The Greatest Man I Have Ever Loved – A Toothpick Chewin’ Cowboy

There’s a toothpick chewin’ cowboy picking up his beautiful bride for a drive around heaven tonight. Oh Dad, I will always be Daddy’s little girl and you will always be the greatest man I have ever loved and known. I am who I am because of you. Not a day goes by that I don’t find myself thanking you for the lessons in life you taught me or recalling a valuable piece of wisdom you gave me as I try to make sense of the world. So many of the decisions I make today are made on the foundations of faith, character, and conscience you instilled in me.

Dad you saw the world through eyes that had seen just about everything this broken and beautiful world has to offer. You never walked away from a challenge but would rather do your part to make every situation better even if it meant more work or hardship. I will do my best to carry on your example.

This year, unlike any other, tested you. And yet you persevered. Not that there weren’t days you wanted to give up, to be with my Mom again, to rest. But you didn’t. You lived fully and had so much to live for. For that, I am eternally grateful, and ever so proud. I will forever cherish the time I was given with my you, even just the quiet moments spent in each other’s company. I could never have enough hugs from you. I could listen to your stories of your childhood and your life before I knew you forever. Goodness knows you had plenty of tales to tell.

I will treasure beyond measure our last real father-daughter conversation at Thanksgiving. It was just you and me sitting in the quiet of the living room. I remember hearing the ticking of the 100+ year old clock that hung in grandpa’s barn and survived fire and marveling at how it had chimed through so many days of our lives every hour on the hour because you took the time to wind and set it every Sunday morning just like your father had. I listened as you told me about your childhood in Plentywood; what it was like that first year after your father passed away (you were only 6) and the years that followed before your mother met and married your stepfather. The warmth you felt as neighbors welcomed your mother, your brother and you into their home for a Thanksgiving dinner unlike any you had ever had before. Your recollection was vivid, your memories as sharp as the biting cold that gripped Plentywood in the dead of winter.

You told me of how much you and Mom loved Fred Morck and I, and of how much you missed her. That you sometimes found yourself waiting for her to come downstairs in the morning. You told me you wished I was home, that I wasn’t so far away, and that surely, I could find a good job in Billings. You assured me then I could even get a puppy! You told me how proud you were of me and Fred. That we had done better than you had expected us to (you have such a way with words.)

Sure, you had your “moments” when parenting me was far from pleasurable, and I remember plenty of spankings delivered to set me straight, but in my eyes, you will always be the handsome toothpick-chewing cowboy turned executive trying to get me to ride a wild burro, the “brass-banger”/ badger-caller in the wilds of Wyoming, the connoisseur of buttered Rye Krisps as we watched Hee Haw and the Lawrence Welk Show every Saturday night, the church council president extraordinaire ( I take after the best!), and the greatest Dad this girl could ask for.

I know your body was weary of this world and your spirit has longed to be free riding the range and dancing with Mom and acing every hole from the tee for some time. I know you were ready for the ultimate glory awaiting you in heaven that you so richly deserve, but I was not. You went so fast (just like you – always efficient, never wanting to lollygag) I still have so much to tell you and so much to learn from you. I am not sure how I will go on in this world knowing I will never hear you say, “I love you Erika, wish you were home,” or feel you hug me tight again. You are the only one who would listen to me play the piano and tell me “That was nice!” Who will listen with glee to the stories of my mountain-top adventures?

This afternoon as I walked out to Tucker’s rock and sat awhile looking over the horizon I wondered just how I will go on…. And then perhaps you let me know, because the sun came out from behind the clouds and warmed my soul, and of all things on the way back home, a van pulled up and parked on my path. The owner had decorated it with these five words, the title of my Blog: Let your light so shine! Coincidence? Serendipity? I think not!

Dad, I promise to let my light so shine, so that God is glorified, and your fine example of an honorable life well- lived is carried on.

I love you, Dad. More than words can ever say, and even more than that- forever and ever.

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