Mark Rockwell and his dad, James A. Rockwell, getting together during football season, 2011.
Love and Respect for a Dad
Mark Rockwell and I became colleagues when he began teaching fourth grade at Mt Ulla Elementary School fifteen years ago. I was the music teacher at the time. After retiring, I lost contact with Mark until a few years ago when I discovered he was a teacher at Millbridge Elementary School.
Even though I always knew Mark was a great teacher, I didn’t discover until a few months ago through his blog that he’s also a talented writer. The blog described his journey as a Christian facing the terminal diagnosis of his dad with cancer. Seeing such tremendous faith and love and thinking this would be an inspirational Father’s Day tribute for others to read, I asked if I could share his story on my blog as well as our local newspaper, The Salisbury Post. Mark agreed, but only if God gets the glory, he said. Used with permission, here is part of Mark’s tribute to his dad, James A. Rockwell.
Just after midnight, February 20, 2015, marked three years since my dad passed. Simply put, he was a hard-working man who seemed to routinely get the short end of the stick regardless of the fact that he was usually the first person ready to help somebody else out when they needed a hand. Thankfully, after several conversations with him in his final months, I know he was able to pass with the assurance of having accepted the hope and forgiveness of Jesus.
His character was a testament to the way he was raised by my Grandma and Grandpa on a small upstate New York farm where responsibilities and chores took precedence over personal interests or entertaining distractions that were more available to other kids his age in the forties and fifties. His interactions with others rarely happened without involving some kind of neighborly kindness. He always enjoyed visiting older neighbors, relatives, and friends, and his 1952 John Deere Model M tractor was kept busy plowing neighborhood driveways during every upstate New York winter that I experienced growing up. I’ve always known him to lend a hand when it came to construction projects, emptying water out of the elderly neighbor’s basement when it routinely flooded after rainstorms, and taking the neighbors trash with him when he was headed to the landfill.
Years later, after he moved south to North Carolina to help provide daycare for our newborn son, he became my dependable partner in getting up at 3:30 AM to prepare and serve Saturday morning breakfast each month at the local homeless shelter. He always modeled what it meant to be a good man without ever opening his mouth to talk about what he was doing or telling others what they should be doing.
He never let his circumstances become either license for arrogance or a calling card for sympathy like so many others do. What started out as a routine trip to the doctor’s office to figure out why he was having digestive problems led to the discovery of an intestinal blockage caused by a carcinoid cancer tumor and surgery to remove it. It was during his recovery from the surgery and a follow-up visit to the surgeon’s office that his journey took a turn for the worse. Instead of slowly becoming more mobile and independent while recovering from surgery he began exhibiting diminished motor skills and increased weakness on his right side. His surgeon called some neurological specialists into his office visit to examine him and, as a result admitted him back into the hospital where a CT scan revealed a mass on the left-rear lobe of his brain. The mass was what would turn out to be a grade four, malignant, glioblastoma multiforme brain tumor.
It was just after this diagnosis when I asked him, in a moment when it was just the two of us in his hospital room, what he was thinking and how he was feeling about what was happening. He answered, One day at a time, Mark. We’re just going to keep putting one foot in front of the other and take it as it comes.
… Philippians 4: 5 and 6 (NIV) says: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Although Mark was a Christian before his dad passed, several events occurred afterwards that drew him even closer in his walk. As a direct result of these events, Mark became involved with the Hands & Feet Project. The goal of this organization is to provide care for orphaned and abandoned children in Haiti, the poorest country of the Western Hemisphere.
When a loved one passes we often look at it as the end, but sometimes it’s only the beginning. Having lost my husband, Michael, last year I understand that kind of pain and grief. When the loss is fresh, it’s hard to look past the moment and think of a future without them. For me, as time has passed, I’ve come to realize we’re left behind for a reason and if we patiently wait and earnestly seek, we’ll find that reason. I believe Mark has found his.
If you’d like to read more of Mark’s tribute to his dad or about his work with the Hands & Feet Project, check out his blog on WordPress.com.
Do you have a special memory or story to tell about your dad? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
My publisher, Warren Publishing has designated Tuesday, June 23rd as a target date for boosting sales for my latest book, Tired of Being Obedient, on Amazon.com. If you get a chance to stop by Amazon.com and purchase on Tuesday, that would be great. Local dog trainer, Glenn Sherrill, is the main character in the story. Tips for training dogs can be found in the back.