So I’m going to go ahead and address the obvious, and do what’s been laid on my heart to do. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about Daddy and certainly won’t be the last, but writing about his death is definitely not how I envisioned returning to blogging. I’ll play catch-up later but for now, this…
There have been probably a handful of times I have actually cried HARD since losing Daddy last June. Often I’ll shed a tear or get choked up when I’m reminded of him or moreover, of his absence, but because that regularly occurs when I’m around my children or in public or just in a setting that isn’t conducive for a heaving cry, I have to stifle it as best I can and move on.
However, the last few weeks have been different – the stifling has become more difficult and triggers more evident – like catching a glimpse of a recent funeral procession for a well-known and wonderful community servant or standing at the lectern in church to read scripture when the last time I stood there was to deliver his eulogy – so I knew it was time to dust off the proverbial pages of this blog after a year of silence.
And while this may single-handedly be the most difficult thing I have ever written (do I write about his journey? my journey? both?), I realized it doesn’t matter because writing at all is the least I can do.
There was and never will be another man like my Daddy. He was everything a little girl, a angst-filled teenager, and an adult daughter could ever ask for. He cared for his family like no other. He worked harder than anyone I’ve ever known. Yet aside from those wonderful attributes, my Daddy held a passion and verve that was infatuating. He had a contagious laugh, a smile that would light up any room. He lived to love and loved to live.
Daddy left a legacy that I pray no one will ever forget. He was the living definition of ‘humble and kind.’ He never left a job undone and always gave 110%. He was genuine and joyous. He cared when others didn’t. He never faltered under pressure. He was 6ft 3in of pure character. He left big shoes to fill.
Grieving is a strange and unfamiliar process that even today can surprise me and knock me flat off my feet. It’s these times I’m so thankful for the memories I have and pray that God will continue to bring those fond recollections when I need them most.
There are a few housekeeping things about his death I want to mention just for clarity’s sake. Daddy died from a massive stroke that bled into his brain. His death was not due to complications from his liver transplant 2 years prior. It was a complete and utter shock to us all. Furthermore, his liver transplant was not a result of cirrhosis – he had developed a liver disease that is a common result of ulcerative colitis, which he suffered from 10 years prior. Nonetheless, he was a warrior through all of his health challenges (which included a mild heart attack and a mild stroke) and never complained. One memory I have not long after he experienced a subdural hematoma (a brain-bleed of sorts, but outside the lining of the brain) was one day that he was “down” despite doing quite well considering he had been through multiple procedures and many weeks of rehabilitation. I visited that day and mom had tried to ‘cheer him up’ to the best of her abilities and yet he still seemed glum, which was completely uncharacteristic. I clearly remember sitting across from him in the living room and talking with him – the words are unclear; I honestly couldn’t tell you what I said because I’m quite confident it was God speaking through me – but whatever the case, I remember him saying after our conversation, “Ok. You’re right.” then smiled a bona fide smile and from then on he was back to ‘normal.’ Again, I have no idea what I said that turned the tide, but heaven knows it was a drop in the bucket compared to the times he had done the same for me. Yet he could recall that conversation and I could never be more grateful to have had that day with him. If I never did anything right by him ever again, I knew that in that one moment, I brought joy to him.
The title of this post was something I wrestled with for awhile until it clearly dawned on me one day. Chris Tomlin’s song “Good, Good Father” became a prevalent song in my home when I found myself mad at God for taking Daddy from us when we least expected it. The song is a much-needed reminder that God is who He is for a reason – that I am who I am for a reason. And that legacy? Those shoes to fill? That passion to carry on? It’s up to me (and others, of course) to continue that by using THE greatest strength – the Father who can – and will – guide every step.
I’ll end with the words I spoke at his memorial. Many remember Daddy for his love of cars or golf…but the Daddy I grew up with was a COACH. All he ever wanted to do was coach. That’s what I remember.
There’s not a person in this room who didn’t know my Daddy as “Coach Flatt.” It was simply who he was – the leader, the trainer, the instructor. For the first several years of my life, I would have told you his first name was “Coach” because that’s always what I had always heard. And truthfully, there couldn’t have been a more fitting moniker for him.
He LOVED coaching. He owned it, he embodied it, he delighted in it. For Daddy, it was not an occupation, but a calling. A calling he had an astute talent for. But he wasn’t just a coach in the athletic sense – his approach to life was in every way a game to be practiced, executed, drilled, and eventually won.
As a dad, his coaching was never limited to just a basketball gym or track field – it beautifully bled into every area of our lives. Because he ended his prayers with his teams this way, often times he would end family dinner prayers with, “in God we play – I mean pray…Amen” and then smile his big grin as we all laughed. Discipline often involved a lot of clapping, as if to get us back on track and geared up in a positive way. He never spoke a harsh word and always found a way to encourage.
Daddy was a natural encourager – he never told me he was disappointed in me. He graciously accepted my decisions and helped me make better choices in the future. He came to my aid more times than I can count – he never wanted to see me struggle. If he couldn’t directly fix whatever the situation was, he would always remind me to “just play the game” and go on. I can’t remember a time when that didn’t work.
Daddy was an incredible storyteller, especially funny stories. He loved to make people laugh. It was a special gift he had and it only helped him be an even better leader. Everyone wants to listen to the guy who has a great story.
Daddy was amazingly approachable – he never met a stranger. We never went anywhere that he didn’t run into someone he knew. What once was annoying to me as an impatient kid is now a blessing. I take great pride in introducing myself to people and then saying, “…Coach Flatt’s daughter.”
After retiring from coaching as a profession, Daddy faced many opponents no one had a game plan for, yet he did it with astonishing grace and positivity. He wasn’t going to go down without a fight, and fight he did. When most of us would have literally thrown in the towel, he was still very much in the game. At one particular point during the journey he travelled waiting for a liver transplant, we were called that a possible donor liver was available. After patiently waiting for word on whether or not the liver was viable, we finally were told it was not and were being sent home to wait yet again. Most of us would have been angry and crushed…not Daddy. He just looked around and said, “well, I guess this was just the scrimmage.”
During the time leading up to and following his liver transplant, we all held fast to Romans chapter 15 verse 13 that reads “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Little did we know how fitting that same verse would be even in his death. We’re celebrating today because we have that very joy and peace – the same joy and peace that emanated from him while he was alive. We have hope because we know that when he arrived and was welcomed into heaven, he was greeted whole-heartedly with “Good game, Coach. Good game.”