With Father’s Day around the corner I can’t help but think of my dad… how I miss him… and my mom. But for this blog, I want to focus on Daddy. You see, there is a long story to tell about my dad. I’ll try to make it short and sweet (something us Joneses have never been good at- hence the word “try”).
Dad was the oldest of 7 children in his family. He always displayed great work ethic and stick-to-it-ness. While he only had a high-school education he was an extremely bright man who loved to learn. I specifically remember a point where he had read all the books (that he would consider worthy- none of Mom’s sewing books) in our house and began reading the encyclopedias. Then there was a time that someone came across a jackpot of National Geographic magazines…. by jackpot I mean around 200-250 of those suckers. They were stacked next to his bed and he read each and every one of them. He loved to read and loved knowledge. He pretty much knew something about everything… after all he was a Jones… and my mom would always say, “Joneses know everything… EVERY-THING… if you don’t believe me, just ask one!”… haha! There is a bit of truth in that statement.
At the age of 17 (I believe) Dad joined the Army. It wasn’t long before he was whisked away into battle… Korea. Years later he would fight for our country in the Vietnam war as well. I remember one summer night, sitting around the table, Daddy explained in detail his first night of war. He was a soldier at heart. He loved his country. At the end of his 24 year career, Dad retired as CW03 James T. Jones, Sr.
Dad loved his family. As I mentioned earlier, he grew up with less than most. He loved to see his family eat… in bulk! It was not uncommon for him to bring home cases (I’m serious) of chicken…. maybe cases 4 at a time. He would bring boxes and boxes of fruit and veggies home from the local fruit stand… enough bananas to choke a horse. I never remember Dad eating a holiday meal with the family (always a house full- as I’m the baby of 5)… he would always sit to the side and just watch… watch his family enjoy the fruit of his labor.
Dad was a hard worker. He was not afraid of sweat. It was years after he had retired from the military. He had retired from his furniture refinishing business and for “fun” worked for a friend in a neighboring town. Dad chose to do jobs like: yard work and digging ditches… yep… you heard right… digging ditches. It was beyond me. He didn’t have to do this job for the money… just enjoyed staying active. One day I was home and he came in from a day’s work… that day it was ditches. He came in literally saturated head to toe. He called me over, sweat dripping from his face, reached in his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. His leather tri-fold wallet was completely wet from sweat. He opened it up and handed me a one-hundred dollar bill. As he handed me the wet bill he told me that he wanted me to have it and to remember that it came from his hard day’s labor. I’ll never forget that day. Dad was a hard worker and raised us to be hard workers.
Dad was a passionate man. He wasn’t afraid to let a tear or two fall from his eyes. This was usually concerning his family… his children, grand-children, and great-grandchildren. We always left home with a “lecture” on safety… “Be safe! Safety, safety, safety! Those cars aren’t nothing but a piece of sheet-metal….” He usually gave us all gas money as we left… sneaking it to us… like we didn’t know everyone was getting some” My nephew, Ellis recently reminded me that his gas money started at $20 and remained $20 till the day he died. Guess he missed inflation! Haha! He loved his family.
Dad could be funny- usually a dry humor. He always had a way of nick-naming us all. Over the years my nick-names evolved from “Alligator” to my personal favorite, “Booger.” He always called my nephew, Aaron Paul “AP”… our dog, “Pansy” was re-named “Peaches”… no one escaped Dad’s nick-names. One evening he started a big bon-fire on the lower portion of the property and became “Chief something-another”… he told us fabricated stories and passed around a peace rock. Funny indeed.
Dad was such a great man but he didn’t know the Lord. Dad became an alcoholic early in his adulthood and was faithful to the title. I don’t remember one day of my life growing up that he didn’t get drunk. Not one. During my childhood he was verbally and emotionally abusive- mostly to my sweet Mom. The strings of profanity that would pour from his lips would make the proverbial sailor blush. It was bad. Our Mom always remained faithful to our Dad. She said that she promised God that she would stay with Dad until death they did part… and she meant it. She was an incredibly strong woman… but that is another story. Dad rejected God… even after person after person told him of salvation. He didn’t understand how God could allow what he saw in Korea… in Vietnam. What a difficult situation. So we would pray- Mom in the forefront- and wait- and pray and wait- and talk and pray- and wait. The truth be told, I had given up on many levels.
As the Father’s Day of 2008, I believe, neared I was thinking about gifts for Dad. He didn’t need or really want anything. I decided to write a letter. I believe it was the prompting of Holy Spirit. I spilled out my heart in that letter. I typed and re-typed and re-worded and added and subtracted from that letter for a couple days at least. I basically begged him to give his life to Christ- explained how and such. I tried to tell him that I didn’t understand why the things of his life had happened the way they did… but that the Lord knew and understood and loved him through it all. I told him that I had held some anger/resentment toward him for my childhood and such but that I forgave him and loved him with all my heart. I told him that I couldn’t bear the thought of him spending eternity in hell. After several typed pages I began to list people who were praying for him and churches who had on their prayer lists. You see, at this point, Dad was in the advanced stages of Cirrhosis – he was in and out of the hospital- and we knew his life was drawing to a close. When I tell you that I begged, I mean I begged. He didn’t call once the letter arrived or say anything to me.
Weeks later I went home to visit. He called me outside on the porch. I went. He placed 2 chairs face-to-face and told me where to sit. He said something like this, “Hun, you know that letter you wrote me?” “Yes, sir… I do.” (you always addressed him with a sir)… “Well, I want you to know that I’ve got to check it out but I think I’ve taken care of all that… all those things you talked about.” I was curious but cautious. “I’m going to talk to Alan (Greg’s precious dad who talked to dad for years) because I want to be sure, but I think I’ve taken care of that business.” Sure enough, he called “his pastor” and he had “correctly” asked Jesus to be his Savior on night at the hospital.I’m not suggesting my letter the sole reason- it was years of prayer and love and seeds being planted and nurtured. It was nothing and I mean NOTHING short of a miracle.
Al told dad that the next step was to be baptized. He told me he was surprised at the quick response of Dad’s- he was a soldier… a man who knew how to follow rules and protocol… so they set a date for Dad’s baptism. Since we were leading worship in a church, Sunday was difficult for us to be away from church. The church was so sweet and scheduled their first ever Wednesday night baptism. He told his Doctor in the hospital he needed to be out for that Wednesday night… “I’ve got to be baptized…” he said. His Doctor told him that was not well enough to leave and that he would have to leave against dr’s orders. He signed himself out and sent an invite to the nurses and physicians to attend the baptism. Family and friends came from everywhere… people driving in to witness Daddy’s baptism. I will never forget sitting at the piano that night waiting for my cue to sing… and looking out over that crowd… the whole right side of the church was full… full of family and friends. I never thought I’d see such.
I sang and took my spot in the congregation. Al walked into the baptistry and gave a brief synopsis of Dad’s salvation experience. As Daddy walked into that baptismal pool his body was so weak… so frail… yet the strongest it had ever been. He was a new creation. I’ve never seen the “new creation” Christ created in anyone like I saw in my Daddy that day.
He died just a few weeks later. I’m so proud of my Dad. He was a good man. He was a hurt man… a sick man… but he died a Christian… I’m so thankful the Lord never gives up on us.
Keep praying for that friend, that family member… it’s never too late.