When growing up in our small town of Manning, South Carolina, my dad came home many afternoons from work and threw the football or baseball with me in the back yard. He was Terry Bradshaw and I was his favorite receiver, running intricate patterns across the backyard for what seemed to me to be hours, but I’m sure was only 20 to 30 minutes. He also hit me scorching grounders that I didn’t want to miss because, if I did, they would go into the field next door, which was filled with sand spurs.
Later, when I played JV football, my dad followed us to Kingstree, South Carolina, one Thursday afternoon, his afternoon off work. It was pouring rain when we left Manning, pouring throughout the game, and pouring when we got home. It rained so hard at times we couldn’t see the sidelines from the middle of the playing field. No one stood in the stands for either side, except for my dad, dressed in his Vietnam issue raincoat and air commando hat, holding an umbrella throughout the game. I never knew he was there until one of the cheerleaders told me later that when they performed the cheer, “All for the Manning Monarchs stand up and holler,” my dad stood up in the deluge and hollered. No one else was even present to holler. Forty years later, some of those cheerleaders still remind me of that incident. Despite his busy family medicine practice, he faithfully followed his three sons and one daughter to all of our school and church events.
When I began leaving for college, I used to pack my things on Sunday afternoon after lunch preparing to drive back to Clemson. Dad would slip into my bedroom while I was packing, sit on my bed, hold my hand, and pray for me. He prayed for God’s blessing and God’s protection on his boy while traveling and while away in college. He asked God to deliver me from temptation and to show me His path for my life. He didn’t allow me to pray. He just quietly prayed and then slipped back out.
On a hot September 9th, 1978, I left home for my second year of medical school. My dad drove into our neighborhood as I was driving out. He flagged me down, pulled his car off the side of the road, and ran across the road. He kneeled down in the road and reached his hand through the window to hold my hand. He prayed for me and for my second year of medical school. Then he jumped up and ran to his car, and he was gone. Just as quick as that, he was gone from my life. That’s the last time I ever saw my dad. The next day he was killed in an airplane accident flying his own airplane to Houston, Texas, for a medical meeting. His plane crashed in a swamp during a thunderstorm in Louisiana. Five terrible days passed before search teams discovered his plane.
Every one of us dads will leave a legacy with our children. Even the little things that we do will be remembered. Because of mutual love, little things will be magnified to greatness in the eyes of our children. The things that we say and do as dads will be told over and over to our children and grandchildren, whether we like it or not. My memories of my dad are precious, deep, varied, and rich. My family loves to sit around and talk about him. The memories include quail hunting, Clemson football games, faithfully attending first Baptist Church in Manning, laughing around the dinner table, and catching ball in the back yard. My brothers and I still mimic my dad saying, “Boys, I don’t know what I am going to do with you.” I remember Dad praying for me one Sunday night after I spoke in church and him weeping so hard he could hardly pray.
Hey, Dads, what will your legacy be? How will your children remember you? What will they say about you to their children? Trust me, if you pray for them in the morning and play with them in the afternoon, they will remember you well.
written by Robert Jackson