I Still Hear Daddy’s Voice in My Ear
Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Five years ago, on August 6, 2011, my Daddy died. And I still miss him. In fact, I hear his voice in my ear every single day. What does he say? Why was his fathering so important in my life? Read on and you will know…
(Remembering Daddy 5 Years Later – Repost from August 2011)
Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Daddy spoke at his own funeral. Sounds weird? Believe me, it wasn’t. His pastor had saved a tape of Daddy’s 1987 Testimony and when his clear, younger and vibrant voice began we all literally ‘looked around.’ It was pure ‘Pratt Secrest’ — the man who enthralled crowds all over the world with his words of inspiration, challenge and humor. In these final words to a congregation who had come to both mourn and honor him (the entire Rotary Club sat en masse front and center), Daddy shared how he had gone from being a ‘churchgoer’ to having a vibrant, personal relationship with the living Christ. He ended with the lyrics of a favorite gospel hymn, “the Savior is waiting to enter your heart….why don’t you let Him come in?”
Recently, we found a letter dated August 6, 1981 (written exactly 30 years BEFORE the day he died) that Daddy sent to us and his pastor. It began “I never felt better and have NO premonitions, but think it prudent to let you know how I would like my final rites to be when the time comes…” Then he went on, requesting hymns for a praise and celebration service… “This should be a very happy occasion because my entire life has been blessed by all my family, friends and church family, and I’ve had a wonderful life thanks to all these and a JOYFUL one…”
And so we celebrated his life. My dear husband co-officiated…Justin read Psalm 23 (perfectly, I might add, a true miracle.) Tim read “High Flight” a poem Daddy, a WWII bomber pilot, loved which ends “reached out my hand and touched the face of God…” My nephew read scripture, my brother in law played guitar and sang beautifully “My Jesus, I Love Thee,” sister Cathy read an original poem (a tradition in our family), sister Susan read Daddy’s journal entry from 1975 “If I knew this would be the last day of my life…”, my daughter Maggie closed the service with an angelic and heartfelt singing of “The Lord’s Prayer” and I? Well, I spoke as a Daughter, not a professional speaker. Only a few words… but I shall share them here with you. That is, if you are still reading this long and personal blog…
Why Pratt Secrest Was the Best Father in the Whole World!
I’m Cindy, the middle one. Daddy was a middle child too. We had a few things in common… I would like to share why Pratt Secrest was simply the best father in the whole world. There are hundreds of reasons, but I’ll be brief and offer you only four:
He LIVED AUTHENTICALLY. The public person known by many was the same man we knew at home. Yes, he really was that much fun, that creative, that generous, that visionary, wise, faith-filled, smart, versatile, compassionate, a good leader, loving, organized, optimistic, honest, affirming and musical. We never had to wonder what he’d be like on any given day – he was simply an Original. The Real Deal.
He LOVED MY MOTHER Someone once said “The greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother.” My parents were married more than 62 years. Daddy loved Mama well.
He was a GREAT ENCOURAGER Daddy was my best cheerleader. He believed in me and urged me to live fully — a life of adventure, daring to try new things. He told me I was smart and talented and beautiful and fathers don’t lie! He led me to believe that I could BE and DO whatever God called me to! Long before it was popular, Daddy was the Ultimate Life Coach. And I bet he encouraged you too!
He LOVED ME UNCONDITIONALLY. This is actually the most important reason of all. There has not been a single day of my life that I wasn’t absolutely sure of his complete love. And most of those days he told me how much he loved me. Yes, even in our final days together recently he was still saying it over and over again. (Now, if Daddy were writing this script he would say, ‘Turn to the audience and ask “Is there someone YOU need to love unconditionally today?”) This was absolutely the Best Gift. Because of my earthly father’s love, I was able to embrace and receive the love of my Heavenly Father. Daddy taught me about God’s Love.
One night when I was almost two years old Daddy set up his elaborate reel to reel tape recorder, stuck a microphone in my little face and I, of course, began to sing: ‘Jesus Loves me, this I know. For the, for the, …what for the, Daddy?’ Loud stage whisper – ‘for the Bible’ Little Cindy continues singing ‘for the Bible tells me so.’ You will be delighted to know that I have now mastered all the lyrics to that song, but far more importantly I have spent a lifetime living the truth behind them because of Daddy. (Then I sang “Jesus Loves Me”) I Love You Daddy!
Earlier in the summer I spent one whole day listening to 6 hours of Daddy’s taped piano playing and storytelling from 1994. What a treasure those are — he played the standards and I know the words to every single song from the ‘40s and ‘50s because of growing up with them. Anyway, my assigned task from the family was to somehow reduce all this to a 30 minute Piano Mix so that we could play it at Visitation during a slide show (and give each grandchild a copy). How to choose only 30 minutes? Hard, but with the help of friends this task was completed just in time. I play it all the time now…
Since I often sing the Standards as love songs to my family, I will close this blog with a song to Daddy. Perhaps you know it from composer Johnny Mercer…
I remember you.
You’re the one who made my dreams come true…
When my life is through,
And the angels ask me to recall
The thrill of it all,
I will tell them
I remember YOU…
under the mercy, Cindy
©2011 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
My family with Mama after Daddy’s Celebration of Life 2011
NATHANIEL PRATT SECREST
(Obituary from Thomasville GA “Times Enterprise”) A man of faith, devoted to family, friends and community, Pratt Secrest lived out his favorite motto — “A Great Day to Be Alive!” — sharing encouragement with all whom he encountered. Born November 12, 1924 in Athens, Georgia to the late Edgar Lee Secrest and Evelyn Pratt Secrest, he served in the Army Air Corps as a bomber pilot during World War II and a Public Information Officer during the Korean War. After earning his degree in Journalism and Public Relations from the University of Georgia, Secrest moved to Thomasville to manage a new radio station. He married the love of his life, Sarah Hasty, and spent 25+ years as president of Secrest Pulpwood and Timber, becoming Director of the American Pulpwood Association and Georgia Forestry Commission. Later, as a realtor, Secrest founded “First Thomasville Realty” and was named President of the Southwest Georgia Board of Realtors – developing some fine local neighborhoods such as Tall Pines, Victorian Square and A Place in the Woods.
Loving his adopted homeland of Thomasville, Secrest invested in the community through leadership in the Chamber of Commerce, City Commission, Salvation Army Board, YMCA, Arts Guild and Historical Society. He was a founding member and Director of the Board of Brookwood School and was a Director of the Commercial Bank. After joining the Thomasville Rotary Club in 1947, Secrest served Rotary on every level – local to international – as Club President, District Governor, International Director, and Aide to the President. He was a Paul Harris fellow and received the international Polio Plus Pioneers Award. Accompanied by Sarah, he gave inspirational speeches on four continents as one of Rotary’s best goodwill ambassadors.
Pratt Secrest was a gifted communicator, storyteller, outdoorsman, pianist, poet and songwriter who greatly enjoyed people. In 1995, Thomasville city officials adopted the song, “Thomasville The Beautiful” (sung to the tune of “America the Beautiful”) as the official city song. “Secrest said he wrote the song while thinking about how wonderful the city is, and wanted to show his appreciation for the town. He dedicated the song to his wife, Sarah.” He is also the author of two poetry books “For Better or Verse” and “Montreat – A Very Special Place.” He also relished God’s Creation both at his Thomas County “Brookside” farm and also his Blue Ridge mountain home in Montreat NC. He was privileged through the years to be part of the church families of both First Baptist and First Presbyterian in Thomasville.
A follower of Christ his entire life, Pratt Secrest was grateful for his loving family and countless opportunities to leave the world a little better than he found it, a legacy that can be summed up best in his own word, written in 1968:
“Make the most of every minute! Put every hope and effort in it!
And when it’s gone, don’t stop and stare…another minute’s waiting there!
God gives us all the same amount of minutes in each day to count,
Will we be proud, when life is done, of how we used each priceless one?”
Nathaniel Pratt Secrest is survived by his wife of 62 years, Sarah Hasty Secrest of Thomasville GA; three daughters and sons-in-law – Cathy Secrest Ray and Hank (Oklahoma), Lucinda Secrest McDowell and Michael (Connecticut) and Susan Secrest Waters and Glen (Thomasville GA); nine grand-children – Catharine Ray Russell (Michael), Henry Ray (Chris), Pratt Ray (Nicole), Justin McDowell, Timothy McDowell, Fiona McDowell, Maggie McDowell, Sarah Waters and Rachel Waters; and six great-grandsons – Madison, Brayden, and Landen Russell, Griffin and Carter Ray and Lincoln Ray. He was preceded in death by his brother E. Lee Secrest, Jr. and his sister Katrina Poole Froelich.
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