Twenty five years ago today we lost our dad due to complications following surgery.
It was sudden, unexpected and an earth shattering event for our family.
Who was this man who's death would leave such a chasm for family and friends?
He was a strong man, a tall man with large hands; he loved the outdoors and seeing things grow; he loved building things with his own hands; he had the most amazing deep-set blue eyes; he was a friend, counselor, encourager, and pastor to many.
He was forever a student who read ferociously and retained most of what he read.
He was serious and somewhat of an introverted man who preferred being alone rather than in large groups although he never met a stranger.
He had a great sense of humor and loved to laugh.
To me and my sisters he was Daddy.
To our mother he was Porter.
He was Poppa to his seven grandchildren.
To his brother he was Dick and to his children, Uncle Dick.
To many he was Preacher.
He was Bro. Lazenby to those who either didn't know him very well or used it out of respect.
But who was this beloved man really?
"He was a complex man and highly intelligent who thought deeply about life. The world he left behind is a much better place for his having been there."
After his death, my youngest sister, Sarah complied a book of collected memories about what Daddy meant to people who had known him, from all walks of life.
These are bits and pieces from that book.
Three of his grandsons wrote the following:
"William Porter Lazenby, my Poppa, was the greatest, smartest, and most generous man I have ever known. He was everything good rolled up into one great man. I have many fond memories of him." (Doug)
"Poppa was one of my best friends. When we spent time together, the world stopped for a moment to see the joy this wonderful man brought into my life. I love him with all my heart. He was 100% love." (Chris)
"Poppa was a great man. He was always kind to animals and nature. He never disliked anybody. He loved to build things. Poppa was a perfect role model for anybody. I miss him and love him very much." (Ben)
My son called him "the wise gentle giant!"
One of his best friends titled his "memory" this way:
"A Gingerly Generous Giant"
He went on to explain it like this:
"Gingerly? Yes, he was gentle, cautious, careful and delicate in his dealings with others. Generous? Yes, in spiritual things, in material blessings and in spirit. A Giant? Certainly he was that in his undying devotion to God, to his family, to his friends and to all mankind. He was a kind, loving and compassionate person and we're glad that we were counted among his circle of friends."
The following are just simply words that people used to describe him.
"The wisest and kindest man I know!"
"He always had words of comfort and encouragement when I needed it."
"Porter was an encourager. He saw life in beauty and felt other people should to, so he encouraged us to so live."
"He would always tell me how I had a pretty smile, but to me it was his smile that was pretty. His eyes would light up when he smiled. I can still hear him say, "Come sit girl and let's visit."
My own memories of Daddy were summarized in a "Thank You Daddy" letter that I had given him for Father's Day back in 1986.
The final line went like this:
"...for giving to us all the greatest gift one person can give another - an example of God's love."
To us girls he was the best Daddy anyone could have had. He was the model of Daddy to our friends. He was the model for the man we hoped to marry one day. He passed on his great love for people to us. His love of nature and for animals. He exhibited unconditional love and acceptance not only to us but to everyone with whom he came in contact. He showed us Jesus every day of our lives.
Perhaps the most comprehensive and most sincere and inciteful look at who Daddy truly was, was from our Mother. They had just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary a month before his death.
Theirs is the most beautiful love story that lasted until Mother's death in 2005. Yet, it lives on in each of us who knew and loved them and were touched by them.
"Porter, a man! Gentle, loving, kind patient, unselfish and yet so strong, uncompromising in his convictions, always hopeful. Committed first to God, then to us. How else could it have been the supreme life?"
"Porter, a teacher! Not only was he my pastor for 50 years and a teacher in spiritual matters but he taught me many things: to see beauty and appreciate it in everything around us....very few days passed in those 50 years that he did not bring me a flower or maybe a pretty leaf and would say, 'this says I love you!''
"Porter, ever hopeful! Hope was a vital quality in Porter's life. There was always that assurance that God was in control and would supply all we needed.
"Porter, the romantic! Yes, the lover, the poet, the dreamer. What a three month courtship that was! I have kept and will pass on the love letters from that time and it is only as you read them that you will know that part of this man.
"Porter the father and grandfather! Oh how proud he was of his three girls. He was interested in every phase of their lives. He was never too busy to listen or counsel or to encourage. He saw each son-in-law as the special 'chosen ones'.
"The crowning glory for him were his grandchildren. Oh how he loved and cherished his 'grands' and sought to develop the character traits he saw in each one.
"WHAT A MAN!"
Yes, what a man, what a Daddy, Grandfather, and friend he was. I want to believe that he continues to live on through those he left behind.