a good, good man

My father-in-law, Lynn Collins — the best man I’ve ever known — has come to the last stage of his life. He won’t be with us much longer. He’s a small-town boy from Columbiana, Alabama who fought for his country in World War II and then worked in the auto parts business for many years. Until age shrank him he was a big, strong man; and all his life he has been kind and gentle and loving.

When my wife Teri was a little girl, she and her mother spent a few weeks in Florida caring for her maternal grandmother, who had had a heart attack. Her dad stayed behind in Birmingham, but wrote letters. In one of those letters he said, “We’re not very far apart. The same moon that shines on you shines on me.” And after reading those words Teri went outside and looked at the moon and thought about her father, who loved her so much.

Years later she asked her dad where he had gotten that idea. He replied that those were the words his mother had written to him when he was a soldier in France, and he had always remembered them.

Last night Teri was helping her dad get ready for bed — he needs a lot of help, these days — and she said, “Daddy, do you know how much I love you?” He hesitated a moment and said, “No.” And she said, “I love you as deep as the ocean and as wide as the sky.” He smiled.

Then she said, “Do you know why I said that?” He shook his head. “That’s what you used to tell me when I was a little girl.” He smiled again, and said, “Teri, I haven’t thought about that for a long time.” He kept smiling.