It’s been a day or so shy of 27 months since my dad, Melvin Joseph Vinson passed away. After posting the eulogy I composed for his memorial, I felt a tremendous relief… a lightening of my spirit. I felt that I had followed the Spirit in honoring a man I admire and still love deeply.
But as is often the case, words and phrases were edited from the story. Key scenes left on the cutting room floor.
To understand this “director’s cut” you’ll need to read the story here.
Don’t worry… I’ll wait.
I’m the youngest of seven kids. The tiebreaker, the baby, the spoiled one, etc. Best for last, right? Not quite…! Far from the perfect specimen you all imagine me to be, there were a host of issues.
A club foot requiring numerous surgeries, casts, wheelchairs, and even some Forrest Gump-approved leg braces (exactly like in the movie, no joke). Add to this a cleft pallet, severe allergies as a child… you name it. God and doctors performed some miracles to be sure. But I grew up a shy and introspective bookworm, hobbling on casts and crutches in the shadows of the giants that were my siblings. It was only after finding Christ at age 13 that I found music and the Call that has defined my life ever since.
Out of the whole clan, my sister Patty (child number five) was the only one of us to attend college (she became a teacher). But like my brother Melvin (number four of seven), Patty got heavily involved in drugs and drink. She eventually came through all that, became a believer, and was doing well.
But one night she fell off the wagon, as it were. Long story short.. it was ruled an accidental overdose. For good or ill, her struggle with substance abuse and depression was at an end.
As I stood by Patty’s coffin in the viewing room of the funeral home, Dad and I were both numb. My always strong Army dad had tears in his eyes, and probably in a state of shock. Of all the things a parent should never experience, this was it. To outlive your child… oh my God. The pain Dad emanated was palpable. I wanted to be there with and for him… whatever it took and as long as it takes.
I placed my hand on his broad shoulder and leaned close to give what comfort I could. In a thin and weak voice (that alone shattered me) he said…
“Of all you kids, she was the smartest one…”
For a guy like me, born with a club foot, a cleft pallet, and all that… self confidence had always been a quality in short supply. And to hear I was down the line of the smart list? A guy who never did any or all the things to bring pain and heartache to my parents that Patty did…? I think what hurt was not that he called me stupid (he didn’t) or say those words in anger (he was out of his mind with grief)… but was that what was in his heart when he thought of me?
It seems petulant to say that in the days and weeks following Patty’s funeral, I had very little to do with him beyond the usual… the expected. Somehow work got busier. The time between visits and phone calls grew wider with the passing years. Moving to Nashville helped justify and assuage the guilt I reluctantly felt from my cowardly absence.
Time does heal some wounds. And the passing of my Mom and sister Marie required a closing of the gap. I began to realize the stupidity of my one-sided estrangement.
Time grew short for Dad as a host of illnesses began to take their toll. Honestly I think the loss of his children and soulmate hastened the end. He did find a few years of contentment living in Florida with one of my oldest brothers Gary and his family. Phone calls became more frequent and heart-felt words of love and affection passed my lips more often.
I went down to see him when it was apparent he was dying. You’ve read the story so you know most of it. Those of us who made this final journey gathered around his hospital bed, talking, singing, praying etc. But he was completely unresponsive. I stayed there as long as I could but finally had to come home.
What I could not say in my original post was this. It was so overwhelming… so real. So raw and real that it’d require a restricted rating.
The last time I saw my Dad, we were alone… for a final time I leaned in very close and told him how much I loved him… how proud I was to be his son… and prayed to be half the man he was.
I kissed his cheek, expecting to feel nothing but the stubble on his cheek… to hear nothing but the hiss of the oxygen and the slowing beep of the monitors…
I felt and saw his face twist with sorrow… and he sobbed.
Sobbing, I turned and left.
2 hours later he passed away.
Finally, in my journal entry you read how I prayed for a word that would sum up the life that was my Dad. A word from the Father that would define him… to be his spiritual legacy.
What still is awesome and unbelievable is that the very moment Dad slipped away into eternity was the very moment that Holy Spirit whispered the word I sought…
So why tell the story now? What prompted this unedited/unrated version?
The scandalous story of my Dad is still being told. It’s still reaching and inspiring.
Holy Spirit is still using Dad…
To reveal truth…
To redeem the captive from bondage…
And to restore the hopeless and broken to courage and wholeness.
I want to follow in my Dad’s footsteps as he followed the Father.
Reveal… Redeem… Restore
God is still doing all three.