On October 30, 2007 the greatest man I have ever known slipped the surly bonds of earth and kissed the face of God.
A life well lived, a song well sung, a sermon well preached, a love properly given. No one felt that almost 75 years was long enough, but we didn’t want to see the strong, manly hero we had followed live in a worn, decrepit body either. So we gathered that morning without anyone calling us together—we each came separately to the room where Daddy was resting.
As we measured his respirations decreasing we ignored the counsel of the nursing staff telling us to call for them at a particular time. Standing around Daddy’s bed were the children he fathered and the woman who birthed them for him…we held his big hands, stroked his handsome face and reiterated our love for him. My youngest daughter had written him a beautiful, personal, heartfelt note and I read it to him, and my siblings each took their time talking to Daddy, too. I watched as my mother showed great love to the lover of her life as we sensed him moving down the hall of eternity.
His breathing slowed and we measured it with a clock on the wall. It was 7:55 AM on the 12th floor of a hospital in The Medical Center in Houston, Texas, when the angels arrived at the bedside of Franklin Garner Jones; my bishop, my mentor, my friend and my daddy. The angels had to elbow their way in because my brother, my sister and her husband, and my mother and I were standing around the bed watching the beautiful and horrific story unfold.
And just as Dad had done with every struggle he ever faced in his whole life, he nailed death. He didn’t back up to death, he didn’t run from death, and although he wasn’t looking for death, he embraced death as the strong man he always was.
He exhaled life.
The kindest, gentlest, strongest man that I have ever known went to be with Jesus eight years ago today, and I miss him.