15 06 2011

My wife went to pieces last Monday morning in a split second of a moment.  Terri, who is one of the administrative assistants at the Lighthouse Church, had just been chatting with me in my office.  And in what couldn’t have been much more than a twinkling of an eye later, I found her collapsed out by the church’s front door, wailing loudly with tears pouring out from her eyes!  She had just been informed via a cell phone call that her Dad had been killed earlier that morning when the pickup truck he was driving crashed into a parked trailer in a fenced lot behind the business.

Harold C. Smith of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, only 68 years of age, had lost control of the delivery truck for unknown reasons in the rear parking lot of the tire service that he had been working at since he retired from Yellow Freight trucking back in 2004.  He was pronounced dead on the scene by a deputy county coroner.  The company-owned pickup was wedged underneath the trailer, which is used to store tires.  The pictures provided in the paper and the local television web sites were terribly difficult to look at!  After seeing them, I could only wonder what could have been going through Dad’s mind in those tragic moments.  Maybe everything happened so fast, he probably never got to process anything at all!  All we know that in a mere matter of minutes- he was gone.  And Terri never got to say, “Goodbye Dad- I love you!”     

A tire customer was sitting inside the business waiting for his truck that was being serviced in the garage. “I saw the aftermath.  At first I heard this bang, but it was nothing to indicate it was like a car crash. It just sounded like something in the distance fell,” he said. “I went around back to see my truck and the employees were talking about something that had just happened back there.”  Little did they know that what happened would forever now change the lives of my Terri and her four younger sisters, countless grandkids and great grand kids and Terri’s dear Mom who is now left behind to try to sort through the wreckage without the man that had taken care of her and things for years to come to the rescue!  And all of this occurred on a normal Monday morning.  But is any day ever normal on a planet where at any given moment new lives are being born while other lives are departing as death catches up with the fragileness of humanity?  Is there ever a time on earth when cries of joy are not mixed with tears of heartache as we experience the daily doings of any given day?

Dad Smith was a gem of a man in a world of Cracker Jack jewelry.  He was the real deal.  He wasn’t the flashy movie star hero type- but he was the guy that we all knew was so necessary to keep it all together!  He married my mother-in-law when she already had four young daughters having been abandoned by her first husband.  He became the only father my wife would ever know and Terri adored her Dad.  He would give you the very blood from his own body to help out any of his family members in times of trouble.  He was loyal.  He was faithful.  He was hard working.  He loved his sports and his favorite color was Phillies red!  When this Jersey boy came into his life, stealing away his daughter- the only one who doesn’t  still live in the neighborhood and here I was rooting for the Mets and the dreaded Fighting Irish Of Notre Dame over his beloved Penn State- well he never once threw me out of his house and I always felt welcomed and loved!  I have never, ever had even an ounce of bad feeling towards this man in over the 30 plus years that I have known him and that’s saying something if you truly know the emotionally wired time bomb that I am.  I admired him greatly and respected him even more.  He was a quiet man over all but always very friendly and would talk to anyone at anytime just about anything.  He should have been the mayor of Lebanon, Pa for all the people that he knew and those who knew him.  And if he knew you liked something, he kept you stocked with it for the rest of your days.  Why it was just last Thanksgiving that he went searching high and low for rhubarb pie for me!  Dad’s visits from Pennsylvania always meant tons of Lebanon Bologna, shoe fly pies and my favorite candy Reece’s Pieces.  He introduced me to French fries and gravy years ago when I was just dating Terri and because of his love for breakfast and diners; to this day we always have breakfast in a diner on Christmas Eve. 

Dad Smith supported Terri’s decision to go to Philadelphia College of Bible when not everybody was crazy about her choice.  If she hadn’t gone there- she would have never met me!  And while Dad wasn’t very boisterous about his faith with his mouth- he lived it loud and clear by his actions in ways that I know pleased the Lord.  And having lost my own Dad to cancer in 2000, I absolutely hate now having to think about the rest of this journey without him being there!  His just being there was more comforting than anybody probably will ever know or appreciate and I have no idea why it takes somebody not being there to wake us up to the true treasures of this life. 

I want to say what I need to say today so I don’t get to tomorrow with regret for keeping my mouth shut!  Terri told me that she was going to go her Dad all weekend but for one reason or another didn’t get around to it.  I saw the horror on her face last Monday when it hit her that she was never going to get the chance to talk to her father again.  I wish I could have given her a window of opportunity to speak her words of love to her father’s heart.  I wish I could have given her five more minutes to make that call.  I couldn’t and I hurt deeply and intensely for her.  And if I can give you a practical word of challenge today it is to make that call- write that note- take that visit and let what’s going without saying finally be said while it can because it can!  The real value of any given day is the relationships that we have been blessed with!  Nurture them thoughtfully and handle them with the utmost of care.  You just never know if tomorrow will bring your last today.

I want to say “Thank You Dad Smith,” for rescuing and raising my wife Terri.  Thank you for your unconditional love and steady presence in her life.  Thank you for being a great father-in-law to me and a wonderful grandfather to my kids and I am sad that they will now have to cherish their memories and miss you the rest of their days.  I am sad that my new grandson Jude won’t get to know either one of his great-grandfathers- but through me- I hope he will see them and their influence clearly!  See you later Dad Smith!    






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