By Clint Parker
You never know when death will come calling. Like on Sunday for three people who were out having fun, two of which were BlackHawk Alumni (see story front page). Which brings me to my own story. What was supposed to be a relaxing week at the beach for a much-needed vacation ended very sadly for me and my family.
First, on Friday night we had a scare with my son-in-law and a buddy of his as they were out surfing after dark. We thought the worst, and when members of my family searched the beach to no avail, we finally had to call the police and fire department in to locate them. They had been fine the entire time, but we didn’t know that little fact and people were in a real panic!
It’s traumatic when you see panic in others’ eyes over the thought of losing a loved one. Later that evening, when the buddy seemed to be taking the entire incident a bit too lightly, I spoke up in a very harsh, but the fact is you can’t take your words back no matter how much you wished you could. It’s true that God gave you two ears to listen twice as much as you speak.
Because of my thoughtless words, the last evening turned into a sleepless night. However, what was a sleepless night got even worse. After finally getting to sleep in the early morning hours, I received a call from my mom at about 5 am that my dad had had a heart attack. Not more than an hour later, while we were packing to come back home and I was in a bit of a shocked and dazed state, she called back to say he was gone (you can read his obituary on page 17).
It brought me a touch of déjà vu. See, my dad was out of town when his dad died of a massive heart attack at age 66 and now I was out of town when my dad died of a heart attack at age 86. I am grateful that there was no long drawn out suffering, as dad had already been languishing from back problems for several years.
Anyway, here I was four hours away, after suffering one family scare and having a traumatic encounter over the incident (which was entirely my fault) and now I was faced with the loss of my dad. As an only child and my mom hours away, I needed to get home. If that wasn’t enough, once packed and ready to head out, our vehicle wouldn’t start. Packing in the dark, we had used our vehicle’s lights to see to pack and hadn’t started the car up to keep the battery charged.
We were able to get a jump from the Isle of Palms Fire Department (many thanks guys) and we searched for an auto parts store that was opened that early to see if it was just the fact of our leaving the lights on too long without starting the vehicle or something more serious. Once we had that check we headed back, on what still seems a surreal trip home.
Some of you might remember my dad, Charles Parker. He delivered newspapers for not only my paper but for the Madison County Sentinel and the News-Record & Sentinel as well as IWANNA and the Citizen-Times. Others might know him as a Baptist preacher who occasionally preached at small churches. His regular pulpit found him preaching to prisoners at the Hazelwood Correction Center and Buncombe County Corrections.
I tell you all this as a cautionary tale from one who can say, from experience, when you think it can’t get any worse, it can. Think long and hard about what you’re about to say before you say it, because as much as you might want to take those words back you can’t, but you will have to live with what you said as much as you might want to take it back. As I said, God gave you two open ears and only one mouth he put behind a clay wall and ivory gate and bathed in liquid to keep it calm and quiet.
Cherish the time you have with your loved ones because you never know when you won’t have them anymore. I thank God for the strength over the last several days to make it through the daze and confusion of losing a parent. I thank God for the years I had with my dad. You never know when death comes calling, so it just pays to be ready when it does.