Sunday, March 20, 2011

One of the Things I Learned from My Dad's Death

     March 20, 2004 was a beautiful, warm, sunny Saturday.  I had left Lou at home trimming bushes while Luke and I made a trip to Walmart. We had finished shopping and  were just getting in the car to leave, when my cell phone rang. My parent's names showed up on the caller id: "Hugh and Violet Vaughan." I answered, expecting one of them, but I heard Lou's voice say, "Hey."
     I asked, kind of confused, "What are you doing at Mom and Dad's?"
     He said, "Well, you need to come over.  There's been an event with your dad."
     "Is he dead?" I asked.

On my wedding day, August 1, 1987,  my dad came into the bride's room right before the service to see me.  He told me that there were two days when your life changes just like that - and he snapped his fingers. (I was so happy the photographer caught that moment.)
(1) The day you get married, and (2) the day you become a parent. He neglected to mention a third - the day you lose a parent.  Dad has been gone 7 years now. He was 76 years old. The day he died is frozen in time for me, and I remember my last exchange with him.

Lou and I were working in the yard, and decided another hedge trimmer would be helpful. I called my parents to see if they had one we could use. (Living so close, we were in and out of each other's lives daily.)  Yes, they did. I drove the 1.6 miles to their house to get it. I was on a mission. Needed to get the trimmer and get home. Dad was sitting in a chair on their lanai watching something on TV.
I asked, "Hey, where are those hedge trimmers?"
He told me where they were in the garage and then ended with, "You are gonna love them. They work great."

I said thanks and good-bye, and then I was gone. A couple of hours later, Dad drove to his garden, worked for a while, then drove home. He opened the garage door and pulled into the driveway. My mom, sitting in her chair, heard a horrible noise. She hurried to the garage and found the car crashed into the chest freezer against the back wall, spinning its wheels.  Dad was dead behind the wheel.

I had a great relationship with my dad and have no major regrets. So thankful for that. But there is one thing I wish I'd done differently on that sunny Saturday. I wish I'd really looked at him. I know I saw him. And I talked to him. But I was on such a mission that day. Had to get those trimmers and get back -  that I didn't really look at him.

After that day - because of that day,  I've been making a conscious effort to really look at people. I mean, how busy do I think I am that I can't fully engage with someone and really look at them? My family, my friends, even the checker at the grocery store - all of these are people, created in the image of God, that He has brought into my life.  I don't want to look past them. They are a gift from God right then, right there. Don't want to miss that.

My father taught me many good things while he was alive. (I might have to share some of those in future posts.) And I think it would please him to know that he taught me a very valuable lesson in his death.
Papa Hugh and Mary Grace

Before Dad died, I never knew this is what they did with the flowers after a person's funeral. I wondered then if it was odd that I wanted a picture, but I found it so beautiful, I didn't care. Beauty speaks in the midst of grief.


  1. What a precious post! I cried reading it. I remember that day and how it broke my heart! He left you so amazing memories!

  2. Thank you for sharing that memory! I've told Corey stories about Papa Hugh...and how I've always wished they could've known each other:)

  3. This too made me cry. Your dad was such a special guy! I love hearing/reading your stories about him and the things he said. Thanks Shelley!

  4. What a sweet post.

    You DO fully engage. I always feel that when I talk to you. : )

  5. i have not lost a parent but losing my father-in-law was very difficult. two years later it's strange the things that remind me of him.