I’m sitting at Orlando airport on a bench outside. It’s in the high 60s or low 70s, but I’m wearing a sweater and a heavy raincoat over it because where I am landing is cold— bitterly cold—in more ways than one. Temperatures in Kentucky for this week are below zero at night, with wind chill factors that freeze your face off and make the bones and joints ache.
As I sit there meditating on a phone call from my sister that is still piercing my heart, a man in an airline uniform approaches my two-seater bench and asks, “Would you mind if I sat next to you and ate my lunch here?” ״of course not, I said. We make small talk. I feel strange making small talk at a time like this. He says it’s starting to turn cold. I get a better look at him. He has warm skin tones, greying hair, and eyes that look kind. He then says it may get down in the 40s this week— a rarity. I ask him where he’s from, and he says Cuba. We both laugh because, of course, this is cold to him. If you live in Death Valley or the Lut Desert, then yes, it’s cold.
Silence returned while he ate his sandwich, and afterward, I asked him where he worked in the airport. His job was pushing the disabled in a wheelchair to their gate. I asked him about Cuban cuisine and if he enjoyed cooking. His eyes lit up, and his voice changed. Soon I was getting a taste of recipe after recipe. He spoke of friends he had recently met in Orlando who were from London and how he prepared Ropa vieja and Yucca with mojo for them. I still am unsure of what this food entails, but after this man shared his life with me with such kindness, his time in Cuba, the things he missed about home, and the gratitude he had for America, I looked this stranger in the eye and mouthed, “my father is dying.” My sister’s last words were, “I don’t know if he will make it through the night.” Inside, I felt he would but still very gut-wrenching. I suddenly realized I had picked this man to share my grief with. His eyes met mine, and then silence, but it did not feel awkward for some reason. It felt right. I paused a minute while he nodded again– he understood without saying a word.
Life has a way of coming full circle and letting a person know how small they are. How fragile. Mere mortals. How insignificant a life can be when lived without purpose—Without cherished moments. Without making most of our days. How quickly, before you know it, the petals have fallen off the stem or faded. Time is something we can never get back. Trying to think back to my childhood seems so far away. It’s hard to spark a memory without some help.
I hear people say that if you don’t have good health, you don’t have anything, I would agree, and I would disagree. We often joked about my father because he said he felt great every time you asked him and that he had never been sick a day in his life. This man I called dad died at church one morning, was brought back to life by the paramedics, and then had five bypass surgery. Years later, he had a stroke. He wasn’t afraid of death and would have told you, like Lazarus, he’d already experienced resurrection. He took care of my mother faithfully, who had Parkinson’s, Hashimoto, and colon cancer. All these things did not make him bitter. Like Yeshua, he learned from the things he suffered.
Hebrews 5:7-10, In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation.
Yeshua felt all the things you and I feel. He needed His Father. He cried out to His Father. He only did what His Father told him to do. He aged and was no longer a babe but a young boy discussing the Torah with scholars at 12. When his mother chastises him, He says, “I have to be about my Father’s business.”
How long do you and I have left to be about our Father’s business? Possibly just today. My dad was always about His Father’s business. He started out teaching children’s church. He repaired the buses that picked up the children for services, and at times he drove and picked up children who may have never heard the gospel or seen and felt genuine love if not for those going out into the neighborhoods. My dad became more involved and was an elder, and then he was asked to be a part of a mission trip to Mexico and later Equator. When he returned and told us of the poverty and how the people treated them with such honor, giving them their food and going without–he was truly humbled. In his later years, he spent 20 years singing and playing guitar to the shut-ins in the nursing homes until Covid and a stroke that left his fingers unable to play well.
Aging happens gradually over time to all of us. Facial skin begins to sag. Faint lines and green veins run through hands that were once soft. Age spots appear. Coffee and tea-stained teeth that no longer look white. A mind loses its faculties. Greying beards and greying hair that some people dye to hide the fact that they are in winter. Yes, they have already danced through spring, summer, and the colorful leaves of fall, but now their leaves are losing their green. The leaves stop their food-making process. Have we? The chlorophyll breaks down, and the green color disappears and becomes yellow, orange, red, and splendorous, but shortly a chill fills the air.
Many of you know I buried my father the week during Hanukkah. He passed on the 3rd day of this festival of Lights. The number three in Hebrew has great significance:
Three–Shelosh [f.], sheloshah [m.] Seeds, trees, fruit. Revelation, resurrection, gathering balance, equilibrium, pattern, counsel, witness, and strength. New life, sprouting, resurrection, fruitfulness, words of life (counsel), unity, the giving of the Torah and the Spirit, and the foundation of the Temple/House are all signified by the number three. (Grace in Torah, Numbers). https://graceintorah.net/2015/06/15/hebrew-numbers-1-10/
My dad’s father left home after his mom died at seven years old, and he worked all day by 11 years old during the Great Depression. Walter met my grandmother, who lost her mom at age four, and they married late in life. My grandpa never learned to read or write. They owned a tent and a pot to piss in. My grandpa hauled lumber and had a team of mules. They finally rented a house and went to have babies. My dad was raised with dirt floors. My grandma was the nursemaid or midwife in the town. She also made medicines. Her midwife had to venture through a storm with freezing temperatures and crawl across a frozen creek to get to my grandmother’s house to help birth my daddy. Because the storm was so bad, the horses’ needed handkerchiefs over their eyes and to be drug through the creek.
Click link below for a video of my father concerning his birth.
After my grandma Daisy gave birth to my dad, she was sick with typhoid fever. The doctor came out and gave her medicine and told my grandpa, Walter, your wife will pull through because she is getting the medicine, but your son is going to die— yes, more than likely, he will not make it. But my dad got the medicine through his mother’s breast milk and lived. I’m glad he did.
My dad’s funeral wasn’t anything like I had imagined. Due to the blizzard headed our way along with the holidays, we had to decide quickly and bury him the next day. I was hoping we could all share Buddy Green’s stories. Boy, he had some doozies—all true. But we didn’t get that. Families had to travel home before the snow and ice came.
My father was given full military honors. Before He died, he had all his children and grandchildren around his bedside. We read the Torah portion of Jacob blessing his sons, sang, prayed, wept, and became unified.
Most of us venture through life, and in a hundred years or more, no one knows anything about us unless we invented something, went to the moon on the first shuttle, became President or prime minister, or wrote one of the classics, Shakespeare, Dickens, or Mary Shelley. We might get recognized if we discover a disease or find cures for diseases. Nowadays, famous actors, pop stars, and sports stars are made idols. The rest of us, behind the scenes, try and hold up lights that shine and brighten rooms.
When my grandmother was deathly sick with typhoid, no one wanted to care for her or her new baby (my daddy). One Black woman named Ora (light) said, “I’ll take care of them.” She quoted King James with gusto, “No pestilence shall come nigh my dwelling place!” Typhoid disease presented horrible physical symptoms of fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, and those who contracted it tended to be viewed with suspicion and contempt. They were the poor. They lived in rural areas and lacked sanitation and city water.
So this Black woman and her husband came daily and fed and washed my grandmother and her baby. No easy task. She boiled the utensils and plates and separated them in a room off the rest of the house. And Mrs. Light never got the fever, nor did her husband or their children.
Years later, Ora’s husband, Jasper, lost his father. Much snow was on the ground. It was the dead of winter. No one would come out in the cold to take a Black man’s father’s pine box to the cemetery and bury him. My grandpa got wind of the situation, and he got on his wagon, hitched up his team of mules, rode out to Ora and Jasper’s, and put Jaspers’s daddy on the back of his cart and went to the cemetery. My grandpa and possibly my dad and his brothers helped Jasper bury his father.
Sometimes people never forget what size light you shined on them. They take it to the Grave. My grandpa never forgot.
One year, after having a spiritual wakeup call and getting a download of Genesis read to me in my spirit, I prayed and asked the Father who the spiritual mentors were on my dad’s side of the family–who were the praying faith filled believers. Shortly afterwards, I went to my dad’s family reunion and looked through a photo album my uncle had brought. About halfway through I saw a picture of a Black couple sitting on a couch smiling. I asked my aunt who they were, and she began to share the stories I had never heard before.
In honor of Ora and Jasper, who my dad and his siblings always referred to with the endearing title of Aunt and Uncle, I think it was supposed to end this way—My Dad’s life, rather. Winter, bitter cold, snow on the ground. My sister and I were midwives coming to comfort my dad in death. Bookends.
The minister who officiated my father’s funeral held up a candle and explained how we are to be a light to the world. He discussed my father’s light going out here on earth and asked us to carry our light, the light of Yeshua, and to not hide it, but to light it and place it on a stand for all to see that we believe in the Messiah—We have been crucified with Messiah, so we no longer live. Yeshua lives in us. We shine because of Him.
Paul says, “And the life I now live in the body, I live by trusting in (Son of God) Ben-Elohim—who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
My dad had many lives to live under the sun. My father met Faron young above and was friends with one of the original cast members of Hawaii 5-0. The number of his days is recorded in our Father’s books. It is the dash between the birthdate and the day of death that matters. Don’t waste a life on worry, thinking everyone is out to get you, comparing yourself to others, overlooking those around you that might risk their lives for you. Take time to enjoy family and friends with shalom. Keep no record of wrong, be patient, kind, understanding, and set apart.
Ora risked her life and shined her light to spare two lives from death–one life was my father’s. My dad would have been 87 if he had made it to January 24th. But he died during Chanukah, the feast of dedication. A time of fresh oil in our lamps and lighting the menorah lamp. The servant’s branch, which is the middle branch that stands taller, represents Yeshua, who lights all the lamps. During the Chanukah season, the lamps are lit each night, beginning with one candle and lighting an additional candle each successive night until all nine lamps are lit. Each night, all the lamps are lit from the center lamp called the shamash (servant). The Hanukkiah is a menorah but not the 7-piece lamp of the tabernacle. The word candlestick in the King James Bible is from the Hebrew word menorah. None of us can produce our own light without the Messiah, the true light.
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they set it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:14-16, BSB.
May we all try and do just what the Messiah told us to do. Boldly shine our lights. Be as Ora and Jasper, and my father who faithfully ministered to orphans, widows, and shut-ins in nursing homes. Make sure our check engine light isn’t on, and there is fresh oil in our lamps. Our lights, our candles, held up high in a dark and cold world to shine as His servants.