Summary: My Father was not a rich man, by the world's standards but in my eyes he was was wealthy beyond measure. He was my best friend.
My Dad, My Friend
He was born January 1 1933, the son of a share cropper and his wife; Olee and Bessie Lee of Coward S.C. They called him J.T. but we call him Daddy.
He told stories of the many hardships he suffered growing up, like the struggle for an education. Whenever we would complain about school he would remind us of the struggles he faced while earning his education.
Billy, I’m glad things are different in coward now so Spencer doesn’t have to go through what Daddy did for an education. You see, Daddy told us that he walked to school every day, which was not really a problem. The problem was with the crazy roads and weather conditions in Coward. Daddy had to walk up hill BOTH WAYS, through knee deep snow in July!
Grandma Bessie and Granddaddy taught him integrity, honor and other ludicrous stuff like honesty; things that are almost unheard of in the 21st century. He believed and taught us that a man/woman is not made by what they have but by how straight they walk.
Being a son or daughter of J.T. Lee was not the easiest thing to do because it was his way always. He was a tough man and a hard man but over the years, I watched a real peace come over him, as he learned to surrender more of himself to the Lord. He was still a tough man and he did it his way to the very last breath but he had an inner peace that some will never understand. This is the peace that Paul talks about in; [Phl 4:7 NIV] “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Our Dad lived a life of honor and integrity and he died with his honor and integrity unbroken.
Daddy taught me a lot about vision. He would constantly say to me, “Boy, you can’t see the forest for the trees!” I couldn’t figure out, for the longest time, how removing trees from the forest could help me with the problem I was facing. I soon learned to step back and take in the whole picture, not focusing on what was right in my face but what was down the road and the consequences that choices made today might have on my tomorrows.
He taught that hard work never killed anyone and I remember many late nights, as Donnie and I worked side by side with our dad, loading his truck so he could get back to work the next day, just so he could provide for his family. I can’t remember ever going without food, clothes or shelter. If it took 17 hour days to put food on the table that’s what he did.
Daddy taught me the value of friendship and the importance of the quality of those friends. Often he would ask me, what may have been the most important question of my life. He said “Son, if your friends jump off a cliff are you going to jump too?” I had to ponder that one a while to get the real lesson behind that bit of wisdom. I finally began to understand that the quality of friends was more important than the quantity.
Are these friends of mine worth jumping off a cliff with and would they jump with me or would they push me over the edge? Are they the kind of friends you would stand beside no matter the odds and do you know if these friends would stand by you even in your darkest hour?
Can you depend on them and can they depend on you? See if your friends are not worth jumping with then maybe you need some new friends.
So many of his lessons can be found in Scripture, even though he may not have been thinking that way. See it’s all about the upbringing and I can promise you that Grandma Bessie taught him the Word. [Pro 18:24 NIV] One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Later in life I found the one who would stick closer than anyone else was Jesus. Jesus didn’t jump off a cliff. He gave His life on cross for me and you, so we won’t have to jump off that final cliff.
Our father believed in staying focused on the task. His favorite thing when we were fishing was to wait until you fall asleep and then shout; “Pull em son…you got a big one!” It’s a wonder no one got snagged by a hook but you were awake and focused…at least for a little while.
I think some of my best memories are the days riding with my dad in that old Hotel and Restaurant Coffee truck, as he traveled the country side selling his product. I learned how to be a man but not just a male. I learned how to deal with people and how to gain their trust by letting your yes mean yes and not maybe. The people he dealt with loved him and trusted him to give them what they needed.