Sunday, November 30, 2008

REQUIEM FOR MY FATHER--A LAST LETTER

(My father passed away yesterday on Nov. 29th after 92 years of life. Thank you for your prayers, especially for my mother who was married to him for nearly 60 years) BW III

Dear Dad:

There are so many things you meant to me over so many years, and the sign I saw today said it all-- "I have a super hero in my life, and its my Dad". I realize you've gone to be with the Lord, but I also know that you are more alive now than when I last saw you Saturday laboring for breath in Mercy hospital. Thank God you are in a place where there is no more sufffering, sin, and sorrow, no more disease, decay and death. Here is the obituary I helped write for you:

Mr. Witherington of Charlotte died peacefully on Saturday November 29th, 2008 at Carolinas Medical Center-Mercy. He was the son of the late Ben Witherington, Sr. and Mildred Patrick Witherington and was born on May 31, 1916 in Goldsboro, N.C. He was preceded in death by his sister, Mildred Witherington Grotland.

Ben's father's death and military service in WWII interrupted his college career at UNC-CH. Having joined the Army Air Corps, he completed advanced training at the Army Finance School at Wake Forest College. After serving several Army finance offices, he was transferred into the infantry and sent to Germany where he was assigned to the 94th Division of Patton's Third Army. He received a Combat Infantry Badge and two battle stars. Between 1947-86 he worked as a credit manager and an accountant in various firms including Tomlinson's Furniture Company and Factors Inc. in High Point N.C. and then NCNB (now Bank of America) in Charlotte.

A loyal life long member of the Methodist Church, he served in many ways at St. Paul's UMC Goldsboro, West Market Street UMC Greensboro, Wesley Memorial UMC in High Point, and Myers Park UMC in Charlotte. He was on the Administrative Board, President of Owenby Sunday School Class, and was a UMYF sponsor. An Eagle Scout, he inspired both his son and his grandson to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout as well.
After WWII Ben returned to UNC-Chapel Hill where he earned a B.S. degree in Commerce with an accounting major. An ardent Carolina sports fan and an athlete, he ran track and was a cheerleader at Carolina. He also enjoyed playing tennis and golf, and was an avid watcher of Carolina football and basketball.

Ben is survived by his wife of almost 60 years, Joyce, his daughter Laura of Jacksonville Fla., his son Ben, III and his wife Ann of Lexington, Kentucky and their children Christy Ann of Morrisville N.C. and David Benjamin of Silver Spring, Md. He is also survived by his brother M. Patrick Witherington and his wife Patty and many nephews and nieces.

The funeral will be held at 2:00 p.m. Tuesday, December 2, at Myers Park United Methodist Church. The family will receive friends following the service in Jubilee Hall. Interment will be at 2:00 p.m. Thursday, December 4, in Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington, NC. Pallbearers will be Don Redding, Lou Bledsoe, Patrick Witherington, J. A. West, David Witherington, and Rick Witherington. Honorary pallbearers will be the members of the Owenby Class.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to Myers Park United Methodist Church Jubilee Plus Fund, 1501 Queens Road West, Charlotte, NC 28207, Grace United Methodist Church, 401 Grace Street, Wilmington, N.C. 28402, or the Tuscarora Council, Boy Scouts of America, 316 East Walnut Street, Goldsboro N.C. 27530.
'Blessed are those who die in the Lord'.

Arrangements are in the care of Hankins & Whittington Funeral Service, 1111 East Blvd. Online at www.hankinsandwhittington.com.
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Dad, there are so many things I will miss. I woke up this morning and realized this is the first time in my life I don't have a father on earth. You were always there for me... always. Such a self-sacrificial person, and so gentle and loving like Jesus. If I ever grow up fully, I hope to be more like you. I remember all those ball games you took me to, especially Carolina games, and all those church services we went to. I remember you teaching Sunday school and helping lead my scout troop until I managed to get my Eagle award. You were never too busy for me. I remember all those fun trips to the beach, and so many wonderful holidays. Do you remember the day our cat Yellowball climbed the Christmas tree at night when all were sleeping and broke our bubble lights? Or how about the day I went off to Carolina just like you, and when you left me there, I felt so alone and lost. Do you remember the day we went to Spruce Pine and I taught Adults Plus the Gospel of Mark, and all your Sunday school friends were there? Or how about those hot summer days at Annual Conference at Lake Junaluska? Or the time you took me on your business trip to Morehead City? I miss all the times you read to me those Henry Ware stories when I was small, and how you taught me to drive on that old 55 Chevy that was column shift? I will never forget the day you took me downtown in High Point to get the conscientious objector papers during the Vietnam war, and even though you totally disagreed, you respected my choice and were right there with me? So many memories come flooding back. Most of all I will miss all that love and Christian nurture you gave me over all those years.

I know your not gone, nor are you lost, as I know right where to find you, up there with Jesus, but still it will be hard not to see you again until the resurrection. I just wanted you to know that in your honor on Nov. 29th those ole Tar Heels won their annual grudge match with Duke 28-20 at Duke and are going to a bowl game, and it won't be the toilet bowl. At least you won't need to yell at those ACC refs in the sky over that one. Here's a big hug, one more time.... ( ). You can count on me to go on serving the Lord, and being faithful to Him, to my church, to my family, to our Tar Heels. As you used to sing as a cheerleader "I'm a Tar Heel born and a Tar Heel bred, and the day I die, I'm a Tar Heel dead....so its ra ra Carolina, 'lina..."

Love,

Your Son

21 comments:

Dave Darnold said...

Very poignant. I’m sorry for your loss, but glad you had a long time with him.

Dave Darnold

Jonathan said...

Thanks for sharing these very personal memories and reflections. You and your family are in my prayers.

himmiefan said...

I'm so sorry about your father. My prayers and sympathies to your family.

DErifter said...

I'm so sorry to hear that, Ben. May God grant you peace until you see your dad again.

AG said...

peace to you and your family at this time Ben.

Jason Clark said...

Thank you for sharing your father with us, here. May the Lord be close to you, your mother and family. Praying for you this morning, as I read your blog.

Warmly, Jason Clark

YAPdates said...

Dr Witherington,
My condolences to you and your family during this time of grief. By grace God has given you a wonderful father, and by grace, God leads him home.

"T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far...
and Grace will lead us home."

conrade

Matthew D. Montonini said...

Ben,

Thanks for sharing your memories of your father.

You and yours will be in my thoughts and prayers.

Marc Axelrod said...

I'm sorry to hear about your father's passing. I think your eulogy was beautiful and I am asking for God's compassion and comfort to cover you and your family from henceforth.

I'm also grateful that someday, you will be together again in heaven.

It's a surreal experience. In a sense, you walk with a limp for a long time. I'll keep you and your family in my prayers

When I dream about my dad, it comforts me and I consider it a gift from God. I pray the same gifts upon you.

Marc

Allan R. Bevere said...

Ben:

Our prayers are with you and your family.

I still remember many years ago when I was a student at Duke and attending the WNC Annual Conference, you invited Carol and me to hear you preach at a church in Charlotte. Following worship we went to your parents' house for Sunday dinner, where they exhibited that gracious southern hospitality.

The memory of that day has remained with me over these years.

May God comfort you in these times.

ed said...

Dr. Ben It is difficult to loose your father even when you know you will be reunited again on that day. My dad died 11 years ago and there are still times I want to talk with him. You and your entire family are in my prayers.

Zuriel said...

Ben, your tribute and memories of your dad brought tears to my eyes. As someone who lost their dad a few years ago (and it seems like only yesterday still), I am so glad that you were blessed by a close relationship with him, and that you shared so much with him. God bless you, brother, praying that God's vast peace and comfort is with you now. - Jennifer

Pleonic said...

I am sorry you've been parted from your father for a space but glad he is with his glorious Lord in Heaven. May God give you peace until you meet again.

Dizma said...

My condolences. May the Lord bless you an keep you during these days of sorrow.

Michael F. Bird said...

Dear Ben,

My deepest condolences on the passing of your father. You wrote a very moving letter and I am sure that he is proud.
Blessings in your time of grief.

Corpus Christi Outreach Ministries said...

So sorry to hear of your dads home going. My prayers are with you and your family. I just stopped by to share a little recent stuff. I also appreciate your willingness to open your forum for guys like myself [the little guy!] felt this post was some what of a recognition of theologians like yourself. (953)Yesterday I managed to catch a few TV shows that were good. National geographic did a special called ‘the first Christians’. It was excellent. They covered more historic truth in one hour than you would get from years of sermons. They basically taught the New Testament word for ‘church’ [Ecclesia] and showed how because the early Christians did not believe the ‘church’ was a building, that therefore they spread rapidly without lots of money. They then covered the historic development of the ‘church building’ and the effect this had on them. They also got into the ‘end times’ scenarios that are played out over and over again by today’s prophecy teachers. They interviewed true theologians who put Johns Revelation in historical context. Just an excellent job overall. I also caught the show ‘Journey Home’ on E.W.T.N. [the Catholic channel]. I do like the show, it often gives good historical stuff. Last night they were a little ‘too Catholic’ [I know, what should I expect]. They had a good brother on who left ‘non-denominational Christianity’ and became Catholic. Now, most of these brothers are very intelligent believers who make this choice out of sincerity. They usually study the early church fathers and realize the ‘Catholic tone’ of these early believers. I simply felt the brother who spoke last night was a little too critical of his former church experience [Willow Creek]. I then caught Scott Hahn [an excellent Catholic scholar and apologist], he always has stuff that interests me. He brought up an argument I have heard before on how the early church saw the ‘real presence of Christ’ as being in the Eucharist. Others have made this argument before from the Catholic perspective of Jesus being with us, as opposed to the detractors arguments that he misled the early followers to think that he would soon return and set up a literal earthly kingdom. I have heard and do understand this reasoning. In essence it defends Jesus and his followers by saying ‘Jesus didn’t let down the early church by not returning and ‘being with them’ he was with them all along thru the Eucharist’ good intentions. I would prefer to argue the same point thru the fulfilling of the Fathers promise and the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. Jesus says in John’s gospel ‘I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you’ it is understood by most theologians [Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant] that Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit. Jesus actually refers to the Spirit as ‘One just like unto myself’. The new testament very Cleary speaks of the Holy Spirit as Gods presence tabernacling among us in a real way. So in my thinking I would prefer to argue the real presence of Christ as being among the early believers as fulfilled thru the Comforter. Overall it was a good night of viewing some good teachers. I also couldn't help but notice how I have been skipping over the ‘more popular’ preaching shows of the day. I did click on one of the prophecy guys, he was defending ‘the rapture’ and I couldn’t help but notice the difference between the good theological discussions from the earlier shows, and the ‘silliness’ of what this brother was teaching. I don’t want to demean you if you hold to the rapture theory, it was just such an obvious ‘step down’ from the level of theologian to the level of popular prophecy preaching. In our current study of Corinthians we just went thru the verse ‘though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you have only one father’ [Paul referring to himself]. I couldn’t help but get this sense of the modern seen. You could flip thru all the religious broadcasting of our day and get every possible conceivable viewpoint on some subject, ten thousand of them! But there is a consistent voice of truth and wisdom that comes to us from both scripture and church history/tradition. I think we would be better off sticking with ‘the father[s]’.

kangaroodort said...

What a long and fulfilling life your father lived. You are truly blessed to know that he is with the Lord. Reading your memories of your father reminds me of the importance of every second I share with my daughter. May God continue to grant peace and comfort to your family during this time.

God Bless,
Ben

Kevin Schriver said...

So sorry to hear of your dad's death. After reading this and the eulogy, one can sense the appreciation, respect and bond of love you had with him.
My wife had her mother pass away recently (Oct. 26) and grief is never easy, but she too was a servant of the Lord. I did something after she passed from this world, I Googled that day in history and found out that when Oct. 26 falls on a Sunday, and it did this year, that's Mother-In-Law's Day. I know I'll have that day memorialized for the sake of her and my wife.
Who knows what you will find that may interest you, but it may also provide some comfort. God works in mysterious ways as they say. My sympathies are with you and may God bring you His Love in the next days and weeks to come. Blessings and grace to you and your family.

Anglopressy said...

Peace be with you.

Brian said...

I'm sorry for your loss Ben.

Blessings to you and yours.

lsm said...

I am so sorry for your loss and for your mother's and sister's as well. One of the sorrows of my surgery was that I was unable to come to this funeral. I love your mother and miss your father as well. As a loyal Tar Heel in the midst of Duke fans, your father was steadfast and true to UNC and its sports teams. Don and I loved him all the more for that. And Don told me about the music at the funeral. Ben, Sr. would have loved it and so would I. I'm sure he was smiling in Heaven to hear it. My best to you and your family.