Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Father's Tears

First of all, I want to say congratulations to the winner of the Vision Forum Essay Contest.  I'm sure there were a lot of good stories to choose from.  Among them was my oldest daughter Rachel, one of her many passions is writing.  She wrote a tremendous story for the contest, (definitely a winner in my book!) so I thought I'd give y'all the opportunity to read hers as well, now that the contest is over.  Grab a tissue and enjoy!

A Father's Tears
By Rachel Brown 
I remember that day so vividly, just like it was yesterday instead of twenty years ago—the brilliancy of the twinkling stars against the background of a seemingly endless black sky, the scuttled business of people screaming and rushing about, soft music in the background vainly trying to soothe frantic nerves and actions, the sudden pain of a man's heavy foot on my own little one, the comfort of Papa's arms as he picked me up and held me tight, the weird sensation of walking uphill that I now associate with the ship slowly sinking into the sinister depths of the sea, the frigid night air that crept into my very bones, the feeling of helpless agony I know all the women endured as we watched the RMS Titanic and our loved ones eventually disappear into the chilling waves of the Atlantic.  I remember my terror as I stood on the top deck, although only four at the time, clinging to Mama's skirts in my paranoia. My six older sisters stood close by in a huddled group with solemn faces and panic-stricken eyes. 

Most of all, I remember Papa holding my brother's hand as he first clasped Mama to his breast, then each of his daughters.  He gave us words of encouragement to calm our fear—fear that was viciously eating at our minds, although we did not know exactly why we were afraid.  I can still hear his deep bass voice above the frenzied noise of other passengers and see his smiling face as he watched our lifeboat descend into the water.  As we began to drift out of sight, he raised his hand in fond farewell shouting that we would be together soon.  However, the tears in Papa’s eyes told me otherwise.

Papa hid his tears so well that Mama, who could read him like a book, did not see him cry.  I know he did because I felt them on my own face.  Despite Papa's external calm demeanor, inside he must been tortured with the knowledge that he would never reunite with his family on earth again.  What agony he must have suffered as he maintained cheerfulness just for his family's sake.  What a heroic display of manhood! 

As I look back on his sacrifice, I can be proud of his godly chivalry because he honored the women and children who were to be first into the lifeboats, unlike the cowardly scoundrels who tried to sneak into the boats with the women.  Although I praise his sacrifice, I weep for the father I gained but lost.  With Papa's exhibition of gentlemanly gallantry, I found in him something better and greater than I had ever known.  I regret that I only had but four years to enjoy the father I can now only remember with tears. 

As the years have passed the memories of my very early childhood began to fade from my memory, and I felt like I was unsuccessfully grasping at what would one day be less than a memory.  However, one thing I shall never forget is the first and only time I saw Papa cry.  I will never forget his tears.

How well he hid them from Mama and the girls.  Even my brother did not realize that he too was sacrificing his life for the women, and would never live past his tenth year.  So young, so young, and not quite a man!  Little did he know that he would never grow up to have a family of his own, and never experience the joys of fatherhood himself. I wish I could have seen Papa during his last moments with his son, how he must have clasped the little boy close and prayed as the freezing Atlantic claimed her victims. 

Papa's tears will always haunt me, as they have these twenty years.  When he kissed me fondly farewell I could feel those hot tears coursing down his cheeks.  I remember looking into his eyes as my own filled with tears, though why I knew not.  My pudgy little hands caressed his cheeks and tickled his bushy red beard that I loved so well.  I took the sleeve of my dress to wipe his tear-streaked face as I planted a kiss on his cold nose.  He then proceeded to crush me in the tightest embrace I have ever known while a small groan escaped his lips.  I could feel his heart beating rapidly against my own and his breath was hard in my ear.  Too young to understand much, somehow I knew that Papa was fearful.  However, he did not show it as he said goodbye for the last time.

Every now and then, I get the conscious sensation of Papa's bitter tears falling down my cheeks.  When I put my little babies to bed each night, I cannot help but wish they had known the man who made the ultimate sacrifice so one day they would be born.  I remember Mama hoping against hope that Papa and my brother had been among the ones saved, but we all knew the futility of the thought.  How much we longed and sorrowed for all the men who willingly laid down their lives for the women and children.  Their example shall outlive hundreds of years, and show other men in future generations the godly manhood and chivalry of yesteryear.  Alas, must so much pain and grief be the cost of so much life for future generations?  Indeed it must, as we have seen in history's epic battles and the terrible loss in war.  Men die for the lives of others so that their families might live in freedom and security.  Men know it is their duty as men of God to stand up for the weak, the helpless, the innocent, the oppressed, and the enslaved.  As I saw through Papa's example, they also die for their wives and their children to live on.  Is there any greater love?

I thank God for the memories I still hold of Papa—his twinkling eyes, the fun I had with his unruly hair and beard, the mischievous curve of his mouth, his merry smile, the comfort of his arms—all the happy times I had as a little child.  Although some things have passed beyond my memory, that last night with Papa never shall.  There is an epoch in every person's life, and that bleak night aboard the Titanic will never be forgotten by those whose lives were touched by the disaster in some way.  Every detail is still as sharp in my mind as if it had happened just yesterday.  The fear is just as vivid, the stars still as bright, and Papa's tears just as fresh.

Papa, I shall never forget you.  Your legacy will live on in me.

You can read more from Rachel at her blog, Covenant Maiden.

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