“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
The above Scripture was one of my grandfather’s favorite verses. His name was Martin Freeman. Some knew him as a gentle giant, some knew him as Sarah’s husband, but most knew him as one of the nicest, most genuine people they had ever met.
Martin, more affectionately known to me as Papa, was the first exposure to a father figure I had ever known. It is to him, well him and Jesus, I owe my love of others too. I watched Papa treat any and everyone with nothing but kindness and tenderness.
He worked two jobs to help make sure Grandma Sarah and I had a roof over our heads, food for our stomachs and clothes on our backs. He worked third shift for the Georgia Building Authority. He also had a gutter business.
He would come home from third shift, cook breakfast for Grandma Sarah and myself, and take a quick nap and go on about his day like he just slept eight hours. He was home by the afternoon to greet me off the bus, he would have dinner ready, and then off to bed he went before waking up for this shift at the GBA.
I can’t ever remember him complaining about being tired or overworked. As a matter of fact, that man never complained about anything.
Papa worked incredibly hard his entire life. He never let having a glass eye or being a severe dyslexic ever stop him from doing anything.
He was also a former iron worker. While working that job he fell from a incredibly high tower and broke just about every bone in his body. Yet it was a heart attack that would take him from Grandma Sarah and me many years later.
One time, when I wasn’t doing something that I was supposed to, Grandma Sarah told Papa he was going to have to spank me. He never knew that I heard him tell her, “Sarah, I don’t want to.” But she said he had to anyway. So I walked outside, got my own switch and handed it to him and took like a big girl.
Needless to say, he and I both cried. Papa and I understood each other; we had a very special bond.
I can still hear his incredibly contagious laugh, and see him slapping his knee as he laughed. And how I loved his white hair.
He literally gave his shirt off of his back several times, and Grandma Sarah was constantly telling him to stop giving strangers rides somewhere. So it should be to no surprise at the age of 50 he and Grandma Sarah became the proud guardians of me.
I was a child they had no biological ties to, and yet the Lord impressed it upon their hearts to take me in anyway. So they did. When most people are looking forward to retirement, they were just beginning their new lives with a 5-year-old.
Everything he taught me, including how to be a parent and how to be a good spouse, he did by not only talking the talk but walking the walk. He didn’t have to go around saying “I’m Christian” or “I love Jesus.” It was by the way he carried himself and the way he loved others that you knew he served His Risen Savior.
In his lunch box that he took every night to work, he had two things: his thermos (that man drank black coffee all day long) and his Bible. His Bible had conformed to the shape of the lunch box. It was one of those old black ones, that was taller than it was wide. Grandma Sarah and I practically fought over that Bible after he passed away.
That Bible was worn out. He read it every night, and as he walked around the GBA making sure that all things were secure, he would walk and talk to Jesus.
The greatest example of love was Jesus dying on the cross of all of us. The greatest example fathers can give their children is to express the love of which they speak.
Although Papa celebrates this Father’s Day with the Father of Lights, I will celebrate with another blessing in my life, my father-in-law, George Wells. He has become a father to me and he continues to show me love as if I were his own.
How incredibly blessed am I? Two men, who were are in no way biologically related to me, have taken me under the wings and loved me as though I was their own.
And I’d be remiss not to mention my husband Kevin. I get the incredible honor of watching him be a Jesus-lovin’ daddy to our daughter, Joy. When I watch the two of them play, it brings such great memories of me and Papa playing together.
May we all remember our fathers this weekend, and never stop celebrating our Heavenly Father.
Julie Wells is the editorial assistant in the newsroom at the Rockdale Citizen. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.