Happy Father's Day in heaven to my dad, Clyde Ottie Hall who was, and is the most influential man in my life. My father brought words to life. He defined them. Words like endurance, perseverance, and faith.
He was born to a large family, in a tiny cabin in Hazel Creek, North Carolina in what is now National Park wilderness. His father was Marion Spurgeon Hall, and his mother Nola Laney Hall. He grew up in a tough environment, life was hard. The closest store was many miles away, and it only carried basic staples, like salt, and flour. There were no cars to get you there. Basic needs that we take for granted like shoes and store bought items were hard to come by. He often went without. He told us he was 15 years old when he first laid eyes on a store bought toy. He once played for weeks with a tiny chocolate turtle that he received in his Christmas stocking. He told us that for most Christmas's they got an orange and some hard candies in their stockings, but that one year there was the turtle, covered in foil. He learned to farm and to hunt, not for recreation but for life. When he was a little boy, he once killed a groundhog with his bare hands, and his family had food. He told us of one hard winter when his dad trapped song birds so they could have meat for the table. Life was difficult growing up in the Appalachian wilderness.
He fought in the South Pacific in many famous naval battles. He was known as a fierce man, and his shipmates were amazed when I informed them that Clyde "Gabby" Hall had been changed by Jesus Christ and was called to be a pastor. One man told me that my father would have been last on the list of shipmates had he chosen one for that profession.
There were many things in his background that I never saw personally. How he loved to fight, and was a fierce fighter. He had a huge scar on his arm from a bar fight. He once threw several persons through a bar window. He once stood in a ring with a prize fighter for the required time, earning his shipmates huge winnings. He manned one of the big guns on board his ship, and he told of shouting his rage to the heavens as the Japanese pilots swooped down so low that he could hit them with a potato. He had some problems with the law in his younger days and it is said that he helped build the Blue Ridge Parkway, with a ball and chain around his ankle. He never shared that one with us, but it was told me by one of his sisters, He drank a lot in his younger days. I never saw these things, other than a brief stint of drinking when my mother walked away, and a willingness to defend us kids against anyone and anything that promised harm. His life was a living testimony to the power of Christ that can completely change a person, and take them to heights they never dreamed possible.
In his past he had been a reprobate, a sailor, a moonshiner, a coal miner and a farmer. He married Geneva Wilson, and they had a son James Steven Hall, and a daughter (me). One day he went to work, to the long hard day at the cotton mill, and on that day she left him. My brother and I met him as he walked home. It is a day that neither I nor my brother will ever forget. For a short time my father lost his anchor, and we wandered adrift. But he soon found his strength and faith again. He raised us two children alone and he poured his heart into us. He worked in a cotton mill (brutal work) full time. He always plowed, planted and maintained a big garden, and he pastored a church full time.
He demonstrated daily with his life the qualities that have kept me whole all the days of mine. He never gave up, I have seen him weep, seen him tired, seen him in such pain, but he always managed to keep going. His life was anything but easy. He never had much, but he was content with what he had. He depended on God and demonstrated faith and how to walk with God through the hard places.
I can't recall a meal that he didn't
bless with prayer, and I have many memories of sitting around the table
as he blessed the food. He loved to cook, but he wasn't very good at it.
I guess if you survived your childhood on groundhog and song birds,
then stew with bits of meat, purple cabbage and walnuts was pretty darn
tasty. My brother and I never thought so.
He loved my brother and I with a fierce love. He wanted us to have more than he did, he wanted us to be better people, he desired to protect us from the mistakes he made as a young man. I felt safe with him. He was larger than life to me as a little girl. He became even larger when I finally understood the things he labored so hard to teach me.
I loved to see him laugh, and he took joy in simple things.He took great joy in his garden and the planting and harvesting always excited him. He loved God, and God's word. He preached every Sunday and most Wednesday nights in the churches he pastored, and he often preached on the radio.He was never once ashamed of the gospel. Indeed many of the times I saw him cry were when he was talking about the grace of God.He knew exactly who he had once been, and that God, by grace alone was the One who changed him.
My final memory of him was at his wake. I stood next to my brother at the head of my father's casket and shook the hands of a mass of people as they filed by to pay their respects. They told me they came to Christ through my father's preaching, how he had baptized them, how he had visited them when they were sick, how he taught them the scriptures, mentored them in their ministries, performed their weddings, their ordinations to ministry, person after person declaring how the life of this one man, a terrible sinner saved by grace, a man born, raised, and died in poverty had touched their lives.
I miss him, would give anything to be able to sit on the back porch with him. I wish my boys could have known him. He would be so very proud of them both. I wish my sons could sit on the back porch with him, hear his war stories, hear him speak of Jesus, for he demonstrated to the world how you can be a strong, manly man, full of fire, fierce and loyal and yet devoted and unashamed of his Lord.I miss you dad. I will ever be thankful that you were my earthly father. You taught me more than any other person apart from our Lord.I do believe our Lord has allowed you to look down on us in that great cloud of witnesses from time to time, for my heart has and doth hear you cheering us on. You shall be the first face, after His, that I search for. Until then Papa, happy Father's Day in heaven.