My father was not an educated man. Forced to leave school at the age of 16, he joined the then South African Railways and Harbours, where he worked until his medical retirement during his early 50s. My father never wrote his matric exam, nor did he ever obtain a degree or diploma.
But none of this ever mattered to me. As far as I was concerned my father was the best daddy in the whole word. As a little girl there was no safer place than in my daddy’s arms, nothing broken he could not fix, no problem he could not solve.
My father’s life was, and still is, a classroom for me. Not in matters of philosophy, science, or maths. No, the lessons I learned from him were far more meaningful and indeed, precious.
The first lesson my father taught me was God’s Word. As a tiny baby, the moment I began to talk he taught me scripture, beginning with his favourite passage, Psalm 23. To this day, it is one of the first passages I turn to for comfort during times of trial.
My father strongly believed in rightly dividing the word of truth. “Rather err on the side of conservatism,” he would say, “than distort the truth for the sake of liberal appeasement.” He taught me to never be afraid to take a stand for righteousness, especially where the Church was concerned.
My father taught me about generosity. He gave all the time, to almost everyone he came in contact with, simply because he loved to do so. An avid rock-and-surf fisherman for many years, his favourite fish to catch was shad. He would bring it home, clean it, cook it according to his own recipe, and then proceed to share it with as many people as he could find. The kitchen freezer was almost always packed with fish my father had previously caught and he would give it away whenever anyone came to visit, or when he went to visit someone. He did the same with practically everything he cooked and baked, and he cooked and baked often; it was another of his favourite things to do.
My father taught me about compassion. He could not bear to see a woman or a child hurting. During one of his many stays in hospital, I visited him, and took along his favourite snack at the time – two Chelsea buns and a coke – as a special treat. At the next visiting hour I noticed that the food was gone and asked if he had enjoyed it.
“No,” he responded. “I gave it to that little boy in the bed in the corner of the ward. His family live too far away to come visit him. Please, go and see if he’s okay.”
Another time a man knocked at the door of my parents’ home. When my father opened the door the man asked if there was any bread to spare because he was hungry. My father told him to return in an hour and then proceeded to cook the man a hot meal.
My father taught me about service – to God and others. He served the Lord’s Church in many ways from the time he and my mother became Christians in 1956, the year they were married. As a member of Queen Mary Avenue Church of Christ in Durban, he taught the teenaged boys, while my mother taught the girls.
While my brother and I were still very young, he was transferred to Kimberley, where there was no Church. This did not deter my father. He led a worship service for the four us every Sunday. From this I learned the importance of attending Church, even when there were no other saints to fellowship with. After our family moved to Pretoria in 1969, we placed membership with this congregation, where my father was often asked to lead the singing. He loved to sing, especially songs of praise to God. He sang them when he was happy, and when he wasn’t in a good mood, which wasn’t often, he whistled them. So many hymns we sing every Sunday remind me of my father, because he either led them or they were one of his many favourites.
My father loved to work with his hands. He could take a piece of wood or metal and lovingly fashion it into something beautiful and functional. When the congregation purchased the property in Ashlea Gardens, my father helped to build the building. As a child, I remember spending many a Saturday here while my parents, along with other members, worked on the site. I watched this building grow from its foundations to what it is today. The floor tiles my father laid in the passages and classrooms are still there. Years later, he installed little boxes behind the pews to hold the notes for our Loveliners ministry.
My father was happiest when he was serving others. There was no task too menial he would not do, and no time too inconvenient, even if it was the middle of the night. He never failed to respond to a call for help, no matter where or when it came, or from whom.
He was always there for his family, through good times and bad. To my mother he was more than a provider and protector; he was a soul mate. “She is my better half,” he liked to say.
To his grandchildren he was a loving Grandpa who spoiled them with toys lovingly made with his own hands, took them to the beach, played games with them, gave them treats, and even tucked them into bed at night. When he heard of Keenan’s recent engagement to Janine, his immediate response was: “I have become a Grandpa again, overnight.”
During my father’s long illness I received many messages of support from friends, family and brethren in Christ. I could not but help notice the common threat that featured prominently among them all. “I remember when your father did this for me…”; “I remember when your father helped me with that…”; I remember when your father gave me…”.
Even those who only knew him for a short time spoke of his gentleness, compassion and kindness.
These are the godly principles my father taught me. This is the legacy he has left for his family. For this reason, Dad, Grandpa, we are proud to be known as your children, grandchildren and great-grandchild, and we shall strive to carry your legacy forward in our own lives.
I shall miss, so much, Dad, your fish and chips, Chelsea buns and last calls for coffee, but the knowledge that you no longer have to bear the excruciating pain you suffered for so many years fills me with joy, and the certainty that I shall be reunited with you again, in a little while, gives me perfect peace.
You epitomised Matthew 25 – you fed those who were hungry and thirsty, took in strangers, gave to those in need, visited the sick and in trouble. You practised “true religion”, as stated in the book of James, because you took care of widows and orphans. As Paul urged the Galatians to do, you never “became weary in doing good… to all people”. You did all these things for no other reason than you loved to do it.
Because you did so many things for others out of love, you were loved by many in return. For this reason, I can confidently echo the words of Christ when He spoke to your biblical namesake: “O Daniel, a man greatly beloved.”