Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Life Well Lived

My father in law Joe Clanton passed away last night after a long health battle.  He was 87 years old.  We called him Papa.  Papa wasn't world known,  he didn't  cure cancer, or climb Mt Everest.  He didn't step foot on the moon nor was he a big business tycoon with a 100 ft yacht but his life left a huge footprint on this world. 

The first time I met him was on my 24th birthday.  Jon and I had only known each other a week but after some past experiences, I thought it was best to meet the parents as soon as possible.   I truly believe you better know what kind of gene pool a potential mate has and yes there is a story there for sure! Anyhow I met Jon's parents and immediately could tell they were "good people"  We had a nice conversation together and I could tell that they, especially my father in law, liked the fact that I'd put myself through college.  Both of them came from poor Southern families and they valued an education above all things. 

My FIL actually was raised in Dyce Arkansas, a town that was basically a social experiment  of Franklin Roosevelt.  Johnny Cash was raised there too and was a close friend of his younger brother.  My FIL picked cotton and worked hard.  He went to college where he met and married my mother in law Joanne.  They both were educators.  He became a principal of a small school in northern Arkansas early in his career but for some reason they moved to Lakeland Florida in the 1950's.  I'm so glad they did:)  He worked as a coach, a principal and then at the school board office as an administrator until he retired 42 years later.  My mother in law was a teacher until her retirement.  They were serious about education. 

He helped his siblings through college, and I think he had some help from older siblings too.  They all worked together to help each other.  There were eight siblings and now all are in heaven except for one of his sisters.  They all remained close through the years.  Luckily I got to meet most of them and loved the times we spent with them, especially our one trip to Arkansas when we took my grandmother with us.  They all fit in together and had such a good time.  As some of the siblings got older and spouses passed away, they moved in together.  We had the best time staying at the house with them, hard to believe all of those fun wonderful people are gone from our midst now.  I am pretty sure they all had quite a reunion last night.....

Anyhow I'm one of those rare people who doesn't complain about my in-laws.  As you know if you've been reading my blog for any time, Jon and I got married in ONE month's time.  Since I didn't have family, I didn't really realize how much that would  freak out his parents.  Believe me, my youngest brother in law, LOVES to tell me LOL.  He was privy to conversations we never heard..... But after Jon and I came back from our one night honeymoon, his parents acted like they could not be any happier that we were married.  They totally supported us emotionally as we looked for a place to live and start out as married folks. 

As a wedding gift, they bought us a small trailer in a retirement park.  In the summers there was only us and one other couple living there.  It was a very practical gift that saved us so much money while Jon finished school and we got started in the ministry. 

Only six months after we got married, my mother in law was killed in a car accident.  It was so sad.  That's been over 25 years ago and from that point on, my father in law began a slow decline.  It was such a shock to all of us and especially to him. 

Jon has always felt supported by his dad, even when he did things that seemed odd to his family.  When Jon became a Christian, he was beyond a "gung-ho" Christian.  And since Jon's parents were more quiet about their strong faith, it was a bit hard for them.  I think they were glad we got married because I was a bit more of a realist than he was.  BUT they still supported Jon, they'd go to Pentecostal services and even to the homeless shelter where Jon would preach.  Let's just say that was a new experience for them LOL  When Jon felt a calling to preach, his daddy said "I'll send you to the best seminary there is" and he meant it and did it. 

Jon and I were talking about how Papa was always there for us as a couple.  He came to visit us in NYC a month before Steve was due, and ended up being there for his rather early traumatic birth.  He was there when we took him home from the hospital.  In fact, we have a really funny story about that.  It was sleeting, and we were trying to get the car seat hooked up for the first time.  So Papa was in the back seat and that car seat got the best of him and he started cussing a little.....  I don't think I'd ever heard him cuss before at that point and I was shocked and worried about the baby hearing cuss words....NOW we laugh at that story.  We finally got it hooked in and we all drove through Manhattan to where we lived in Brooklyn with our new baby, Papa was in the back seat with Steve all the way.....His middle name is Joseph after his grandfather. 

A year later Papa came up as soon as he heard that the twins I was carrying had died.  He went with me and Jon to the doctor appointments and was there at the hospital when I had surgery and almost died.  After that he cared for Steve (who was one year old) for a few days until I got home from the hospital.  Steve was fine, his diaper was on backward but he was fine.  Papa confessed to me that he didn't remember changing a diaper before Steve LOL!!!!

Then a few months later, when I hit rock bottom with a deep depression, I called him and said I wanted to come home.  We didn't have the money to move nor did Jon have a job prospect.  I'm not even sure Jon wanted to move home. But Papa knew I couldn't take it anymore and just three days later was there to help us move home.  He drove the moving truck all the way home for us. 

Fast forward a few years, when I was on bed rest with Sam, Papa would bring me food and pick up Steve from school.  He was there for Sam's birth too.  Sam was in the hospital for some time, so eventually  Jon went back to work.  Papa would bring me food, or come and take me to the cafeteria for lunch.  One day he took me to give blood so they could use my blood as a transfusion for Sam.  He was really concerned about me giving blood so soon after giving birth.  Well we got back to the hospital and I turned to say something to him in the elevator and passed out.  Papa and a doctor  grabbed me and got me out of the elevator.  We laughed about it later, I did a spectacular faint, but it scared him at the time. 

After Sam was diagnosed with Peter's, Papa told us to find the best doctor in the US to treat Sam and he'd help us with it.  He was so concerned about the whole situation. 

He continued to be there, all the time Sam was in and out of hospitals.  He'd come and check on him and on us. 

Around that time, there were signs that dementia was starting but there was always a warmth and a caring from him.  He had a long time that was good, he enjoyed the outdoors and his family.  He loved his dogs.  He had other health problems and there were times we thought the end might be near but he was such a strong man.  He was a fighter.

This past month had been hard for him.  Several times we thought the end was near.  We had a really hard time deciding what to do about our trip to NY for Sam.  It was originally scheduled for September but the doctors had to reschedule it.  The week we were scheduled for  not a good time to be out of state and we really debated it but if we didn't go then, we couldn't go for a couple of months and that was not an option due to the concern about Sam's pressure.  I couldn't go because I was sick so Jon had to go, I was so very thankful that his dad didn't pass while he was gone. 

Jon and his brothers have had some really sweet times with their dad as he neared eternity.  Last night he stepped over as Jon and his brother held his hands.  I'm so glad for the time they had together.  I think having experienced things like this make me realize how important life is....  it makes me value life, even if that life is a little harder than we'd like. 

I've told Papa on several occasions that he was a better father to me than my own father (or mother) ever was and I told him again last week, the last time I went to visit him.  He was there for me as his daughter in law at some of the hardest points of my life.  I have no doubt if he had been able to be with us after the accident he would have been right there with us in NY.  He was that kind of man, family came first.  He wasn't a big huggie emotional type of person, but he was a rock solid faithful man.  He showed his love by his actions.  I appreciate all he ever did for me and for my family. 

Joe Clanton was not world known but he changed the world of three boys & of others too.  He was a faithful husband and father and taught them how to live a good life.  They went on to be good husbands and fathers to their wives and kids.  Each of them work jobs that are people oriented, where they are helping others.  They love their families and are good people.  I know he taught Jon how to be a good dad, I've heard Jon tell too many stories of times when his daddy was patient with him, even when he was a mess.  I see Jon responding to our kids in the same way and not just our kids but inmates and others who need care. 

When you leave a legacy such as Papa has left,  I'd call that a very successful life- one well lived.

After our vow renewal.

Papa with Steve leaving the hospital




Steve with his Papa and Uncle Jim and family.  Steve is the goofy looking one :)

Papa at Sam's One year old party

 Surprise!  A Clanton from China!!!
For some reason, Papa could always remember Shad's name. 

Not the best picture, he'd just had a bad fall, but this was the last one I could find with just Steve and Papa together. 

Papa only saw the girls once before the accident.  At that point he wasn't driving and we were trying to keep them home and bond with them.  I'm glad we did take them out to see him.  He hasn't been to our house since then, as he was home bound but we'd all ( except Selah) been together at his house or the nursing home. 

Thankfully we have an eternal home where one day we will all be together again.  I can just imagine the welcome he got last night from his wife, siblings and many friends.  Maybe even Johnny Cash sang him a tune or two......   We will miss you Papa, thank you for your life spent loving your family!


  1. I'm so sorry for your loss...Thankful for the memories you were able to make with this wonderful man. How blessed you were to have him in your life. My condolences to you, your husband and the rest of the family.

  2. Such a beautiful testimony to a life well lived. My condolences to your family.

  3. So sorry for the loss of your precious "Papa" but rejoicing at the thought of his wonderful homecoming in Heaven! You wrote beautifully of the legacy he left! (((HUGS))) to you and Jon and your whole family.

  4. My prayers and condolences are with your family.

  5. I'm moved to tears by your sweet words. What a wonderful, amazing man! And how blessed are those who were lucky enough to know him. Im so sorry for your loss, and so thankful that God waited to call him home until after John and Sam returned from New York.