I came home for a weekend pass from my military base. I found out that my had passed away. My sister, Jean explained that she talked to the County Sheriff's Office. Evidently the pot-belled stove that Dad used to heat the old house got too hot and blew up, causing a fire in the front room. His bedroom door was about ten feet from the stove. When the stove blew it woke Dad. He must have immediately jumped up and tried to run to the back kitchen door to escape the searing heat. He would have had to pass by the stove from his room to get to the kitchen. The Sheriff's Deputy told Jean that flaming coals were probably strewn through the living room with billowing smoke clogging viscosity to the kitchen. The back door was the only way Dad had to exit the house, since the front door was sealed off due to the cold winter. Smoke overtook him as he dropped to the kitchen floor and died of asphyxiation. Parts of his body received second-degree burns.
Monday evening, I attended Dad's viewing at the funeral home on North High Street in Columbus, Ohio. I approached the coffin squeamishly and looked at Dad's stiff body. Nervous anxiety jolted me. I turned my attention toward the surroundings. I touched and examined the materials of the casket.
“Crepe,” I said to myself. “I think this is called crepe.” I embarrassed myself. “What a coward I am,” I thought. “I've got to face this thing head on.”
I stopped my examination and looked directly on Dad's lifeless body. Dad looked out of place lying in such sacred trappings. His character was loud, crusty and rugged. Now he was quiet and still. This was probably the first time he ever wore a new suit-tie and all. Dad's lips were pursed, I assumed due to not having false teeth in his mouth. They probably were not able to find his teeth since he only wore them on special occasions. Maybe they burned in the house fire. What a pity-Dad missed the perfect occasion to wear his false teeth. What really stuck me as odd was Dad's skin-his hands and face had a strange, sooty color.
I sensed the presence of the undertaker standing off to my right hand side. He seemed angry to speak to me, but, not wanting to disturb my time with Dad, waited patiently. When I acknowledged him with a glance, he approached. He noticed my perplexed look.
“Mr. Jackson, we're usually sorry.”
“As you can see, your father appears to be a little, how should I say it, soiled.”
“Yes, I was kind of wondering about that.”
“Well, we apologize but we were unable to clean your father up any better than this. His skin had such deep crevices and some burns. The smoke and soot from the fire was embedded deep into his skin. could. ”
“That's interesting.” I said. “I remember looking at those hands when I was a child. He was a mechanic you know, among other things. off those callused hands. ”
“Mr. Jackson, I'll excuse myself now and allow you some time with your father.”
“Spend some time with my father,” I thought. “Would not that have been nice?”
I reached out and touched his cold hand-sort of a substitute for shaking hands one last time. Not wanting anyone to hear me, I whispered to him: “You know Dad, Jean and Mom told me last night that you became a Christian not too long ago, maybe a year or so. eleventh hour. I'm not quite sure, but I guess that means that you changed your ways just in the nick of time before before you died. judging from your sooty appearance and the burns it looks as if you just barely escaped the flames of Hell. ” I chuckled a little. I think he would have too.