My daddy died two years ago today.
With Georgia playing Auburn on the television in the background, my brother and I each held his hands while our cousin stood at his feet.
Not long after we told him it was OK to go, he took his last breath and was gone.
There was peace.
He had fought the good fight and we all knew he was now with our family who had passed before.
In that moment my life changed in ways I didn’t understand at the time.
I had been a mama’s boy my entire life, I knew when she passed that it would be horrible, I didn’t expect my dad’s passing to be as tough as it has been.
In many ways, losing my father has been harder than losing my mother. My mother and I had an ongoing conversation my entire life, when it ended we had both said everything that needed to be said.
After mama died, daddy and I got into a routine with each other. We spoke every morning at 7:16AM, I don’t know why 7:16, but every morning he called at 7:16. Still two years later, I look at the clock and anticipate the call that never comes, I still have things I wanted to say.
With the best of intentions, people tell you the grief gets easier with time. I haven’t found this to be true at all.
I miss my daddy more today, than I did the day I last held his hand. The grief is still burned into my heart in ways that often cause a physical pain I never anticipated.
When I spoke at my father’s funeral, I talked about the lessons he taught me in life. At the time, I never thought that he would continue to teach me in death.
One of the beautiful things that has happened since I moved back to God’s Country is the stories I have heard from so many people about daddy.
Rarely a week goes by that someone doesn’t stop and tell me a story.
They will start out with “your daddy” or “you will not believe what your daddy did,” or “Coach was a good one” and then with a smile I get to hear a wonderful memory of my father.
I have had people tell me with tears in their eyes that when my daddy told them he loved them, they knew he meant it. Some of those same people have told me, those were the only “I love you” they received from an adult.
A guy recently told me about the time my daddy told him “see that boy with the long hair?” Yes, Coach.
“I need you to beat his ass, but when you do, I am going to have to beat your ass for doing it.”
OK Coach, but why?
“He mouthed off to mama and he needs to know he can’t do that.”
I asked him what he did and he told me “I beat the hell out of him and then your daddy beat the hell out of me.” We both laughed.
Just a few months after moving home, we were hosting an event to raise money for mama and daddy’s scholarship fund.
One of the vendors was a former student.
We had agreed to split the funds of her service 50/50 so her costs would be covered.
At the end of the night as we were splitting the money, she handed me her 1/2 and told me to put it towards the scholarship.
I thanked her but told her that was not our agreement.
She looked me deep in the eye and as her eyes began to fill with tears she said to me, you take this money.
As we hugged and both began to cry, she told me that she was raised on the “wrong side of the tracks.” She said my daddy always made her feel special and preached to her that she could be anything she wanted.
Today she is a business owner and restaurateur of one of the of the area’s most successful eateries.
My daddy is now gone, the pain is always just on the surface.
The last two years have been some of the most difficult and rewarding of my life.
In life daddy taught me lessons that made me the man I am today. In death, he continues to teach lessons that make me a better man….. he teaches that a simple kind word can make someones day, family comes first and encouragement can be life changing.
I miss my daddy, but I feel him with me every day. The people of my community help me keep him alive in my heart and today on the second anniversary of his death, I am grateful for the lessons he taught me in life, and after his passing.
My Eulogy for My Father, Ray Rumsey………
April 28, 1931 – November 15, 2014
Many of you knew him as Coach or Papa Ray.
Those who have known him since childhood knew him as Ray.
For his family. He was known as Uncle Ray and to a lucky pair as Gaggy.
For me he was always daddy.
On behalf of my family, I want to thank you all for coming today as we honor Coach, Papa Ray, Uncle Ray, Ray, Gaggy and Daddy at this home going celebration.
If I am honest, I have to admit that as a child I was jealous of many of you. Those he coached and taught were always part of our home life.
If I am honest, I must admit often times I didn’t like it. I didn’t like sharing my daddy with all of you.
But as I grew older, I realized some people just had more love to give and he was one of those people.
He had enough love to give us all and I eventually realized I was the fortunate one.
I remember the day our relationship changed; from loving each other to making sure we knew we loved each other.
I always knew he loved me, but as much as we know it, sometimes a simple gesture solidifies those feelings.
After I left home and went to college I called home one day. To be honest, I called home MOST days, but this particular day was different.
Long before cellphones, I would call home and mama and daddy both had a phone beside their chairs. Mama and I did most of the talking and then at the end daddy would always ask me “how’s your little car?” My response was the same every time, fine.
Then mama would say we love you and they would hang up the phone.
One day I called home and daddy answered. I asked where mama was and he told me she was not home, so for a couple of minutes we tried to carry on a conversation until he asked the question he always asked, “how’s your little car?” Fine.
Then everything changed……, “alright buddy, your daddy loves you.” and from that moment on, I never hung up on a call, walked out of a room or left the house without hearing my daddy say those words, “alright buddy, your daddy loves you.”
It also changed for me; I never left his presence without saying it back. I love you too daddy.
Years later, mama sent me an article she had clipped from Reader’s Digest. It was about how fathers and sons express their love for one another. One of the examples cited was when a father asks his son about his car. Little did I know, but my father had been telling me he loved me all those years, it just took Reader’s Digest to point it out to me.
My daddy had an amazing life. A couple of weeks ago he told Sam and me he wouldn’t change a thing. I believe him.
As a teacher he taught more than a text book ever could. Daddy would hold court with his students. American Government was the subject, but life was the lesson.
I remember the very first test I took in my daddy’s class. We used those scantron forms that you would fill in the bubble for a true / false question.
The tests were designed to run through a machine to electronically grade, but for some reason daddy would pass out the scantrons and we would go question by question through the test.
The very first question of the very first test in my father’s American Government class was….. In the United States court system a defendant is guilty until proven innocent.
Daddy went into one of his animated dialogues about of course this is false as anyone knows that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. And then he said it….. did anyone miss this question?
Lane Pritchett, my nemesis since elementary school raised his hand and without skipping a beat said “your son.”
My heart sank and I got one of those looks that you didn’t want to get from my daddy.
Just a look that will shut it down, no words necessary. I felt about 2 inches tall.
That night when we got home, daddy called me downstairs. All he said was, don’t rush through everything, slow down and understand what you are being asked, it’s not about finishing first, it’s about doing your best.
End of discussion…. Life lesson learned.
As a coach, my daddy taught his teams not to leave a team member without backup. Every good teammate watches over those on the field with them and makes sure to cover for the opposition.
A couple of years ago, daddy got really sick. We almost lost him.
He was in North east Georgia Medical Center and several times we didn’t think he would make it out. When he turned the corner and started to make a recovery, we needed to move him to a rehab center to continue his progress.
Unfortunately insurance reared its head and we were being pushed into directions we didn’t want to go and we didn’t feel were best for daddy’s ultimate recovery. The doctor’s agreed with us, but as often is the case big insurance decided they knew better.
Well, they thought they knew better until they met the team of Ray Rumsey.
Sam turned me loose on Facebook to fight and with your help we fought hard. We let my daddy’s story get out onto the internet and you helped push it.
Someone even got us the phone number for the President of daddy’s insurance company and from what I understand he had many, many….. many messages left on his line.
We fought and in the long run, we won. Together we all covered our teammate, we held off the opposition and daddy got the care he deserved.
I have never publicly been able to tell you all thank you for what you did to help daddy and our family through that time, but your loyalty, friendship and love carried us, just as it has through this final journey.
The people of Rabun County, both living here and around the world, have carried the Rumsey family on many occasions. You have made sure to block for us when it was needed, to cover our backs and provide defense.
Lessons my father the coach taught, a life lesson learned.
Two weeks ago as we sat in North East Georgia once again, we knew that we were moving towards the end.
One afternoon my cousins Puddin and Jeremy, our friend Andrew, Sam, Donna, Chelsea, Zack and myself were all in the room and daddy was sitting up holding court.
He told us stories we had never heard before. Stories of his time as a kid running the streets of Toccoa.
He talked about being a boxer and about his friends growing up.
At one point, with us all hanging on every word, he stopped. He looked around the room and smiled.
“This is all you need, look at the love” he said. Nothing is as important as love and this is all I need.
I think my father epitomized a life of love every day.
From every Coach loves you, ……boy you are ugly, ……have a good day, …….give Ray some sugar and your daddy loves you, my father has epitomized love his entire life. A life lesson we can all carry with us.
A life of love, a life of coaching a life of teaching… a life of lessons all led to a great life.
There were many great days in my father’s life. The day he met a young girl sitting on the wall at the old Toccoa High School who would one day become his wife.
The day his first and second sons were born and that special blessing, on his birthday, when the perfect child a baby boy named Ken was born.
The day he led a weaker, smaller team to victory over his alma mater.
The nights on the sidelines and the Saturdays in Sanford Stadium cheering for his beloved Wildcats and Bulldogs.
One day, Sam brought a girl home, Donna, that was a good day, a day he would always look back on as one of the most important for our family.
The day Chelsea Leigh Rumsey was born, his first grandchild and a girl who wrapped him around her finger with her first breath that was a great day. And the day Zachary Bo Thomas Rumsey came on the scene his joy was complete.
All these days were good days, travels across the country in an RV. Finding any and every opportunity he could to embarrass his sons, all good days.
Daddy had a life filled with good days and he shared them with each of us.
Recently my Pastor was preaching a series entitled “This I Believe.” Over six weeks we discussed the Holy Trinity, Baptism, the Virgin Birth and others.
The final week’s lesson was “This I Believe…. Heaven.” I knew this was an important sermon for me to hear.
My Pastor talked about heaven and how we would reunite with those we have loved through the course of our lives. But what hit me most during the sermon was how he wrapped it up.
My Pastor said. If you know Jesus, the day you die will be the best day of your life.
Through all the football games, and trips and embarrassing stories, the births, the falling in love and celebrations, my daddy had not even come close to the best day of his life.
My father, because he knows Jesus, just enjoyed his greatest day, one that will live on into eternity, the day he went home to meet the Lord.
In my mind daddy’s entry into heaven was like one of those flash mobs you see on YouTube, a big welcome home party. I envision my daddy walking into heaven and being met by the Lord with Chris Mance as his tour guide.
Mance is there to welcome him on behalf of all those he loved.
As he walks along the streets of everlasting life, he sees friends new and old. From his childhood and adult life.
Cucumber Hendricks, Ricky Crumley, Claudia and more are all there to welcome him. Newt, Gracie, Family, both distant and close, his brothers Lloyd and Roy, and their families, Granny Rumsey and Ben, they are all there to welcome daddy home.
And then the ultimate reward. I envision my daddy reunited with our brother Tom and my mama, the very best day of his life.
He was a teacher, a coach, a lover of life and for me, he was my daddy and I look forward to the day, my best day, when I hear him say, “welcome home son, your daddy loves you.”