Over the course of the last week or so, I have seen a few things within the media, as well as social media, that has tugged at my heart strings a bit. I am not an overly emotional person... unless I’m really confused. I’m jolly, for the most part, but I’m very analytical, so I process things harshly before I give an answer I’m comfortable with. I used to drive my teachers in school crazy! My parents would joke that I was born asking, “Why?”
This post is going to be a little more personal (and longer) than my others. There‘s a lot of stuff going on in some of the lives of those I hold dear to my heart, so I think I need to speak “philosophically” to help restore balance. I pray that The Lord helps guide my fingers to the right words for this post‘s purpose. I also pray it brings some light to those who are hiding in some darkness.
In every sense of the phrase, “Daddy’s Girl,” I was one. My father was my hero and my sparring partner. I looked up to him so much, and knew if I needed to lash out about something, he was there as my “punching bag”... mentally, emotionally, and sometimes physically (slow your roll... I was in martial arts & he was well trained). He died at Christmas time of 2001. I was 18 years old- too soon for a girl who literally lived to make her father proud. He was my Ace! Always making me think beyond what’s at face value- a learning skill that I am so happy he instilled. To give you an example, he never punished my siblings and I like most. He made us think about our discipline by giving us choices, and we had to work them out like adults with sense.
Another thing he always pushed on us was to uphold our loyalty to friends, and treat people the way we wanted to be treated. If something happened, and my sibs and I were nasty towards someone, all he’d ask is, “What’s the Golden Rule?” We’d immediately feel like crap and tuck our tails, preparing for an in depth and meaningful apology for the person we had wronged. I cannot tell you how many times I had to stand up in front of a classroom full of my peers, with him, or my Ma, standing cross armed behind me, as I gave my eulogy... I mean... apology to those I had been mean to.
Even being a “Law Man,” he was regarded by many as an honest and respected man. Many of the folks he even had a hand in locking up have expressed how awesome he was. I can remember one story, from when he was a Detective, where he locked up some teenage gang banger. Shortly after his passing, my family received a message from a gentleman who told us who he was and his connection to us. He was that gang banger- now a highly ranked Army Officer, who gave praise to my father for helping him realize he was worth more than the faults of his past.
I think about this guy as often as I do my dad. Never met him, other than through holiday cards and emails. (He and my family joke that he’s our long lost brother that Daddy hid from us.) His purpose in our lives... my life... has an even deeper meaning- if not then, now more than ever. His life of crime turned into something truly remarkable, has taught me that I am NOT defined by my past, rather than it was just the foundation of where I’m at now. I know! Many of y’all are like, “We’ve heard that one before, Jill!” But in the grand scheme of things, it’s the truth.
A few months before my father passed, my dad and I got into a super- mega fight, which my Ma humorously called “Daddy/ Daughter WWIII.” I told him I wanted to be a cop rather than go off to school (I was accepted into a highly regarded and lavish military school, based on merit and I turned it down) and he said, and I quote, “Over my dead body.” It was a battle royale. One for the ages! The Pentagon was notified! (Joking... sort of) I never saw my dad mad... until I told him I wanted to be a Police Officer and I had thrown away a highly prestigious education opportunity.
The word, “No,” was not in my vocabulary... which was his fault in teaching me to never give up... and here I was, having HIM, of all people, tell me that word without a good reason as to why! I was livid, and the more I challenged him, the more he capsized me. He raised me to be a fighter... I was in it for the win, so we didn’t talk without an argument... FOR MONTHS! So, on the day he died, he and I were like two ships passing in the night. I spoke to him on the phone, though, asking him petty stuff I already knew answers to, just to get a rise out of him. “You pick up, Jo?“ (My little sis) “You get Ma a birthday present?” Simple questions to get simple answers, but it was also the type of questioning that let him know, I wasn’t scared of him. The last words he said to me, “All things considered, Jill, I don‘t worry about you. If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. (Malcolm X- my Dad was big on metaphors and quotes). This argument between us may never cease, but I am proud of you. Never stop fighting for what is right, even if it pisses me off... or anyone. Stand alone on what you believe is right. We will talk again soon. I have to work tonight and with your work schedule, I won’t be seeing you for a while.” He was right.
That was the first time in my life that I hung up the phone without telling my father I loved him. It was also the first time in my life that I felt completely torn and proud at the same time. So, I went home while on a break from work, thinking I’d see him. I did. I saw his back, as I looked out the window of my bedroom, to see that he was getting wood in because it was supposed to snow. He loved snow. As he was coming inside to change into his running clothes, I was on my way out the door, going back to work. By the time I had clocked back into my job, my boss came around the corner and told me I had a private call waiting for me. I worked in a restaurant and took the phone closest to me... behind the bar. It was my uncle telling me to stay calm, but something had happened to my dad. Immediately, I fell to my knees. When you’re the kid of a cop, you can’t help but think the worst had happened to him while at work. My over active brain started thinking of the worst case scenarios. “He’s been shot! I know it! He was f******* SHOT by some f******* crackhead!” My uncle told me to get to the hospital. The next thing I remember is just getting up and running. I worked 5min from our town‘s hospital, so I just ran. Thank GOD for a friend running after me, reminding me that I had a car- handing me my keys and other belongings.
I don’t remember much after that. I can remember holding his hand as he lay on the table. He was in his jogging attire. Died of a massive heart attack. His body clock watch (one that told the time but your heart rate, too) was blacked out. It was gone, too.
When my family and I got home, my older brother and I sat on the front porch, processing. It was the middle of the night, and we just sat there, looking up at the stars, like my dad did on so many clear nights. I now practice the same habit. I can hear him tell me those last words he shared, so vividly as if he were on the phone with me. As time has moved on, my habit of having him in my life physically has broken, but it is nothing compared to the mental need of hearing his voice. Not the tone or the actuality of it, but the things he would say to drive me beyond my comfort zone.
From 18 till around 25, I didn’t live the best life. I was a heathen and made many mistakes that I thought I’d never regain my namesake from. I didn’t break laws, but I broke barriers in many wrong ways. I lived for me and me alone. Things didn’t go well. My plans were always shattered by something. It wasn’t until I realized that the life I was living wasn’t the one God had planned for me. I wasn’t fighting for what was right, but I was fighting for my own selfish inhibitions. A huge reality check once it came. I could hear my dad say, “What‘s the Golden Rule?”
I took time to refocus myself and what my life was meant to be. I can remember during this process, being so burdened with guilt and despair that it drove me into a dark corner of my brain, often. I’d reach out to anyone who’d help me take my mind off of things, just to make things worse. It wasn’t until one night, at the age of 25, I sat at the foot of my bed looking through an old hope chest. I found a card from the Long Lost Brother (the one mentioned above) and read his words, “My past has not defined me. I am grateful to those who showed me the way I was supposed to go. Your dad gave me the map and taught me that my story will help others one day.”
Those words... my heart...
The things we do now, the burdens we suffer, those stories will one day be a guide to others who suffer similar circumstances. I cannot help but be taken deep into my faith in Christ, as the meaning of what His life was, and still is, to so many. I mean, afterall, He’s got a whole book dedicated to explaining this notion! Lol! Moral of the story: your life and the circumstances you go through are not meant to burden you. You are meant to fight for what is right, dispelling all evil, and thrive. That simple. It’s not an easy task. There will be tons of doubt. There will be tons of folks who will tell you, “No!” But!!! You are not to suppress righteousness. You are to fight for it and uphold it. And you are to live by The Golden Rule while doing such.
As I put all of my thoughts in black and white for y’all to read, I hope I make my message clear. I have been inspired by many folks these last few weeks. One or two, more so than others, have made me want to be clear as to why I fight daily for whats right. Whether their experiences are good, bad, or match my own, it’s all a chance to learn and grow towards knowing, and doing, the right thing. I will do it respectfully... but I will not give up.
Take Care Of Yourselves, Folks! Don’t Be Afraid To Stand Alone For What Is Right! God Bless!