Greg Coker: My Dad

Greg Coker PortraitMy dad was a simple man from Tennessee. He worked in a factory for 40 years leaving that concrete floor every afternoon to a farm where he raised some of the best tobacco in Kentucky. Up until five weeks ago, he had never stepped foot in a doctor’s office or hospital. My father passed away a few days ago. Thankfully, he went peacefully. I thought I would take this opportunity to share a few observations and life applications gleaned from my dad’s last days.

• The Power of Friends. We took dad home as Hospice met us in the living room with a hospital bed. His friend Charles came that afternoon and held dad’s hand and reminisced about many of the memories they shared. I heard him say, “Bill, we’ve had some great times together. We cut a lot of tobacco. I love you!” Wow! What a beautiful thing to see two friends holding hands and reliving the past. We frequently shake hands with one another, but how often do we take that opportunity to pull that person a little closer and let them know we love them?  I regret taking opportunities to tell friends how much they meant to me, that I loved them. Charles made it in time to tell dad he loved him, many other friends of dad did not. When I pass I hope my family is by my side but I pray my friends are there too!
• The Power of Flowers. I must admit, in the past I didn’t put too much thought into sending flowers when a friend, family member or business associate suffered a loss. I would call the florist, place the order and never put too much thought whether it actually comforted that person during this difficult time. But as I entered the funeral home for dad’s visitation I was immediately overwhelmed by the flowers that surrounded my father. I personally smelled, touched and enjoyed each flower arrangement. And as I reviewed that small envelope with the sender’s name, I wept. Not only did the flowers brighten the room, they touched my family in a deep and powerful way. Several arrangements were from organizations where my father had been a customer. And while I know they sent them out of the goodness of their heart not expecting anything in return, my family and I will be even more loyal to that business after this compassion. But we don’t need the passing of someone to send flowers. An inexpensive flower arrangement to a friend letting them know you’re thinking of them or how much you appreciate them sends a very strong message. Bottom line, I will never second-guess whether I should send flowers again.

• Visiting with others. My wife’s father died over 25 years ago and she can still remember every one of her friends who attended his visitation. Again, I will be honest. There have been many occasions I questioned whether I should stop by the funeral home and pay my respects and comfort that family. Many times I’ve talked myself out of going. But the times I listened to my heart and made the visit, I never regretted it. Like my wife, I will never forget those who visited with my family during these tough times. But visiting with a friend or family goes way beyond a death of a loved one. What keeps us from making time to call that friend and simply say, “Can I drop by and visit with you? How strong would that be? In my workshops I tell leaders the greatest respect you can show your employees is to simply spend time with them. A one-on-one visit with the only agenda to show appreciation and strengthen the relationship.

• Forgiveness & Reconciliation. The passing of a loved one is often an opportunity for forgiveness and reconciliation. As I was greeting visitors at the funeral home there were a few “surprises” in line. For whatever reasons (past arguments/disagreements, etc.) there were a few people I didn’t expect to see. There were also a few flower arrangements sent from people I would not have expected.  And as I greeted and embraced those people there was a weight lifted, a warm feeling. Not a word said about the past, just a simple, “I’m sorry about your loss.” And reconciliation doesn’t necessarily mean resolution. Way too often, we avoid reaching out to someone thinking that would mean rehashing the past. Forgiveness and reconciliation can happen without rehashing the incident. And just like reaching out to our friends and sending flowers, we don’t have to wait for a funeral for forgiveness and reconciliation to occur.

I’m back at work now. I will continue to grieve my father’s passing while continually striving to be the man he was. I will never forget the love, compassion, friendship and generosity so many showed my family and me during this difficult time. And in the future if I grab your hand and say, “Thanks for being my friend, I love you,” please do not be alarmed! I might even send flowers.

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