Today, one year ago, my dad - my precious daddy - went to heaven ... and I was completely devastated. The week leading up to this day was very tough, with Daddy's surgery on Oct 6th (my birthday) and a full week in Intensive Care. During those dark days, we didn't leave the hospital except for an occasional shower at a friend's home. We were woken up many nights by caring nurses, who prayed with us and took us to see him when he was struggling. Many friends and family cared for us, bringing food and other needed items and just praying alongside us as often as we needed. We truly saw God's hands and feet through others and we were so humbled and comforted by their care and support. While we hoped that God would heal my dad on earth, I know he chose the ultimate healing of heaven. Oh, how hard it was to let him go, but I am also grateful that we had my dad here for so many years. One thing I confirmed through this experience is that God TOTALLY carries us when we can't walk on our own. He is with us in our hardest hours; He does give us strength and He does give peace that passes all understanding. It is not easy, but we are not alone. In the midst of it all, we can count our blessings and know that our cherished memories will take over the pain of today.
I was privileged to speak at his funeral and I wanted to share the words spoken below.
_____________________________________________________Just a little over a month ago, my Dad in his typical style asked me to stand here on this day and speak about family. I broke down when he asked me and I’ll probably break down now, so just bear with me as I try.For those of you who attended the visitation last night, I so enjoyed hearing your stories. Some told me things about Daddy at work and we are so proud of all he accomplished. Others told me that you knew him from church, or from the neighborhood or from SES. Many of you grew up with him or knew him from the grandparents club at Sycamore Elementary or maybe just seeing him around with Mother or Brandon or Alexis and Amanda. What a blessing you were to him and now to us!! We are so blessed by your memories and your thoughts and prayers. Thank you for that! I was amazed that most of you knew that he has a daughter in Texas, a son in Spain and a son that lives across the street from him – and we knew that he spoke about us often to his friends. However, as that daughter from Texas and the oldest of my siblings, I want to tell you a little bit about the personal side that we know.Growing up in the HOLT household meant many things…..We had many advantages in that we knew our parents cared about us. We trusted each other and enjoyed spending time together….at home, at Pickwick on the boat, at grandparents and cousins’ homes, on vacations, at ballgames, at schools and even with Daddy at work.Sometimes when we were young, we would go to work with him on Saturdays. We would go into the computer lab which was a large room, kept very cool, where all the computers were kept. He would push some buttons and about 15 minutes later a Snoopy Dog would print out….on long rolls of green and white computer paper…all ready for us to color!! He loved to talk about how technology had changed since that time.As children of RAY HOLT, we knew all about the school system and we FELT Daddy's passion of his work. He worked hard and loved what he did. We felt pride that he made a difference in so many peoples' lives. And he LOVED it, yet we never felt that it was more important than his family. In fact, we stayed involved....even from the beginning. In fact, I was the VERY first medical claim right after he went to work at Memphis City Schools and they set up new insurance coverage for the employees families. It went into effect at midnight on October 6th and I was born the same morning!! Our family stayed involved through the years during teacher strikes and busing (as he drove the first bus out of the barn), redistricting and many other events....but the things we remembered most were the snow days. See...we felt like we helped make those decisions! When the first snowflake fell, we started begging and then our friends would call. But do you want to know the real secret of how the decision was made? Daddy would head out at 5am to see if the streets were slick....turn a few donuts, then ask the policeman who inevitably stopped him if they thought the schools should close!!We learned so much growing up about faith, about integrity, about values and helping our neighbors. We were taught the golden rule by example to treat others as you wanted them to treat you. In Galatians 5, the Bible says; “For the whole law can be summed up in this one command; “Love your neighbor as yourself”. It gives this command 11 different times in the Bible, but we saw it lived out daily, not in big ways but in hundreds of little ones. Putting others needs before his own was just the way Daddy lived!! He treated everyone with kindness and respect, no matter their rank or position or background and we cherish his example.Then in 1986, my dad was in a terrible car accident with an 18 wheeler. Laying there in a scrunched up car, with the “Jaws of Life” cutting him out, he wanted to talk to Mother himself so the paramedic wouldn’t scare her – He was always thinking of others. We learned that resilience and determination over the many months of rehabilitation allowed him to walk again, even though the doctors said he wouldn’t. Through all the traction, pain and inconvenience, he still had an unbelievable attitude. He knew that having a positive attitude not only helped him, but it also helped us! But through those tough times, he always saw the glass half full……..and with a smile in the midst of it all. And as he has struggled through the years with heart issues and other ailments, he was always more interested in us than in complaining about things he couldn’t change.As you can see we lived a very blessed life, a life of love and extended family – and a life of fun and laughter. Daddy often told us that he had had a good life and he was so grateful……It was nice that he accomplished a lot and had a wonderful career, but what really mattered to him were the friends he had and the family around him. He was so grateful for all of us….My mother, my brothers and their wives, his grandchildren….and all the extended family….His family meant the world to him. His legacy will continue on through generations……My dad was everything to me. He demonstrated each and every day his priorities of Faith, Family and friends and with gratitude for every moment. He valued people above everything else in life and understood what was important. He had a great sense of humor and loved to socialize and visit – to be surrounded by people he loved and cared for….All of you here are proof of that and oh…how he would have enjoyed this reunion!!His absence from our family will be impossible to fill, however his imprint will continue to live in our hearts and actions. He gave us love, acceptance, encouragement, and unyielding convictions along with memories that we will cherish forever.And while I know that he is having a party in heaven and celebrating with people long gone by, I still hurt….He was my knight in shining armor, he was my first love, he was my Daddy and I will miss him greatly.I love you Daddy!!