by Jordan Simmons

Death has always frightened me. To be honest, my biggest fear has always been that one of my parents could die. Yet, I guess I just never really thought it could be possible, not when we have a family that truly loves one another with parents so in love after 25 years of marriage. Our family played by the rules and had big plans for the future. Death was not in the plans; we thought we were invincible. We were wrong. When I went to work on Tuesday, October 30th, I had no idea what to expect. I figured I would have a little bit of normal drama from my students who weren't prepared for the test that was in store for them that day. Little did I know that I would not want or be prepared for the test that was in store for me that day. Now I know, time is precious, love is a gift, and nightmares really can come true. Many people have been trying to give my family advice during these hard times. One piece of advice that people keep telling me is to "think about the good times." The thing is though, I cannot remember anything but good times. Our family has always had such a great connection and so much love. Daddy was a major contributor.

I am honored to have this opportunity to tell you about him. Most of you reading this know that he was such a great man. (Gosh, I really hate using the past tense.) Some of my greatest memories with my daddy are some of the simplest moments in my life. Like, every time it rains I think of him. When my sister Jade and I were young, Daddy would pick us up in his little black pickup truck. When it would rain, he would always make sure to drive through the big puddles just for us. He would get such satisfaction just by seeing our little faces light up when the water would spray the window and our giggles that would shortly follow and fill the small space. I can see it all now in slow motion.

My daddy was a big kid at heart. He was always up for a good laugh and fun times. He was contagious. We would go on vacation to the beach, and before you knew it, there were kids surrounding him asking him if they could help build his next sand castle or if he would throw them into the water as he was throwing us. He was the daddy that many kids have been dreaming of their whole life, probably even some grown men and women. Some have described him as "a presence." For my family and me, he was an experience. When he came home from work at night, even the walls in our house seemed to have breath. No matter how tired he was, he was never too tired. Many times in the Spring I would go outside after school and practice on my pitching for softball. I would pitch against this bull's-eye that my father painted on the side of our shed. Then, when I saw his truck pull up the driveway, I would run out and ask if he could come out and catch for me. He would go inside, fix himself a glass of iced tea, and before I knew it, he was outside, gloved, and ready to catch. It never failed: he was always ready for me, ready to tell me when I was releasing too quickly or when I needed to follow through. Another great memory I have was when I was a senior in high school. I came in the house looking for Daddy, and my momma told me that he was in the back playing with Cameron Grace. I got back to my parent's bathroom and there was my big strapping daddy sitting on a small stool with blue eye shadow up past his eye brows, pink lipstick and his hair going in a thousand different directions by the hands of my little sister. As I entered, he smiled and asked me what he could do for me. I just giggled and told him that I couldn't even remember at the sight of him. I have never known of another father who would do anything like that with so much joy and love in his heart. More recently, with two 2-year-olds, a 3-year-old, and a 4-year old, Daddy always had the energy to keep them squealing with joy through tickling, hiding and seeking, and throwing them up in the air. It didn't matter what all he had done that day or how tired he was, he always had the time.

The Simmons Family

My father's heart was genuine and so tender. He was just like a big teddy bear. After I graduated from high school, I got a summer job working at Kanakuk Kamps in Branson, Missouri. Daddy was so nervous about me driving the three and a half hours by myself that he told me he would at least lead me to Rose Bud and allow me to drive the rest of the way myself. My sweet daddy led me all the way to the gates of Kanakuk. When we got there, he told me he didn't mind driving the extra six hours: he just wanted to make sure I got there safely. Momma told me later that as he drove away in his truck, he got the biggest lump in his throat thinking about me being away for a month. A couple months later, when I started my freshman year at Ouachita Baptist University, he and my family spent the entire first day with me helping my roommate and me move in. He worked so hard and had to leave for about an hour. I thought he just needed to rest, but it wasn't until I laid my head on my pillow that first night away that I realized he had left so he could tearfully write me my most prized hand-written letter telling me how proud he was of me and how he could not believe that I was old enough to be on my own. Earlier that day, when it was time for us to part ways, I kissed him, thanked him for working so hard, and walked away with a lump in my throat. I was walking to my first freshman orientation and he was walking with the rest of my family to the truck. I had been walking for about 45 seconds when I heard, "Yeah Josie! Go get 'em girl!" I turned around to see my daddy standing in the middle of the road, arms outstretched giving me two thumbs up with a proud smile and tears in his eyes. That memory has kept me going in these dark days because my daddy was my biggest cheerleader. I like to think that any accomplishment I have from now until the day I die, my father will be rooting me on inside those pearly gates. Little did I know that on the way home that day, my daddy cried the whole way.

One part of my daddy's legacy, though, is that he did not just love me - he loved people. As if having eight children of his own weren't enough, he was a devoted Sunday school teacher for several years. It is amazing to me to think of all of the students that have been in one of Daddy's classes and the seeds that he must have planted. One of his missions in life was to take broken lives and make them whole.

As many people know, our family was a foster family for some time. Sometimes Daddy would come home from work and there would be a new kiddo in our house. Before the night was over, he would be in the floor playing with that child or holding that newborn baby as his own. When children would come to our house, they would be saturated in love they had never experienced. One of my grandmother's former foster children found out that "Uncle Patrick" had died, and she told her new mother, "but he was the first boy I wasn't afraid of." Many times I came into the living room and would find my dad curled up in the big green chair with a newborn in the crook of one arm and his Bible in the other. I know that not all men have the ability to love other people's children as their own, but Daddy had a huge gift for that. My parents adopted five of their eight children, the last taking place just one week prior to daddy's death. He just loved being a dad. My brother, Callahan, made a quiver with homemade arrows with each of our names on it, and yes, that quiver was full. My daddy believed the Bible when it says, "Happy is the man whose quiver is full." Happy is a good one-word description of him, too. Very rarely would you see him without a broad smile on his face. His two major sources of joy were us and his Lord.

Besides the Lord, his next greatest joy was my mother. I have always said that my parents have been the most amazing example of what a Christian couple should look like. No matter what, we kids always knew they would stand together. My father served my mother, not because she is high maintenance (she is the exact opposite) but because he wanted to make her the happiest woman alive. At his funeral, momma said it best when she said they both felt like they didn't deserve each other and that was why it had always worked the way it had. Even with eight children, my parents still never forgot that they were first each other's.

Daddy's faith always inspired me. He had such a peace about him and I know that it was the Lord. He was always mild, humble, and servant minded. He knew always that God is in control and would say, "God will provide." It is so strange to me now to know that it is true: God does provide. He gave us provision before Daddy died in order to take care of us. Two huge instances that I have reflected on lately have been Daddy's birthday and the Saturday before he died. We are big about having family meals for birthday's at our house. Daddy's meal has been lasagna for as long as I can remember. It is kind of an institution. His last birthday on this earth was two weeks and a day before he died. Right before his birthday, he informed my mother that he had no desire for lasagna this year. This year, he wanted turkey and dressing. Momma was a bit confused because we never ate that except for Thanksgiving. We had it all: turkey, dressing, homemade rolls, green beans, and cranberry sauce. As you can imagine, Thanksgiving was a rough day for us without Daddy. Then we realized that we had celebrated Thanksgiving this year, it was just disguised as his birthday. Secondly, my mother never gets to sleep in...ever. The Friday night before he died, he told her that he wanted her to sleep in the next morning. She laughed and then realized that he was serious. So she slept late, and she later told me that she thought that God was providing rest for her because He knew what was going to be happening just a few short days later.

I am amazed by the legacy my father has left. As a preacher told my grandmother, "your family is now reaping what all Patrick has sown." I would like to extend gratitude on behalf of my family to all of you who have been praying for us and have helped us through. We hope God blesses you greatly. Just remember, our time here on Earth is a gift. You have been put in someone's life for a reason. Make use of your time and be the difference to someone. Leave things better than you found them. If there is anything my father taught me, that was it. What will your legacy be?

This article was first featured in the December January '07 edition.

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