Friday, June 4, 2010

A Tribute to My Father

This is the tribute I gave at my father's funeral, June 3, 2010

My father had a long and well-lived life.  He was the oldest child of Jim Edd and Ada Norris.  He was born September 19, 1917, in Eastland, Texas.  When he was in young, his family traveled from Texas to California due to the economic conditions of the Great Depression.  He dropped out of school before the 7th grade to go to work and help support his family, including seven younger siblings.  He worked as a migrant worker and was a truck farmer, selling produce from town to town out of the back of a truck to earn money.  He used to walk all over the country, hitching rides here and there, traveling back and forth from California to Texas to visit relatives. 

On one of these journeys, he traveled through Coleman, Texas where he stopped at a five and dime store.  There he met my mother, and in February of 1949 at the age of 31, he married the girl of his dreams.  The following year they had my sister, and three years later my brother was born.  Daddy worked as a civil servant with the Department of the Air Force in Texas, but later, due to base closings, the family moved to Oklahoma, where he worked as a painter at Tinker AFB.  If his early life during the depression wasn’t hard enough, he and mom had a baby girl, me, at the age of 47 with a teenage daughter and a pre-adolescent son in the house.  God bless them.

He worked at Tinker AFB until his retirement in 1983.  I can remember this date clearly; because that was the year I graduated from high school.  I’m sure dad was looking forward to retirement for a long time.  My dad was always such a hard worker with a great work ethic, something he passed on to his children.  He was not a person that had to have fanfare to precede him through life, nor did he have high honors, awards, and accolades.  Daddy just saw the job that needed to be done, and did it.  This same attitude provided for a wife and family, and even in his last week, his concern was taking care of his family, despite his bedridden condition.

This same spirit spoke to his spiritual life as well.  He didn’t have fanfare or accolades, recognition or praise, but he surely and steadily grew in his faith.  He never preached sermons or lectured on “thou shalt this” or “thou shalt not that,” but he set an example of a life of devotion and prayer that instructed more than any lecture.   His example taught me a life of personal relationship with Jesus, and through this relationship, I was able to hear my own call to ordained ministry, and inheriting dad’s tenacity and spirit, enabled me to follow that call.

Daddy confided in me one time about something he was ashamed.  This conversation occurred after I had gone into ministry, and daddy had heard me preach.  We were talking about when he was a deacon in the Baptist church.  He told me he really admired that I could stand up in front of others and speak the way I did, and proceeded to tell me a story of an occasion on which he was supposed to give a devotion for Sunday school.  He had worked hard on this devotion, prayed over it, studied the Bible, and was all prepared and ready when the day came.  He stood up to the podium to speak, looked out at the crowd, and was gripped with such fear that all he could do was stammer a bit and sit down.  He was so ashamed he could not speak the words that had God had lain on his heart and he looked at it as a personal failing.  I could hear the anguish in his voice as he recounted this story, and I assured him that he did not fail to proclaim the gospel.  He told it with his life. 

Daddy may not have stood in front of a crowd and delivered a rousing speech, but his life spoke volumes.  I watched my daddy bow his head in prayer and read his Bible every day.  I have read words written in his scrawling script which told of his love and adoration for his Lord, every other word misspelled.  My daddy never stood up and gave an eloquent sermon, but he lived his life a well-expressed example of Christ. 

St. Francis of Assisi, a 13th century monastic father, encourages us to “preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.”  Daddy didn’t need the words to preach the good news of Christ, he lived it; and it lives on in us – we are his eloquent sermon.

These words written by my father were printed in the folder:

Death is a door;
A Christian will never see the grave.
You go on to heaven immediately after death,
And someone else will carry your body to the grave.
There’s no use coming to my grave, talking to me, or
Putting out flowers, because I’m not there,
I’m in heaven with Jesus.
So don’t waste your time and prepare for yourself
to be ready to meet the Lord Jesus.

By Vernon Norris


Anonymous said...
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Rebecca Ramsey said...

Your tribute has given me goosebumps.
I'm truly touched by your dad's admission to you and your beautiful response.
What a loving man--and daughter.

infuse said...

thank you for this, sonja ~
especially poignant for me today, the 4th anniversary of my own father's passing... and gratefully,
he too believed what your father has so succinctly expressed ~
again, many thanks ...

Unknown said...

It is really kind of you to give tribute on your father after all he has done on you and your family. And truly, a father does everything just to give the best for his family. Although these times are harder than it seems, a father has this joy in his heart to provide for his family.

Like your father, my father is the best when it comes to giving us what we need. He have gone through a lot of hardships and sacrifices in life just to make us happy and just to show his love for us. He may even get a payday loan (Utah) for my sister to have a birthday party. So we must really be proud of our fathers!