By Tonya S. Swindell
Daddy was a big man who used his huge heart and hands to serve his family, church, school and community. As his only daughter, I was about 5 years old when I climbed into his lap and secretly whispered everything we bought him for Christmas that year. When he opened his presents on Christmas day we slyly winked at each other! He baptized me and gave me my first Bible when I was 11 years old. As I matured, we enjoyed discussing sermons he delivered as pastor of an historic African-American church that has “No Cross, No Crown” as its motto and ‘The church where the Spirit of God dwells within the hearts of His people’ as its theme. Whenever possible, he drove several hours to manage the affairs of his sister and aging parents who were in nursing homes. He also drove a long way to visit me, my brother, and his grandchildren.
Early in his career, Daddy was a football coach and social studies teacher. Eventually he taught driver’s education to thousands of students before attending graduate school to become a school administrator – and he did all this while continuing his pastoral duties! Whenever he walked into a store or restaurant people from all walks of life called out his name, loudly but respectfully, kind of like people did on the 80’s sitcom “Cheers” whenever the friendly character named “Norm” entered the room!
A friend told me that Daddy once said, “I have two ears and one mouth so I try to listen twice as much as I speak.” His actions spoke when he prayed for his family and friends during slow and steady walks throughout his neighborhood. On Sunday, April 15, 2012, Daddy preached two sermons, one for the a.m. service and another for the p.m. service, entitled “A Mess Up in the Set Up” and “God is Able”, respectively. Although his speech slurred while he preached, he refused to stop until the benediction was read. Immediately after the last service, a friend accompanied him and Mama to the emergency room so he could be seen by a doctor. Since Daddy was talking and alert, our friend jokingly asked him if he finished his sermons that day. Daddy replied, “Yep. I finished and it is finished.” Later, when I talked to him on the phone I told him to listen to his doctors and that I loved him. As usual, he ended our conversation by saying, “Remember we love you.” He died the next day.
Daddy presented his body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God (Romans 12:1). A few ways in which he did that were by being humble, friendly and loving to his family, church, school and community. He loved God, himself, and others, and he showed that by his actions (Mark 12: 30 – 31). Daddy set a strong example for me to follow and I want to continue his legacy.