Yesterday, my former father-in-law passed away. Some of you know that I was married before I met my current wife. I still kept in touch with her family, especially her dad. He was an important man in my life and one that I admired greatly.
I never called him by his first name, it was always Mr. Tumblin. For someone to have gone through as much pain and suffering, he was an exceptionally happy man. He grew up in the depression and I never heard him complain about it. He dropped out of college to go to war, but I never heard him complain about that either. And believe me, I heard a LOT of stories about his time in the army.
After the war, he went to college again, but never finished. He got married and started a family. He was a rural route postal carrier and was proud of what he did. His daughter had open heart surgery at the age of four. Being the man he was, he just kept going, dealt with all the fears and pains without complaint.
One of his greatest joys was his grand-children. having 5 grand-daughters and one grand-son, he loved having them around. Once he decided to buy hearing aids and spent a small fortune on them. Unfortunately, they didn't solve his most pressing need - he wanted to hear his grandchildren. These little ones had high pitched voices and even with the aides, he couldn't hear them. The hearing aides wound in in a drawer, unused.
He lost his wife to cancer. He sat by her side for the few months she was in the hospital. He taught me an important lesson - we asked what we could do and he said "Just pray!". Several years later, he lost his only daughter after a short illness. The lesson I learned from him then was we just needed to be thankful for the time we had her.
One of the most important lessons he taught me was on the unlikely subject of racism. He grew up in a time and place where races were treated differently. It wasn't a matter of hatred. It was just what was done. But he also showed love to one individual of another race who touched his life. He showed it by caring for her when her own family wouldn't. And he showed respect to others, based not on the color of their skin, but based on what they did and what they could do. He showed me that racism can be overcome, one person at a time.
I had breakfast with Mr. Tumblin last week. We talked and he told stories. I'm not sure if I could remember a single one, but I'd probably heard them all several times. I'm glad that I was able to share the time with him and hope that I made his heart a little lighter for that day.
The last several times I had breakfast with him, I had noticed some of his problems. Trembling hands, sometimes forgetting where he was in a story, other problems that he wouldn't want me to mention. He was beginning to face the reality that he might not be able to take care of himself. Because of the man he was, I knew this would be a problem for him. In some ways, I'm not sure if he could have lived that way. Now that problem is solved. I've heard him talk about his faith and I know he was a Christian, so I'm not worried about his soul. I know he's in a place of no more suffering.
I knew him for for 30 years and if I live another 30, I hope that I can begin to live like he did. We will miss him greatly.