It was a major task just to get it moved, but, for starters, she simply was moving it from one place to another…her house. The last week for her has been a time of sorting through the items that are reminiscent of our father.

In sending me “The Box” she was bringing part of Dad to our house. The box did not contain items that I necessarily need, but it contained some of who my dad was- kind of like a small museum!

I was looking at some of the contents this morning and pondering Pops.

I now have four University of Kentucky ball caps. One of them- a blue cap with a large letter “K” on the front- was worn by Dad, a UK grad, to the UK basketball game back in December of 2016 against Valparaiso. My sister took a picture of him in the lobby at Rupp Arena that night alongside former UK coach, Joe. B. Hall. Each of them had their “hurry-canes” by their side as the camera snapped the photo.

In the box are my mom’s Bible and one of Dad’s old Bibles. Each have their names scripted into the lower right corner leather.

There’s his personal calculator from about thirty years ago. He had not transitioned to using the calculator on a smart phone, because he didn’t have a smart phone. He had one of those flip phones that resembled the walkie talkie’s on Star Trek.

There’s a tube of Brylcreem! (“A little dab will do ya!”) That takes me back! Most of my uncles, plus my dad and grandfather, used the hair cream. That was the thing back in Eastern Kentucky. Dad didn’t need to worry about his hair blowing all over the place. The cream kept it firmly matted in place. When he started having some skin cancers on his scalp, ears, and nose he had to ease up on the Brylcreem. I’m not sure if Brylcreem has an expiration date!

There’s a trophy recognizing his achievement of finishing last in a euchre tournament back in 1975. Mom and Dad went to Florida with three other couples from our church, enjoyed the sun during the day and played euchre each evening. The trophy features a gold horse’s rump! I remember Dad telling me about it in detail. It always elicited a chuckle, remembering the razzing but mostly remembering his friends.

There’s a shoe horn still in mint unbent position. Putting his shoes on properly was an indication of my father’s emphasis on doing things correctly and not in a hurry.

There’s the photo album with the title on the cover “Our Son’s Wedding.” Yes, it’s our wedding from almost 39 years ago. As I look at our youthfulness, and who my parents were back in 1979 all I can say is “Wow!”

There are a few of my mom’s Longaberger baskets. She collected them like baseball cards!

And a stapler! And replacements blades for his electric shaver! And a cookbook put together by people from his church!

And handkerchiefs folded neatly, like they were a part of a J.C. Penney’s catalog display.

I’ve experienced families that descend like vultures on the possessions of the deceased. It’s an occasion where the lust for someone’s valuables devalues the life of the one who has passed on. My dad’s valuables are on the other end of the spectrum. I am like Don Quixote as I look at them, seeing rich memories in a shoe horn and value in a tube of Brylcreem.

I stare at the collection that brings stories and moments back to my mind. Saying goodbye to someone is never painless, but recalling the shared times and conversations…that’s priceless!

Last Sunday…Kinda’

December 28, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                  December 27, 2015


Today was kind of my last Sunday at Highland Park Baptist Church, the congregation I have pastored for the past sixteen and a half years. I say kinda’ my last Sunday because I return on January 17 to speak and then Carol and I will be the main targets at a reception that afternoon.

Today ended with the congregation gathered around us for a time of prayer. It was “reserved emotional!” I say reserved emotional because the dear saints know that there is another Sunday three weeks later that will probably include the opening of the floodgates.

I took notice of several today. Marla Booth was finishing elementary school when I arrived. Now she is married to an awesome man named Austin who I love deeply, and is the mother of two beautiful little girls. Marla has a heart for people and has become more and more passionate about children in underprivileged countries around the world.

Greg and Jordan Davis came to our church several years ago after a brain tumor had been discovered. Greg and I already knew each other from basketball officiating and Timberview Middle School. When he had a couple of seizures and then the tumor was discovered I showed up at the hospital just to check in with him and to ask permission to say a prayer. A few weeks later I entered the sanctuary on a Sunday morning to see their family present for worship. We’ve walked together ever since…through the anxiety of MRI’s…and unexpected seizures…and having to share the news with their daughter that the cancer had returned. Our journeys have been tear-filled and laughter-laced.

Rex and Ann Davis were present today. Rex is 95 and Ann 93. Their days of good health have recently gone by the wayside, but they come to church when they are able. Today Rex took up the offering with the sole purpose of squeezing my finger as I stood in the front row. He is a man of God whose journey has also had a trail of tragedy as part of it. About four years ago I had the funeral of their son, Ed, who was killed in a motorcycle accident trying to avoid a deer on a two-lane mountain road. I’ve considered Rex to be my “Colorado Dad!” Her models what a servant of Christ should be. Recently, he also has had some battles with cancer that have left him a shell of who he was…and I love him deeply!

Chris Oldham was there today! A few years ago she married my area minister after being a part of our church for years and years. She and Mike often are worshiping in other congregations around the state on Sunday, and she followed Mike to be more involved in First Baptist of Colorado Springs, but she has always been an encourager for me. She got me involved in the summer camping program, not to give me something else to do, but to give me some quite moments in the midst of a camp week. Sounds crazy, right? But it has actually been exactly that!

Courtney Gage Ramsey was there. I did the wedding ceremony for her and Steve a few years ago. Now they live a couple of hours away with their three year old son. Her parents, Jack and Ellen, mean so much to me, and I was delighted she came this morning.

And then there was my son, David, who surprised us and came this morning! That was awesome…and I’m getting a little teary-eyed as I sip my decaf and type this. David’s life does not mesh easily with church life. He works as a restaurant chef, and moves in different circles. One of the things I look forward to as I enter retirement is more time with Dave…like this Tuesday night when we go to the Air Force basketball game together. Today was the first time in…years that all three of my children were in a Sunday worship service together. The Christmas Eve when Lizi “Skype’d” in and watched on a front row laptop…doesn’t count.

It was a day of gladness and sadness! A day of moving forward while treasuring what has been.

Speaking to Mom

September 7, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W                                               September 7, 2013



Most who are reading this know that my mom passed away on September 3. Her funeral was yesterday. After the service at Hall’s Funeral Home in Proctorville, Ohio, the family traveled about an hour and a half to Highland Memorial Gardens outside of Staffordsville, Kentucky for her graveside. I was asked to conduct the graveside service. Now, understand that I’ve conducted a lot of graveside services over the years, but this was different. This was for Mom, the one who changed my diapers and kept me in line. One doesn’t just read a scripture, recite a poem, and close in prayer at his mother’s cemetery plot. The following are my last words to Mom before her casket was lowered into the ground just to the foot of her parents’ graves, and also in the company of her sister Irene, and husband Milliard Vance, her brother Dewey Junior Helton (who I always thought  was actually named Junior…Uncle Junior!), and his wife Grethel, and Mom’s brother-in-law, Bernie Whitt. Her sister, Cynthia Whitt, age 91, is the last of the six children still living.

“Family plot” is an appropriate term for that section of the cemetery! And those of us who are still walking upright were gathered there with them.

Dear Mom,

    I know that you are in heaven now. As I thought about who you are- your personality, likes and dislikes- and who you have been, and I thought about where you are now, I started pondering what it is about heaven that impresses you…not that there is anything in heaven that is unimpressive!

     I know that you will be taken back by how immaculate everything is in Glory. Everything is perfectly placed. There is no hint of chaos. There isn’t a place in the whole expanse that “looks like a tornado hit it” (Your term used often to describe my bedroom!). 

      Everything is clean! Cleanliness is next to godliness…and now you know that it also describes the area next to God! The order of heaven has brought a smile to your face. If heaven has magazines they are neatly arranged. Good Housekeeping would figure prominently in the tidy mix.

      I know you will also be thrilled to discover that there is no death, mourning, crying, or pain there. The last few years have had their share of those things…from the passing of siblings and friends…to the pain of your illnesses. Dad and Rena often found that there was nothing they could do to comfort you, to make things so you would not hurt. They did not want you to be in pain, but there was a pained helplessness within them as they waited by your bedside. Heaven, as you have discovered, does not have a hospital ward…or doctor’s waiting rooms…or pills to take and health insurance forms to submit.

      In heaven I’m sure you are rejoicing with those who have gone before you. I know you’re experiencing a reunion of the saints. There’s been a separation that has now come back together. 

      Can you hear Aunt Rene’s laughter? 

      Do people still have Kentucky accents there, which, I know, Kentuckians have thought are pretty heavenly on this earth? 

       Is the aforementioned Uncle Junior still allowed to pinch the legs of unsuspecting little boys…like he would do to me while sitting in the swing together at Mamaw and Papaw Helton’s house? 

       Have you seen Papaw yet, and does he drink buttermilk in heaven? I always thought that buttermilk was disgusting, so I’m assuming he is having to go “buttermilk cold turkey” for the rest of eternity.

      And, Mom, you’re seeing the Lamb of God, Jesus, with the multitudes encircling him in praise and adoration of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Since I know you were always impressed with Easter Choir Cantatas, you must be standing there with your mouth wide open in awe of what you are now hearing and seeing. 

      We grieve your death, but we rejoice in your life, and now…new life. As the scripture says “…we live by faith, not by sight.”

      Because of our shared faith we know that someday we will be reunited with you, and for that we are thankful!