Posts tagged legacy

A grandfather’s legacy



I never met my grandfather because he died before I was born.  But his legacy and influence live on because he took the time to write down a blessing to my father in the form of words of advice. This blessing has been passed through my father to me and is now passing on to my sons.

Bible

My grandfather was an amazing man.  He grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, attended the University of Arkansas receiving his law degree while participating in cheerleading for the Arkansas Razorbacks.  After college and law school, he moved to Texas to practice law.  When World War II broke out, he gave up his practice and joined the Army, where he served as chief of staff for then General Eisenhower. After the war, he returned home, became the district attorney in Fort Worth, Texas, and later became a judge.

My dad and his dad didn’t see eye-to-eye on many issues, as Dad was a free and rebellious spirit.  From what I can tell, they had an explosive relationship: the judge and the juvenile delinquent.  It came to a head when my father announced he was going to drop out of high school to pursue a career as a rock and roll drummer.  I understand the argument was ugly; the words from both sides were hurtful and it ended with my grandfather yelling out to my dad as he left, “Son, if you drop out of high school it will kill me.” Dad slammed the door as he left, did what he felt he needed to do, and dropped out of school. When he returned home for lunch, an ambulance was in the driveway and my grandfather was dead from a heart attack.

Dad went on to pursue his rock and roll career, playing drums for stars like Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, Little Richard, and many others throughout the late 50s and early 60s. But, the pain of the broken relationship with his dad haunted him and he became an alcoholic.

He drifted from relationship to relationship with women. Everywhere he went he seemed to hurt those he loved.  This all came home to me when I was 12 years old and learned that Dad had been arrested and charged with murder for hire.  For the next two years, when I wanted to see him I had to do so by going through numerous heavy metal doors with bars to get to the maximum security section of the Tarrant County Jail during his trial.  I have vivid memories of those Saturday morning visitations.  I had to talk to my Dad standing on my tippy toes looking through a 4×7 metal grate built into the door of my Dad’s 4×8 cell.

When he was convicted and sentenced to die in the electric chair I thought I had lost him.  My visits were now held at the Ellis Unit which is the Maximum Security Prison that houses death row for the State of Texas.  At least I could see him through a larger metal grate but there was still no physical  contact.  I really thought I had lost my dad and never knew which visit would be the last.  I had to endure two last-minute stays of execution not knowing if my Dad had been electrocuted or not.

However, shortly after I turned 15, I was surprised to find out that my father’s conviction was overturned and that he would go down in history as the only man to ever walk off of death row as a free man in Texas.  I got my father back, and had a second shot at having a real father-son relationship.

Over the years we did develop a close relationship.  My dad made a lot of mistakes during his life, but the one thing he did right was to make sure that I knew he loved me and was very proud of me. Everywhere I went people would say, “You’re Chip’s son! Your dad is always bragging on you.”  Those words mean a lot to a young boy, and helped my self-esteem as a man.

By the time Dad passed away about 11 years ago, he had been married 15 times to 13 different women. I am, amazingly, the only child he had.  As I was going through his stuff after he died, I ran across an old Bible and in it I found these words written from my grandfather to my father:

To my son Chip, from his dad – with these words of advice:

1. Fear God

2. Be right and fear no man

3. Love the truth and hate a lie

4. Tell the truth regardless of the consequences

5. A thief and a liar are the same, trust neither

6. Once confidence is established, be loyal

7. Be energetic and hunger for knowledge

8. Have compassion for the unfortunate

9. Be prudent but not prideful

10. Always love your mother

11. Build character and respect for your word

12. Try to see all sides and then decide

13. When in doubt do nothing

14. Be tolerant  Be kind

15. Be a square shooter and a good loser

With love for your first birthday,
Dad

Some of these things I remember my father saying to me, some were new.  My boys often hear me quote these same pieces of advice to them.

My grandfather’s legacy is still alive in spite of being tested by a prodigal son because he took the time to write down the values that were important to him.  These words are now being passed from generation to generation and I pray they will be defining characteristics of what it means to be a Whitmore.

What defines your family?  What words of advice and encouragement do you need to pass to the next generation?

 

Tribute to ‘Hook’ Rainey — Dennis Rainey’s tribute to his father



In his book, The Forgotten Commandment, Dennis Rainey encourages readers to write a formal tribute to their parents and present it to them during a special occasion (birthday, anniversary, holiday, etc.).  Following is an example of a tribute — Dennis Rainey’s tribute to his father, “Hook” Rainey.  Click here for more information on honoring your parents and for more tribute examples.

Dennis Rainey | Men Stepping Up 

“Dad’s home,” I used to yell as the back door slammed shut. Our small, two-story frame house would shudder when the back door slammed shut.

The sound of the slamming door was especially loud when one man came through its threshold — my dad. I can recall, as a little boy, playing in my room and hearing that door send a series of quakes that rippled through the walls and rattled the windows. It was my dad’s signature and signal that a day of work was completed and a man was now home. I would yell, “Dad’s home!” and then dash through the hall and kitchen to greet him with a well-deserved hug. I would then follow him like a little puppy to the wash room where he washed his calloused, grimy hands like a “real man.”

Everything about him signaled he was a “real man” — from the gritty Lava soap to the Vitalis hair tonic and Old Spice after shave. My dad was a unique blend of no-nonsense and discipline with a subtle sense of humor. He was a quiet and private man. He was a man of few words who didn’t seem to need many words to get the job done. His countenance commanded respect. In fact, there were several boys who had a personality and discipline transformation when they graduated from the third grade Sunday school class to my dad’s fourth grade class. Miraculously, discipline problems dried up along with dozens of paper spit wads. In the 12 months that followed, paper airplanes were grounded and eight boys sat up straight in their chairs dutifully listening to the lesson.

They used to call him “Hook” Rainey.  The tall lefty got his nickname from his curve ball — a pitch so crooked it mystified batters. I got the feeling he was on his way to becoming a legend in his day. He even pitched a game against Dizzy Dean. Funny thing, but he never could remember the score of that memorable game! I used to accuse him of convenient amnesia!

I recall the easy chair that used to carry the shape of his exhausted form. It was while he was reading the evening paper that I usually planned my assault on him. I’m certain I nearly pestered him to death on more than one occasion by asking my weary dad to play catch. And play catch he did. Night after night, “Hook” taught me how to throw a curve, slider, and knuckle-ball. He used to claim you could count the stitches on his knuckle-ball. And when he threw that patented knuckler, the entire front yard was filled with laughter — his and mine.

I always loved to hear him laugh. Somehow it told me everything was secure. When I was three or so, he went to Colorado hunting and “bagged” a fierce teddy bear. He staged the “action” on film and brought the fierce beast back to me. My kids now play with that worn-out, 35-year-old black and white bear. I watched him look after the needs of his mother. He used to visit his mom three or four times a week. Dad modeled what it meant to “honor one’s parents.” From him I learned about integrity, trust, and how to be a man of my word. His example taught me the importance of perseverance, for he stuck with his job for nearly 45 years. He leaves me an indelible imprint of sinking roots down deep — and living alongside the same people with whom he did business. When I was in high school, I won the magazine sales contest because I introduced myself as Hook Rainey’s son. That was good enough for an instant sale for nearly 100 percent of my “customers.”

My dad had helped so many people that being his son gave me immeasurable credibility. (For a while I actually thought I was a great salesman!) His reputation was untarnished in the community. His funeral was attended by nearly a third of the small, southwest Missouri community. He lived and did his work all within five miles of where he was born. One man was even able to say about my father, “In all my years I never heard a negative word about Hook Rainey.”

He gave me imperishable memories instead of just things: Memories of little league baseball (he was coach); fishing trips where he netted my fish, so small they went through the holes in the net; and a “clipped” collection of all the baseball and basketball scores from my games, of which he never missed one. There are memories of watching him through the frosted window of our old pick-up truck delivering hams at Christmas. Memories of the feel of his whiskers when he wrestled with me on the floor of the living room, and memories of him whispering to me, an extroverted, impetuous boy, not to bother people while they work. And finally, memories of snuggling close to him as we watched the game of the week with Dizzy Dean as the announcer.

As an impressionable young boy, my radar caught more of his life than he ever knew. He was the model and hero I needed during some perilous teenage years–and you know what, he still is. He taught me the importance of hard work and completing a task. I learned about lasting commitment from him–I never feared my parents would divorce. My dad was absolutely committed to my mom. I felt secure and protected. But most importantly he taught me about character. He did what was right, even when no one was looking. I never heard him talk about cheating on taxes — he paid them and didn’t grumble. His integrity was impeccable. I never heard him lie and his eyes always demanded the same truth in return.

The mental snapshot of his character still fuels and energizes my life today. “Dad’s home!” I can still hear the door slam and the house quake.

This morning as I write this, Dad truly is “home” — in heaven. I look forward to seeing him again someday and saying thanks for the legacy he gave me, and mostly for being “my dad.”

But right now, you’ll have to pardon me, I miss him.

Copyright © 2004 by Dennis Rainey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Can reforming the family fix America’s broken soul?



DennisRaineyOutdoorsSUScreenCaptureI wrote a piece awhile back called, “America’s Number One Problem: our nation suffers from a sickness in it’s soul.” As I read that piece again, I find that the idea of reforming the family is more relevant today than it was then. I wish I could report that we’ve made great strides in the areas addressed. But, quite frankly, it’s worse.

When the dust settles and we examine a big issue like “restoring the soul of America,” it will never be a simple, one-dimensional solution. But, I do think that one of the most significant starting points in reforming the family is with the men in our country. If men stepped up and became the spiritual leaders in their homes and led their families as God intended, many of these social ills would be significantly diminished if not almost eliminated (leaving room for the fact that we live in a sinful world that won’t be perfected until the return of Jesus Christ).

That isn’t meant to heap loads of guilt on the collective heads of men but to remind us of our significance from God. We may not be able to change everything but we can change how we respond as men to the challenge before us. Here’s that piece.

______________________________________________________________

America’s Number One Problem

by Dennis Rainey

As a people, we are healthier, but not happier. We are drenched in knowledge, but parched for wisdom. The most prosperous nation the world has ever known suffers from a sickness in its soul.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the state of the family. The biblical values that built our great nation — once passed on from each generation to the next as a national treasure — are now dismissed. As a result, never before have we seen such deterioration in our homes:

  • Never before have so many children grown up in broken homes.
  • Never before have so many newly married couples come from homes split by divorce.
  • Never before have so many new parents begun the journey of being called “Mommy” or “Daddy” with such a fractured picture of family.
  • Never before has the definition of marriage been altered.
  • Never before have our prisons been so full of men who grew up in homes where their fathers were absent.
  • Never before has the Christian family been so secularized.
  • Never before has the marriage covenant been viewed with such contempt by a generation of young people.
  • Never before have parents been ridiculed for seeking to raise children with biblical values.
  • Never before has it been so culturally unfriendly to be a family with convictions, standards, and boundaries.
  • Never before have so many Christians laughed, shrugged their shoulders, or done nothing about adultery, divorce, and sin.
  • Never before have so many been so silent.
  • Never before has materialism been so flagrantly embraced over relationships.
  • Never before have we needed enduring models of how to live out a marriage covenant.
  • Never before has the family been in such need of a new legacy.

The spiritual reformation of America needs a focal point, a rallying cry. I believe this focal point is the family. The pivotal national issue today is not crime; neither is it welfare, health care, education, politics, the economy, the media, or the environment. The key issue today is the spiritual and moral condition of individual families.

Perhaps you, too, have lamented the degenerating state of our nation’s families. But like many, you have felt a sense of hopelessness that our culture is sliding downhill and there’s nothing you can do about it.

But you are wrong. You may not realize it, but you — and millions of ordinary people like you — are the key to reforming this country — by reforming the family.

I am convinced, as never before, that we need a spiritual reformation in this country. And that reformation must begin — can only begin — with individuals. With me. With you.

Nations are never changed until people are changed. The true hope for genuine change in the heart lies only in the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. Through Him, lives can be rebuilt. Through Him, families can be reformed. Through Him, society can be restored.

It’s time for this generation to make a stand for the family. I would like to challenge you to consider two things:

First, determine what type of legacy you want to pass on to your children. How will your children remember you? As a man or woman who was concerned with the things of this world, or someone who modeled a life-changing faith in Jesus Christ?

Second, determine to become part of a generation that makes a dramatic commitment to rebuild the family. The time has come for this generation to draw a line in the sand that will not be crossed, to build a wall around the family that will not be breached.

My prayer is that God will work in your heart and give you the courage and strength to leave a true, lasting legacy in your home and in our nation

**Note of interest: This is an interesting article reflecting the same sentiment about the breakdown of the family and it’s affect on a nation…Britain … in 2009.

© 2012 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “Can reforming the family fix America’s broken soul?” by Dennis Rainey

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhat kind of legacy did you inherit from your parents and grandparents? What kind of legacy are you leaving your kids?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistDennis Rainey shares gives hands-on help in “25 Ways to Spiritually Lead Your Family,” from FamilyLife.com

STEPPass - 10-point checklistBill Bennett talks about “Raising the Next Generation” on the FamilyLife Today radio broadcast

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