Daddy

When Daddy turned seventy years old, I asked several friends and family members to send me a few words that they thought described Daddy. The response was extraordinary.

Strong, confident, steadfast, dedicated, hardworking, committed. Brother, son, father, husband, uncle, and a friend were mixed in, too. We framed the piece of art and presented it to him with a huge piece of German chocolate cake. I could tell he was trying not to be overwhelmed. I wanted him to know that he is deeply loved by all who know him.

Because it takes a deep love like that to tackle dementia on a daily basis. 

These past several months, this disease robbed my Dad of his speech, his memory, and his ability to move. Knowing he would rather be on the lawnmower, burning leaves, picking flowers with Addison, or taking a walk around the pond with Mama, our prayers shifted. 

Of course, we wanted him with us. We want this to be his home. But we also wanted healing. We wanted restoration. We wanted Daddy back.

And we are overjoyed and elated to know that he is whole again. 

How do we know? Because Johnny Ray knew Jesus.

Daddy’s physique is strong again.
His mind is sharp. 
His balance has returned.
His scars are healed.
He has a full head of blonde hair.

Although he can speak now, I’m sure he’s still a man of few words. I hope you remember Johnny Ray as strong, hardworking, and compassionate. Unafraid, wise, and pensive.

I was blessed to be with my Daddy in the final 48-hours of his life. They say the last thing to go is the hearing, so the incredible workers at Heartis encouraged me to keep talking. 

So I did. 

I thanked him for the trampoline he surprised us with one summer and for buying me the dual cassette jambox, which sparked my obsession with mixed tapes. I mentioned that I still have every piece of correspondence he ever sent me. This grand total is four. It includes the envelope which once held a check for gas money and a ripped-off piece of cash register tape with “Love JR” scrawled in bold, block letters. I told him I would be happy to teach the younger generation to fish, just like he taught me. Yes, I will take the catfish off the hook, but all bets are off if it’s stuck through the fish’s eyeball.

I told him I’d help take care of Mama. I told him Jamie would take over the mowing duties. I thanked him for walking me to my car every time I left the house. I thanked him for the sacrifices he made for us over the years and how proud I am that he managed his business for decades to provide for his family.

I cried as I remembered him perking up in his wheelchair when he saw me walk through his door at Heartis. He may not have technically known my name, but I was the nice lady who brought him a large Diet Coke from Sonic every other week!

When Pure Country comes out on Netflix, I will watch it. When fried catfish is served, I’ll eat it.

I whispered that he was a good daddy.

When I think of what it means to be a strong man, I’ll see his face. When I think of what it means to be a hardworking man, I’ll see his face. When I think of what it means to be a provider, determined, committed, selfless, resolute, generous, and devilishly handsome, I’ll see his face. 

And when I feel a little sad, knowing he’s gone, I’ll remember how grateful I am that one day, I’ll see him again in heaven. And I recite 1 Peter 5:10, which says, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”  

Fully restored, on a lawnmower, making sure the family mansion’s grass is immaculate. 

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Erin
February 11, 2022 10:06 am

Lincee, that is the sweetest and most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever read. Thank you for sharing JR with us. Thinking about you during this time. Keep on writing!

Kristine Bammert
Kristine Bammert
February 11, 2022 10:07 am

Oh Lincee this is a beautiful tribute

Bettepat Graves
Bettepat Graves
February 11, 2022 10:08 am

Lincee Ray, you are a gem of a daughter! Daddy’s girls are a special breed of fine girls and Johnny Ray made sure you were one of the best. I am so glad he knew Jesus, and in so, you know he is whole again. Memories are such powerful treasures and Johnny Ray made sure you have some gems….

Jen
Jen
February 11, 2022 10:41 am

Lincee, thank you for sharing these beautiful memories of your daddy. Loss like this can be so bittersweet–you ache for what was but rejoice at what will forever be. I am continuing to hold you and your family up in prayer.

Evangeline East
Evangeline East
February 11, 2022 11:20 am
Reply to  Jen

So beautifully written! I’m sure your daddy heard every word!!! You will meet again and he will know exactly who you are!!!

Law Christine
Law Christine
February 11, 2022 12:18 pm

Beautiful

angie
angie
February 11, 2022 12:43 pm

I’m weeping..I lost my father almost 30 years ago & I miss him every day…thank you for giving me the time to remember my Daddy…you never get over the loss….you just learn to keep it in a corner of your heart ,& allow it to come out when you need to.

Renee
Renee
February 11, 2022 12:58 pm

Beautiful tribute to an obviously wonderful man. Lifting up prayers of comfort and joy for your family as you walk this road.

Amy Flanagan
Amy Flanagan
February 11, 2022 1:18 pm

Thank you for sharing…I lost my mom to cancer on the 15th and we had just celebrated her 70th birthday with a surprise party in August so her recent decline was unexpected when I arrived at Christmas. While I wasn’t with her in her last hours, I was with her the previous three weeks in the hospital and then hospice. The nurses told us as well that the hearing is the last to go. Your words have helped me cope with my grief as I follow your journey through this not so great phase of life.

Anna
Anna
February 11, 2022 1:44 pm

We love you, Lincee!

Lisa
Lisa
February 11, 2022 2:12 pm

Wonderful tribute that brings tears to my eyes. I lost my beloved Dad 4 years ago to dementia. I was honored to be there when he passed, like you, telling stories and letting him know it was ok to go. I’m glad my Dad is finally at peace.

Baron Randee
Baron Randee
February 11, 2022 3:33 pm

Thank you for introducing me to your beloved dad. May his memoryBe only a blessing n.

Jan
Jan
February 11, 2022 4:28 pm

Beautiful

Mollie A
Mollie A
February 11, 2022 8:07 pm

What a beautiful tribute.

Shawn
Shawn
February 11, 2022 8:26 pm

I, too, became “the nice lady”. Thank you for your sharing. And for your words.

Michele S.
Michele S.
February 11, 2022 9:35 pm

Simply beautiful.

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