I love music. I’ve found that it’s a way to feel emotions that I may not feel otherwise. Often times it pulls things out of me that I either A) don’t want to express or B) don’t know are there. My taste in music may not be that of fine wine or cheese… I’m simple in my selections. My dad and I shared this love for music, he used to sing Baptist hymns to me when he’d put me to bed. “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder” and “Onward Christian Soldiers” were a couple of his choice favorites. We’d listen to The Ventures, “Walk Don’t Run”, “Secret Agent Man”, “Hawaii 5-0” on our road trips through Europe during my elementary school years. Music brings me back to the days that it was just Dad and me, some of the most special of my life.
One song that stands out and has brought out a surplus of emotions to choose from the past few months; Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit In The Sky”. This was one of my dad’s all-time favorite songs (aside from “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood). The first verse says, “When I die and they lay me to rest, gonna go to the place that’s the best. When I lay me down to die, goin’ up to the spirit in the sky.” The lyrics aren’t much to write home about, but to know how much my dad loved the song, listening to the words give me some peace about where he is now. Ron Howard was NEVER afraid to die. I’ve heard it from more than I can count about the times he’d comment about being ready whenever the Good Lord decided to take him. I think that’s why this particular song sticks with me so much, because it encompasses his readiness to go, and his assurance of where he would be when the time came. How AMAZING is it to know, with certainty, that your loved one is in PARADISE?!
This all leads me to the next chapter of our story…
18 June 2017
Father’s Day this year. My precious husband’s birthday. And the day that we had to travel to Canton, NC to make the final arrangements for my dad’s funeral. As you can imagine, this wasn’t exactly how I’d imagined the day going. I’d hoped this would be a wonderful day of celebration for the fathers in our lives, and to celebrate the day my husband was born, 31 years ago! And I’m sorry, but to look at a funeral as a time of celebration… I admire the people that can truly do that. I’m certainly not one of them. And I think I can safely say that my siblings and step-mom aren’t either. But you know what, I don’t think there is a thing in the world wrong with that. Especially when someone is taken from you so suddenly. I can imagine a day having a slightly more joy-filled atmosphere if someone had been suffering or fighting a terrible illness, and was now free of their pain. But not this, not now, not my dad. I’m able to view it from a slightly more grateful perspective now. I can be thankful for what I know he is not missing here on Earth, but at the same time, am so selfishly heartbroken for the things that he is missing. Seeing his grandchildren grow up, taking his family out on his beautiful new boat, going on trips with his wife, just having a family meal with his children, brother, and sister. At the same time, he doesn’t have the pressures of running a business on his shoulders, or making sure that the future of his children and grandchildren is secure (remember what I said about carrying burdens that needn’t have been his to carry). What heavy loads those must have been…
We had the family visitation later that evening. I knew the funeral was going to be one of the most difficult days of my life, but I didn’t anticipate the difficulty of that evening. Seeing my dad for the first time… it was excruciating. While he still looked like himself, he didn’t. He’d aged so much in his passing. This confirmed for me, even more than before, that his spirit was the most beautiful piece of him. As is the case with everyone, I believe, your spirit your light, your life, your beauty, your heart. He had a dazzling spirit, and I think anyone who knew him could attest to that!
19 June 2017
I didn’t want to get out of bed that morning. It only meant that I had to go on with the day, the day we’d all dreaded for the entire week (although deep down, likely for our entire lives). It was coming, whether I was there or not, and I owed it to my dad to be the woman he raised me to be. I would be strong, we all would, because we are his children and his family. The visitation was scheduled to begin at 11:00 and last until 1:30, with the service beginning at 2:00. We were surprised to see people lining up at 10:30 to begin greeting the family, so we didn’t make them wait. They came, and came… the line never lulled. And I don’t say that with ANY negativity. It was absolutely awe-inspiring to see the number of people whose lives he had touched. If I’m not mistaken, the auditorium seated approximately 1,000 people and by the end of the visitation it was over 3/4 of the way full. Our IOMAX family showed up in full force, words can’t describe what this meant to me. Adelyn’s teacher along with Madi’s teacher showed up to provide their support. We saw friends and family that we hadn’t seen in YEARS, from all time periods in my dad’s life. I still can’t think about this day without crying, it was just incredible.
The Cove’s executive pastor, Mike Madding, along with my cousin, Chad Sloan (also a pastor at The Cove), gave such a wonderful tribute to my dad. My uncle Randy (Dad’s brother), along with my brother, gave beautiful eulogies. It was truly a wonderful send off to a wonderful man. The burial was just as special. He had full military honors, with some of the finest men IOMAX has doing the final roll call. This was likely the most emotionally trying part of the entire day. To hear them call his name, once “CW5 Howard”, twice “CW5 Ronald Howard”, three times “CW5 Ronald Eugene Howard”, with no response… Then to hear the rifles, as they broke through the sound of everyone’s weeping… I will never forget those moments. They were so finalizing, regardless of how long it took me to truly accept that they’d happened. It still makes my heart beat faster, my breath come shorter, and tears sting my eyes.
I, along with my entire family, will be eternally grateful for the support that we received that day, the days leading up to it, and the days since. They have carried with them a multitude of feelings, emotions, and moods. But to know that there are so many people by our sides supporting us and helping us find some sense of normalcy again, it’s a tremendous blessing. To take this full circle, there are two different songs my Aunt Pat sent to the family in an email shortly after we came back from the beach; “Home” by Chris Tomlin and “Eye of the Storm” by Ryan Stevenson. My mother-in-law also sent me the song by Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton, “When I Get Where I’m Going”. These played on repeat throughout a great majority of my days following daddy going to heaven. I think they were the only way I could feel any connection to God during that time. I believed myself to be so betrayed by Him and I was hurting so deeply, but those songs still reminded me that He was there, even if I didn’t feel Him. Although I know I’m not the only one that appreciates music, especially during times of struggle, I would strongly encourage you to find some uplifting songs that help remind you of God’s presence in your life and cling to them. I think music can be such a beautiful way to help you heal and work through times of sadness, grief, and heartache.
“And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.” (1 Samuel 16:23)