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In Loving Memory

In Loving Memory

Johnnie Brigman
July 24, 1929 – April 27, 2010

In the rush to plan a funeral last week that would be the most fitting tribute we could offer my Dad, I had no time to write a letter to him as many other family members so thoughtfully did. While it's personal in a way that will be uncharacteristic for this blog, I want to honor his memory by posting mine here.


Today I read the letter you wrote me when I left home for college. You worried that you'd failed to tell me how much you loved me, when feelings ran "too deep for words." You and I shared our love for words, but we understood their limits. Still, I always knew how you felt. Your love for me was there, in every lesson you taught me, as you guided me in your quiet way, setting an example I can only aspire to emulate.

You gave me poetry - in the childhood books you read so tirelessly, the thousands of songs that lulled me to sleep, the French language you loved, the hymns you hummed throughout the day, the mountain lore you collected, and the novels we passed back and forth as adults. It'll be awhile before I'm able to listen to the tapes we have of your sermons, with spontaneous prayers so beautiful and genuine. The verses you wrote me for special occasions - from the day I was born - were the inspiration for my own work that you read so eagerly, your tired eyes glittering with pride.

We loved words, but sometimes we didn't need them. That night you heard me crying on the porch because your new church assignment would require me to begin my senior year in a high school far from home, you came and sat with me – just as we'd sit together those years when Mom was battling cancer, and last year in your hospital room when you fought off pneumonia to give us a little more time with you. We knew your great heart couldn't go on much longer; you'd given so much of it away in fifty years of ministering to others. No one ever loved his fellow man more, or judged others less.

The writings you left behind show such loving attention to every aspect of your children's and grandchildren's daily lives; no concern was too trivial to merit your prayers. Your journals will remain on your desk - a testament to your active spiritual life and the quest for intellectual stimulation that continued until your final weeks on earth. We worried at first we were invading your privacy in reading them, but I know you were a writer with an appreciation for an audience . . . and that your diaries are part of your plan for continuing your gentle teachings, setting the standard for our adult responses to joy, sorrow, pleasure, and pain. Your past experiences offer wisdom for the years ahead.

You summed up your credo so eloquently in the letter you wrote me so many years ago: "I hope you will never forget the importance of work well-done, the deep satisfaction that comes from giving yourself to others, the value of self-respect and integrity, the sustaining quietness and confidence that comes from the Lord when things get rough, and the wonder of God's creation about us. Never surrender your faith in the loving providence of God and the essential goodness of the human spirit." No matter what befell you– and your trials were many – I saw these ideals in the way you lived your life, and in the way you embraced your death.

You are dearly loved, Daddy, and you will be deeply missed.

Posted in May, 2010

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