Just twelve days before Christmas, my father passed away. He had been sick for some time, so it was something we knew was coming--although, the irony of that statement is that it’s something we should all know is coming--but that doesn’t make it any easier or better. It has been a rough couple of weeks, amplified by the fact that these are the busiest weeks of the year at my job. So I have had additional stress from that on top of dealing with my dad’s death. My brother and sister have been at my parents’ house since he died and I have been in and out since work has taken up some of my time, but it’s been great that all of us have gotten to spend some time together. I was with my family for Christmas day, which was wonderful, but it certainly carried a tone of sadness.
I miss my dad very much and wish he were still here. There’s no getting around that. While I believe there’s truth in saying that he is in a better place and not in pain anymore, it doesn’t make me feel better about him not being here. Despite his absence, we kept to some of our same traditions: breakfast sausage casserole (a must for every Christmas), monkey bread, opening stockings together; but by far the best moment was when my mom opened a calendar that my brother had made for her. My family takes a lot of pictures and in the past few years, we’ve been very into making calendars of those pictures and giving them as Christmas presents. Before he died, my dad had started the tremendous project of scanning the slides that he had taken with his old camera, and the slides of his father’s pictures so we would have digital copies. So my brother took several of those pictures that were of my dad and made a calendar for my mom. It took about five seconds for all of us to break down into tears. I think it was the perfect way to remember my dad that morning. For my part at least, I hadn’t cried enough since he died and I think that was the moment I needed to release the emotion I had been holding back while trying to function at my job and get through the day. On Christmas morning I was able to just let go and be sad about him being gone.
We spent the rest of the day just relaxing and enjoying being together, doing nothing in particular until we started preparing for dinner sometime in the afternoon. We had four courses of spectacular goodness. We started off with a bacon pumpkin soup that my wife and I have become fond of making. Next was a vegetable course with roasted asparagus, sautéed spinach, and twiced-baked potatoes. Then onto the meat course, a beautifully cooked beef tenderloin with just the right amount of olive oil, cracked pepper, rosemary and thyme. Finally, the dessert course with two superb homemade cheesecakes, one New York style and the other mint chocolate chip. It was just the type of meal we needed and the wine pairings were perfect. We started with a 2008 Marengo Barbera d’Alba, moved onto the 2010 Cascina Bruciata Nebbiolo and topped off the evening with a Berta Grappa di Amarone. As was my hope, the wine served to increase our enjoyment of the meal and each other’s company. The whole meal was a testament to my father who loved the foods we ate and the wine we drank.
My father, Walter Edmond Watkins, Jr., was a strong, caring, intelligent and humble man who gave of himself in a way that built others up. It has become beautifully clear that he invested much into the lives of others by the outpouring of love for my dad that has come in since he became sick. Not a day has gone by where I haven’t heard of some way that my dad made the lives of someone else better. Mostly, this has been in the context of his relationship and devotion to God. Through God, my dad showed love and patience towards others in ways that were subtle but effective. I only hope that before I die, I can impact the world in much the way that he did. I hope I can make him proud.
And my hope for all of us is simple: I desire that we would recognize why my dad lived his life the way he did, to honor God and serve him, and as a testament to my dad, that we would try to live our lives the same way. My dad was fond of quoting the Westminster Catechism which says: the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. And that's just what my dad is doing now.