The only memory I have of my father that is my own was of a conversation he had with me and my older sister, Irma. Irma had a Hershey candy bar and I badly wanted a piece of it. I went to Dad and asked him to make her give me a piece. He said, “Irma, give your sister some candy, always share with your sister.” I was almost four years old when Dad passed away and as a grown woman I wondered why this is the only vivid memory that I have of him. Of the countless words he spoke to me, why did I only remember these words. It occurred to me that anything you vividly remember as a young child has great significance. It was from this memory that I’ve clung to all my life that revealed to me my father’s character, his role in my life and the role he played in the lives of my siblings. This memory showed me that he was a protector, and that he was there to watch my back. This memory showed me that he was there to provide for me what I couldn’t provide for myself; and that he encouraged harmony in a large family that needed tons of love, of which he had so much to provide. This memory was also important because I was able to look back and understand that God’s love is similar to the love of a caring father for his child. It would have been harder to recognize and accept the love of God had I not been acquainted with the love my father had for me and my siblings.
I vaguely remember leaning from a bench in church and looking into a casket at the face of a man who appeared to be my father. I recall the emptiness and the desertion that I felt after he was no longer there. Yet this crushing event in my life reminds me of the scripture which says “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)
My spirit was crushed after my father’s death. As a child when I went to church I would run to the cemetery and stare at my father’s grave. I would think as I stood there, “why did you leave me?” “Please come back.” But of course he never did. I also frequently had dreams in which Dad would come to the house and talk to me, but I could never touch him. Just when I would almost touch him the dream would end. I felt that it was so unfair that my father had died because he seemed to be the only one who loved and understood me.
My father was in the hospital a long time before he finally passed away from diabetes. He had the disease for years and didn’t know it. By the time he found out his body had already been damaged by kidney failure. Yet while he was in the hospital Mother told me he said to her, “Arlevia, please keep the children in church.” He must have known he was dying because he told this to my mother repeatedly. He also had her read a passage of scripture from the book of Psalms chapter 37. The scripture refers to the blessedness of the righteous man over the wicked. The verse shows that it may seem the wicked are winning, but in the end the righteous man is the one who inherits the land. Psalm 37: 28, 29 states “For the Lord loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved forever; but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.” My father’s death stripped us of the protection we so badly needed from the vicious attacks of Satan. The devil and his demons just moved into our house after my father’s death to try and destroy this righteous man’s children.
The sickness and poverty increased after Dad’s passing. My mother was left with eight children to raise alone; the oldest Margaret was sixteen, the youngest, Patrick, was five months. Patrick almost died as an infant due to various skin infections and asthma. The doctor told Mama that she could let him die in the hospital or take him home to die. My mother of course chose to bring my brother home and she took him to church to have the pastor pray for him. Pastor Ingram prayed for Patrick and said, “ Lord it’s not expected that this baby live, please for his mother’s sake, she’s already lost her husband, please Lord spare this little boy’s life, Amen.” I often helped Mama bathe Patrick by bringing her towels to dry his skin. It took a long time for his body to heal, but he lived.
Luther, another brother, developed pneumonia and came close to dying. Jerry, my next to oldest brother, suffered from nosebleeds and was perpetually accident prone. My mother cried a lot during this time, and she’d sometimes say while she cried, “The Lord took my husband, it seems Jasper could have done a better job taking care of the children instead.” Spiritually, we needed a lot of direction, but all of Mama’s energy was used up just trying to feed us and keep a roof over our heads.
I believe that because children are innocent, they see things that other people are unable to see; especially things of spiritual significance. As a child, I would see small, black creatures throughout our house; they would always be under a bed or in a closet. I didn’t know what they were and I didn’t know how to tell anyone what I saw. I now realize these were demonic spirits; they were the ones of sickness, confusion, and strife that were so prevalent in our home after Dad’s passing.
The spiritual battle for my father’s children was only beginning. The presence of a Godly father in the home can’t be underestimated; and his absence can have devastating effects on all who dwell there. This is not to say that a God-fearing and praying mother is not able to raise her family in the fear of the Lord, but God has commanded fathers to instruct their household in the fear of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 states, “And ye fathers provoke not your children to wrath: but rather bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” I am convinced that if a father is unable or unwilling to minister to his household, that God honors the efforts and prayers of a mother or whoever stands as a caregiver in that household.
I was always asking my siblings what my father was like because I had such a limited memory of him. Margaret, my older sister said, “Daddy was something else, I don’t believe he had a child that was like him.” She said that he had the kind of personality that just drew people to him, and that he had a concern for people that few others had. She said he was funny, (had a sense of humor), and he loved singing and being a deacon in the church. She said my father embraced other people and served them, and he did it selflessly.
My mother’s personality was the opposite of my father’s; while my father was accepting and willing to help anyone, my mother was more introverted and seemed to have little trust for anyone. They were both strong individuals, but in characteristically different ways. Both my parents were the product of the culture and era they lived in; and fifty years ago in the South segregation was the law of the land. Women were also expected to be subservient to their husbands rather than equal partners.