Saturday, April 3, 2010

Half a Decade Away

Five years ago today, I woke up in our new house in Augusta. My whole family came up to help Andrew and I move in and we had spent the previous days unpacking, assembling furniture, painting, and putting up chair-rail in the new house. I spent most of the previous day in the guest room with my dad, helping paint and watching him painstakingly cut chair-rail to make it fit JUST right. I made a trip to Home Depot with him to get more materials and he joked that he was glad I had the brains to go to college, because I wasn't so good with knowing my way around a hardware store. That night we ordered pizza and enjoyed it sitting on the few pieces of furniture and the floor since we didn't have a table yet. Daddy fell asleep with my then 8 year-old brother watching old movies they had picked up at Wal-Mart (we didn't have cable yet). The next morning my daddy woke up and headed home along with my youngest brother. He told my mom not to wake me...he'd see me in a couple of days when we got back home. They headed to the Waffle House, through Atlanta to pick up his paycheck, and were going to make it home in time to help Gavin work on his truck that afternoon.

I don't remember exactly what time the phone call came, but it was my youngest brother and we couldn't tell exactly what was going on but he was scared and something was wrong with Daddy. My mom and I were freaking out, but Andrew pulled it together and got us in the car and we sped to Atlanta faster than I have ever ridden before in my life. When we made it to the hospital two hours later, we faced the worst news we could have ever imagined. Daddy didn't make it...the strongest man I knew was gone and to say we were at a loss would be a major understatement. It was determined a case of Sudden Death where his heart just misfired and never restarted. My little brother thought he had fallen asleep at the wheel and was somehow able to undo his seatbelt, crawl into daddy's lap and stop not only a huge Dooley truck, but the horse trailer they were towing behind 4 lanes of Atlanta traffic. Not only did he save his own life that day, but the lives of countless others on the only 8 years old. God was there.

It's been 5 years and some days it feel like 20 and other feels like yesterday. They say everything gets easier with time and that's not a thought I truly subscribe to. True, day to day gets easier to get through, but when it hurts just as bad as that day. Peyton being here as helped some...I feel connected to him when she makes an expression that reminds me of him or I see her being such a "daddy's girl," like I was. But it has also brought the hurt out in new's hard to know how much he would have loved this little girl and not have him here to show her. I wonder if I will ever be able to explain to her who he was and what an amazing father he was.

He would be so proud of his family...he always was. He told each of us he loved us more times than we could ever count. He made nightly rounds to kiss us good night if we were all under one roof and morning rounds to tell us to be safe and he loved us. In the end, it was found that his heart was too big....and that makes perfect sense to me.

We wouldn't have made it this far without the strength of each mom has carried us when each of us were too weak to do it ourselves. Andrew has picked me up and cheered me up more times than he ever bargained for. Gavin has taken over so many of the "man" jobs...he's my on call guy for anything car-related and he helps my mom keep the farm running at home. My youngest brother has had his fair share of struggles but is growing into a young man that my daddy would be proud to call "son." My grandparents, who have since lost their second son, have shown me that God's grace is sometimes all that will get you through...but it WILL get you through. How proud he would be.

I hate that his death has allowed me to know the grief that exists in this world, but it has changed me profoundly. I don't stress about little things nearly as the big picture...not much makes my list of "important." A clean house is nothing compared to extra time spent crawling around with Peyton or cuddled up on the couch watching movies with Andrew.

On my darkest days, I remind myself how fortunate I was to know this type of love, even if just for 21 years. When I need persective, I think of my brothers who only got 17 years and 8 years and little girls who never know their fathers. I will always be thankful for my daddy and will always wish he were here. Love you Daddy.

Jimmy Ray Hamby
August 18, 1955 - April 3, 2005