It’s true. I’m a daddy’s girl. Always have been. Always will be.
My daddy’s name is Frank Mitchell. And he graduated to heaven on Christmas Day this year. His time on earth ended suddenly; only a week earlier he was laughing and singing Christmas carols with all of us who adored him, his beautiful clear baritone voice warming me from behind as I played the piano. I dearly loved to hear him sing.
The world was blessed with 92 years of this incredible man’s life. I couldn’t be more grateful to Papa God.
So today I’d like to share with you this tribute to Daddy; it first appeared in my book Mom NEEDS Chocolate, then was reprinted in shorter form in one of my other Too Blessed to be Stressed books.
It’s a love note for my dear, gentle Daddy, a true Southern gentleman; a lifelong student of the Bible. The one whose arms were always opened to me when I needed to be comforted; my role model for the image I have of Papa God – unconditional love, unconditional acceptance, unconditional forgiveness.
Your little girl’s heart is shattered, Daddy. But I know you’re singing again. I will carry you with me forever.
Ode to Daddy : Godly Parenting at its Best
It’s time again for Daddy’s haircut, a father-daughter ritual that dates back to my teen years when I was the primary hairdresser in my little world. It wasn’t a task I enjoyed then, only an inconvenience to be tolerated.
Now, as Daddy sits serenely on a stool beneath the spreading oaks in the front yard, I see my aging father in a different light. His posture, once tall and straight, is now hunched. The thick black hair gracing the memories of my youth is now thinning and mottled with gray.
As I drape the towel around his shoulders, my mind returns to the daddy of my childhood.
He was the protective giant I could always run to in times of doubt or fear. Before his name stopped echoing through the darkened house after another of my terrifying nightmares, Daddy was there. Never scolding, he’d pat my back as he folded his large frame into my little bed, soothing me back to sleep by his comforting presence.
Before daybreak, I’d follow him into the bathroom as he shaved and readied himself for work. He’d carefully spread a thick bath towel on the cold bathroom floor so I could curl up around his feet and listen to endless tales of knights and ladies, unwise home-building pigs and a cinder girl who found happiness ever after.
The memories melt away and I smile as Daddy waits patiently for me to begin his haircut.
Patience and dignity were always his way – very different from his fiery wife and two temperamental daughters. He was a calming balance, speaking little but saying much through his steadfast love for us and his Lord. He took us to church each time the doors opened and led our family in Bible reading and prayer every night.
Daddy taught me how to feel God’s presence on long walks through the woods on hot summer afternoons, or in the stillness of crisp fall nights. Words weren’t necessary. I’d slip my hand in his and we’d worship our Creator together.
I gather a tuft of Daddy’s hair between my fingers and begin to cut, the rich texture of the strands brings a warm feeling of intimacy with this man, a relationship like no other in my life … a daughter’s love for her papa. Even through those turbulent adolescent years when I viewed my parents through the haze of rebellion, I knew beyond a doubt that he loved me and would always stand behind me.
We continue Daddy’s haircut in companionable silence, with an occasional comment about the remarkable quantity of hair gone underground and sprigging from his ears, nose, and everywhere but his scalp. We both grin.
Daddy’s wry sense of humor is a trait I thankfully inherited. He managed to see humor in many awkward situations, making life’s testy moments not only bearable but also sometimes downright hilarious.
Like the time I was too sick for school, so Daddy took me to work with him. He was a hospital laboratory technician, and as a curious eight-year-old, I love to watch vials of blood spinning in the centrifuge or peer through the microscope at “squigglers” on glass slides.
Even more fun was peeking through the holes in the large metal container stored in the lab refrigerator. It held several dozen toads used for medical tests and I liked to poke my finger through the holes and watch them hop around.
While Daddy was out delivering a lab report, I started wondering what it would feel like to actually hold one of those squishy amphibians. I carefully slid the metal tray onto the floor. As I lifted the heavy lid, every last toad leapt in unison out of their prison and liberated themselves down the hallways and throughout the hospital.
While the other scrambling hospital personnel shouted, grumbled, or glared at me in sheer exasperation, Daddy quietly shook his head and turned away with a smile tugging at his lips. I knew that I’d committed a terrible sin, but I also knew that I would be forgiven and loved no less by the only one who really counted.
Just like my heavenly Father forgives and loves me today.
Leaning close to trim Daddy’s incorrigible cowlick, my eyes fill with tears as my heart is filled with love for this gentle man who lived out his conviction that God and his family were above all else in life. Future family generations may not realize the origins of their deep roots of faith, but I know. He was the one planting seeds of faith in the fertile soil of our spirits, quietly showing us how it’s done.
I shake out the towel and gather my haircutting tools. Daddy softly groans as he rises, his arthritic joints protesting mercilessly. I tenderly smile as I slip my hand into his for the journey back home.
*If you’re a family friend and would like to show your respects to John Francis Mitchell Jr (his daddy was “Big Frank” and Daddy was “Little Frank”), there will be two services, one in north Fla and the other in central Fla. The funeral will be this Sunday, Dec 30, 2 pm at Jones-Galligher Funeral Home in Starke FL, and a Memorial service will be later in January at his current church, First Baptist of Dover (FL) – details will be announced later.