Papa Don't Preach
For my pops, in honor of Father's Day 2017.
My son [this is NOT a pregnancy announcement] will come from a family of preachers—his father, his paternal grandmother, his maternal grandfather...and even I have stood at the hallowed podium a time or two before.
But his father + I will teach him that it is humility, and not pride or power, that elevates. We will teach him, and all our children, that there is no value in empty words, in failing to walk the talk.
For everyone is on a platform, and it is on the stage of everyday life that our lights shine most bright.
Which brings me to the north star of my maiden name—my father, Eric A. Taylor.
In 6th grade I found out I was a PK. A Preacher's Kid.
I had not been familiar with the term before then. Apparently because my father preached several Sundays throughout the year at our church, I was expected to behave a certain way. But my middle school career was not one of the typical PK troublemaker. On the contrary, I was the outspoken church girl that most boys steered clear of. (Clearly Daniel was not one of them, lol.)
Although, my father spoke often from the pulpit, that's not how I learned about God, or His love. It wasn't in our Sunday morning family devotions either, when my brother and I were half-asleep. (Sorry dad. At least I would come to life at the end!)
No. My faith foundation stems from late night conversations with my dad. Sometimes over coffee (which I no longer drink). And almost always when I should have been sleeping because of school the next day.
But how could I sleep when I was making myself sick with anxiety trying to wrap my mind around the concept of death and eternity?
And did God really love me, even though I was bad sometimes and wanted to do the opposite of what He said to do?
Is Jesus the only way? What would that mean for all the other people with all the other religions, what about them?
What if I had been born in Saudi Arabi instead of Jamaica?
In all his wisdom, my father knew better than to attempt to answer my endless onslaught of questions. Instead, he taught me how to find the answer to those questions myself. He never attempted to quench my curiosity, he actually looked for every opportunity to feed it. No matter how much he said I should be in bed, he never turned down those late night sessions; although, more often than not, he would have to cut them short.
My dad challenged me to prove, or disprove, God for myself. Because He knew once I arrived at the answer for myself, no one else could convince me otherwise.
My dad didn't have to preach to his family, because he modeled God's love day in and day out, without acknowledgement (aside from the yearly birthday and father's day gifts and cards).
His bank account does not have the American upper-middle class excess of digits before the decimal. The wall of his home office (a corner of the living room) is not decorated with many awards or accolades. Instead you'll find his greatest treasures are pictures of his family, and especially his children. We're there in his wallet too.
He is number 9 of 10 children, the last boy. And yet he is to the Taylor family, what Martin Luther King Jr. was to Civil Rights in America — a reluctant leader who loves God and through humility changed the trajectory of a legacy.
It's a story my mother tells often, it was the last time we visited my grandfather in Jamaica before he died. He was not talking much then. My mother asked him, "Grandpa, are you happy to see your son?" Without skipping a beat he said, "Then nuh must!" (A Jamaican's way of saying, "But of course" or "Duh!" lol)
I have vivid 10+ year-old memories of my father, stooping down, and spending the morning washing and caring for my grandfather's feet, and then later preaching one of his best messages at my grandfather's funeral.
I have 20+ year-old memories of father walking beside my grandfather to be his support as they walked the center aisle of my grandmother's funeral.
I have almost 3 year old memories of him telling me to breathe and that everything will be okay, just before walking me down the aisle on my wedding day. Memories that will live in my heart forever.
My dad taught me the virtue of laughter.
My entrepreneurial wiring was first part of his DNA.
He gave me the armor of thick skin and an iron backbone, though sometimes I would take it off and cry. He never condemned my tears. I would find him ever ready to dry them and give me encouraging words of solace and strength, while extending my armor out to me again.
I learned to listen for the voice of God, and to respond with the same urgency as when Eric Anthony Taylor uttered my name in warning.
My dad showed me the beauty in stubbornness, and the necessity in never backing down from the truth, no matter who opposed it, even if it was him. And Lord knows we've gone head to head a few times, only to match stubbornness with stubbornness.
And he only seems to get better with time.
My father still wakes up before daylight, to get on his knees and pray for his family.
He points to my mother and with sincerity and conviction says that she is his better half.
I am not romanticizing or over-exaggerating or using hyperbolic language when I say I have the best dad in the world.
And I'm so glad Azariah has had the chance to spend some time with him, and I only pray God will keep him here, for as long as possible, to impart wisdom to his future grandchildren.
A good father never has to preach truth, he only has to live it.
Thanks for living dad. It will forever be an honor to be your daughter. I love you.