“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
My father passed away on this day twenty four years ago. I was twenty one years old and in college at the University of Georgia and I remember my mother calling me to give me the news that my dad had a heart attack and was in the hospital. It was a Friday morning and I hurried to the hospital, and spent the next two days with my mom and dad in his room, not knowing what the outcome was going to be. I was scared but I felt like my father would pull through and eventually return home again.
Late on Sunday afternoon, as me and my dad were talking, he told me that I needed to go back to Athens and study for a test that I had coming up the next day. His dream was to see me finish college and graduate. I was in my last year of college when my dad suffered his heart attack. He talked often about the day that I would graduate and how proud he would be. My dad didn’t have the opportunity to attend college. His father had passed away from a massive heart attack at the age of 48 and so my father had to go to work in order to help support his family.
I traveled back to Athens from Gainesville and drove over to the library to study. A few hours later, I returned to my apartment and I could immediately sense that something was wrong. My two roommates were looking at me in a strange way and they told me that I needed to call my uncle. I knew immediately that my father had passed away and I couldn’t bring myself to pick up the phone and make the call. Almost instantly it seemed, the telephone rang and it was my uncle, calling back to talk to me. I remember my uncle saying that he was sorry to call with such bad news and then he told me that my father had another massive heart attack and was gone.
I don’t remember much of what happened the next day or so leading up to the funeral. All that kept running through my mind was that my father would not be there when I graduated college. He would not be there for any important events in my life and the thought of that was just too much for me to bear. Being an only child though, I knew that I needed to be strong for my mother because that was what my dad would have expected me to do.
As those twenty four years have passed by, I have treasured many wonderful memories of the time together that my father and I had. I remember the first time that he took me fishing. Yearly family vacations were very important to him and we had some really good times together as a family. I was also an avid baseball card collector and my father would indulge me with numerous packs of cards that he would bring home after leaving work for the day. He was also a wonderful cook and I regret not having spent more time with him in the kitchen and learning some of his secrets.
I still miss my father, especially at important milestones in my family’s life. I found myself thinking about him a couple of Sunday’s ago when I baptized my daughter. Although he was not there in person, I believe that he was present in some way and was witness to what took place. And it is my Christian belief that we will be together again one day in heaven.
He would always tell me that he couldn’t wait until I had kids so that he could see how I managed them as a parent. “I hope that your kids give you as much trouble as you give me,” he would jokingly say to me. I hope that I have made you proud as a parent dad, and I’m sure that we will laugh together again one day about all the “trouble” that my kids have given me. In memory of my father, George C. Mathis.