Daddy, my guardian angel

Published 11:53 pm Saturday, June 18, 2011

By Jim Luke

Special to the Item

In a few minutes my mother, sister, and I would leave for the funeral home for Daddy’s wake. After five months of suffering with a brain tumor, his suffering is finally over, and he is at rest! Oh! I’ll miss him so much, he was my best friend! The last months I would chat with Daddy for hours about seemingly everything. No one could know him and not love him.

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My Daddy set the standard for what a man ought to be; he had a reputation for hard work and keeping his word. It became a standard by which I have always viewed the world, and shaped the way I have dealt with people throughout my life. He was a wonderful husband to my mother, and provider for his family. He had the sweetest spirit and disposition of anyone I ever knew. Now, he was gone.

I prayed the angels would shepherd me and give me a peace and strength to get through the days ahead. I prayed that God would send me a sign that Daddy was with my Lord and was okay.

So many people came to pay their last respects that night to the man who had helped my mother, Mary Luke, mold and shape my sister and me. Daddy left his fingerprints on all of their hearts as well.

That night, after greeting many friends and family and sharing fond memories with each other, the wake was coming to a close. Then it happened— with only a few close friends still there, a funeral home representative asked me how we were going to transport the many flower arrangements to Collinsville, Miss. where Daddy was to be buried. I was stunned for a moment as I realized that in all of the grief and chaos, transportation of the floral arrangements was my responsibility. Now what could I do? Would it be my first time to fail my family?

I had always depended on Daddy’s advice in moments of crisis, but now everything was on my shoulders. At just that time, my old friend Derwin Whitfield stepped up and said, “Jim, take my truck and trailer. I have a large tarp we can place over the top of the trailer.”

As we waited for Derwin to return with the truck and trailer, I though how blessed I was to have a friend like Derwin during my time of need.

The next morning I left Picayune heading on a two and a half hour journey up Interstate 59 toward Collinsville, which would be Daddy’s final place of rest. My wife, Karen, and daughter, Lauren, and her friend followed in a car behind me. It was raining and the wind was blowing very hard. After a few minutes, I noticed the tarp was tearing loose from the trailer and flowers began to blow out on the highway. I stopped and looked in the back of the trailer and flower arrangements were destroyed by the high winds. I was heartbroken. Tears began to roll down my cheeks as I thought, “Daddy I wish you were still here, what will I do without you?”

 Daddy had only been gone a couple of days and I couldn’t even get the flowers to his graveside service.

Just then a large 18-wheeler tractor trailer rig pulled along side of us and gave two mighty blasts with his air horn. As the truck driver stepped down from his big rig and walked back toward us, I was frozen. The old trucker gazed right in my eyes and said, “Son, where you going with the flowers?:

I told him my dad had died and I was trying to get the flowers to his funeral in Central Miss. The truck driver looked at me and very humbly said, “I’ll be glad to take them wherever you want to go I have an empty enclosed trailer.”

The flowers were pretty well destroyed by that time and we thanked the truck driver for his offer, but we had already been helped more than he knew. You see, my Daddy was a retired truck driver who drove big tractor trailer rigs, just like the one that truck driver was driving. For the next few minutes as I watched that truck driver pull back onto the interstate and drive out of sight, I could somehow feel Daddy’s presence, as if he was right there beside me, saying, “I will always be with you.”

 As a truck driver Daddy was always stopping to help people. He was a trucker with a heart of gold.

I remembered as a kid reading a article in a newspaper clipping how he once saved an entire block of stores in Decaturville, Tenn. from burning down.

This 1953 story flooded me with memories as the kind truck driver offered to help me  transport the flowers that would cover my Dad’s grave. Dad would be proud to know the help he showed strangers, came full circle to help his son. Now on the sad day as I traveled the same long road that my Dad traveled many, many times I could feel my Dad’s presence and could almost hear him say, “Jim, I’m here for you and always will be, right by your side, just as I have always been and will be …”

As I drove towards Daddy’s final resting place, I finally had my sign from God. It seemed like there were more big freight trucks on the road that day than I had ever seen before. It was as if they were a part of our journey watching over us and that Daddy still had his arms around me and everything would be okay.

As we traveled on to Daddy’s funeral the joy of the Lord began to make me laugh, realizing that much of the grief had left my heart. Daddy was not only here, but he was laughing about our concern for flowers, because the only thing that mattered to him during family times was that we were all together. That “earth angel” truck driver delivered Daddy’s message loud and clear.

God has truly given me His gift, a guardian angel watching over me … my Daddy!

By the way, because of Daddy’s many friends, we had plenty of fresh lowers that blew out of the trailer for the next two hours, leaving a beautiful angel trail of memories from Picayune to Collinsville. It was as though Daddy traveled that highway for the last time. He wanted to leave me with a vision of the beautiful life he shared with us.

Today is Father’s Day and the Bible says that God sends a ministry of angels to watch over us. My Daddy is now part of that ministry; if your Daddy is no longer here on this earth with you, then he is part of that ministry, too.