He cried when I cried; laughed when I laughed; mourned when I mourned and rejoiced when I rejoiced. He shared my triumphs and my failures — always understanding; constantly supportive. I know that in his secret times with God, he always prayed for me. He taught me the precepts of living with integrity.
He put a nickel in my hand and said, “Give.” From a small child, I was taught it is more blessed to give than to receive.
He placed a pencil in my hand and said, “Write.” Trips were punctuated with storytelling he’d start and we’d take turns adding to the tale. He sparked my imagination and was there to lead me further.
He placed a puzzle in my hand and said, “Think.” He would give me time and room to solve problems. My mistakes became steppingstones to learning.
He placed a carpenter’s square in my hand and said, “Draw.” Dad was a preacher, a carpenter and a furniture builder. When I studied geometry in high school, it was Dad who took it a step further and helped me draw blueprints. Later, I was able to draw up the plans for mine and Laverne’s first home. And he was so proud when blueprints I drafted grew into church buildings and offices. But he never took the credit.
He placed a brush in my hand and said, “Paint.” I remember when I went from India ink and pencil drawings to oils. “I’m not going to let you quit this,” he said. But my favorite is a pencil sketch I made of him one day during his nap.
He placed a seed in my hand and said, “Plant.” Dad was also a farmer, but the seeds were not just those he put in the ground. He firmly believed you “reap what you sow.”
He placed a Bible in my hand and said, “Study.” I remember when, as a little girl, Dad would call me to his side when he was studying for a message. He’d say, “Bettie, could you find this Scripture for me?” And he would give me a word or two and showed me how to use the concordance. I thought I was helping him. It was only later I realized he was teaching me how to study and how to live.
He placed a rose in my hand and said, “Love.” Dad, who never received love when he was growing up, had a great capacity for love to others. He really was one of those whose love “covered a multitude of sins.”
He placed a mirror in my hand and said, “Know yourself.” Dad was real. There was no pretense about him. He could admit mistakes and was just as quick to rectify them. He had a vision of what God wanted him to do and was never daunted in his journey. He was a happy man.
He placed a hammer in my hand and said, “Build.” He taught me to be builder — not a destroyer. “Build up — don’t tear down” was his philosophy. He believed in justifying his presence on earth. Building was more than lumber and nails. And his ultimate gift to me. He placed the world in my hand and said, “You can be anything you want to be.”
Editor’s Note: This is the reprint of a column which ran on Father’s Day, 2007. It is repeated as a tribute to Luther O. Johnson, who left this world Oct. 14, 1997. The last song he sang was, “When the Roll is Called up Yonder, I’ll Be There.”