A Father's Shadow
This Hub is dedicated to my father Billy Joe Rushing Who went to be with Jesus on March 30th 2011. He was 80 years old. The following was my contribution to his memorial service. I post it here simply because I want the world to know that I loved my Dad.
When a father dies, slowly year after year his image fades in the minds of his descendants. In time, all that is left of his life is the impact he made on the hearts and character of his children and grand children. My father’s life was shaped by his father Willie Lloyd Rushing. Who in turn was shaped by his father Doc Rushing, creating an invisible chain that connects each of us to the character of our fore fathers.
It can be compared to a shadow. That image of ourselves that is cast upon the ground as we walk. I believe the shadow that a father casts, out lives him. It stretches into the horizons of time and leaves his image on the conscience of his children and his children's children. Good or bad, the effects of his character remain long after the memory of his existence.
I find that I take after my mother both in personality, appearance, and interests. Never the less, my father’s shadow can be seen in my life in several areas.
Like my father, I have never been drunk and have no interest in alcohol. My father made a decision early in his life to abstain from alcohol of any kind. This was a conviction that he felt very strongly about. He tells a story where he was going into a bar and as soon as his hand touched the door knob God spoke to him. I love how God put it to him. “That’s not for you Bub!” And so he immediately turned around and left. That’s how it was with my Dad. Once God spoke to him. There was no turning him aside from his conviction.
Like my Dad, My first language is Oky. I loved to hear my father talk. Instead of washing his hands and face and thawing his meat. My Dad always worshed his hands and unthawed his meat. I was probably 15 or 16 before one of my friends pointed out the oddity of my speech. I had to train myself to speak properly. When I run across someone with a real thick Oklahoma accent. I find that I naturally fall into the rhythm and words of that dialect. In no time, I am talking just like them.
Dad was able to boil things down to its simplest form. He had some great saying. In few words he could communicate volumes of emotion and reason. My favorites are “Rain on um” and “Yes Dear” I have never been able to master the delivery of these two terms as my father did. He was a expert. When executed correctly and with the proper tone. They will win every argument known to man.
I have 5 kids. Like my Dad, I have three girls and two boys. Giving me insight into his hardship’s as a husband and a father. This connection to him has helped me find grace for him. It has enabled me to forgive him for his mistakes in my life. There can be no doubt that he was not a perfect father. But my own struggles with my family have helped me appreciate and understand why he did many of the things he did. For the record, I pray that I can be as good a father to my children as he was to me!
My Dad always wore a hat outside. If asked why? He would say it was to keep his old bald head form burnen. I have a small bold spot on the back of my head that I am keeping a close eye on. I am reminded of this spot every time one of my kids sees it, which seems to be growing in frequency the larger it gets. They like to tease me by saying I am starting to look like Papa! Unfortunately, this too has come to be a reminder of my father.
As a source of comfort, I remember a bumper sticker he had on one of his trucks that read “Bald is beautiful.” Indeed my Dad made being bald look good. If I am to go bald, may I look as good as he did!
Of all the areas in my life where his shadow is revealed, there is one area that is most precious. I have his hands. I discovered this about 5 years ago while he was helping me repair a door. We were both holding the door in such a way that our hands were next to each other. I noticed it immediately, they were identical. At the time I had no idea how God would use this reality to impact my life.
When I look at my hands I am reminded of him. I am humbled by the fact that it was while he was serving me, that I discovered this connection. That it is with his hands my father worked and served others both friends and family.
He was not a man who showed his emotion. The words “I love you” did not fall easily from his lips. My father showed people that he loved them by doing things for them. By showing kindness. Through my fathers hands I am reminded that Love is not only an emotion but primarily an action. We can tell people we love them all day long, but it doesn’t mean a thing until we show them our love. This my father did in abundance. If I were to take a poll of the people here. I expect that at some time in your life my father showed you a kindness. It would have been through his servant’s heart where he aided you in some task. It would have been through a practical joke, or a loving jab at your character where he would have laughed his head off, assuring you that he didn’t mean anything by it.
If you have tasted his home made noodles at a men’s meeting, or had your child lovingly comforted in the nursery during Sunday service, then you have seen my dad’s love for you. If you have had a pleasant conversation or had him tell you a story from his past. He was telling you he loved you. In this way he was sharing a part of himself with you.
My father was a humble servant who’s greatest joy was helping others. When I look at my hands, I am reminded that I have been given my fathers hands. The primary tool my dad used to serve God and his friends and loved ones. They remind me of his humility and his servants heart. When I look at my hands I am reminded to serve others.
Indeed his shadow has been permanently cast across my character and in turn it will be cast across the character of my children. They may not understand all the things that motivate me. But second only to my desire to honor God is my desire to honor my Dad and his memory.
I have found that the more a father is loved the longer his memory remains in the hearts and minds of his decedents. I love my Dad and I intend that he be long remembered by my children and my children’s children. If I have my way his shadow will never fade.