My Dad went to heaven today. He has been my compass to navigate life with. I always turned to him first for advice and, I suppose, I always thought he’d be available when I needed him. Apparently Jesus needed him in Heaven a little more.
He was only 77.
James Newby Butterworth was born in 1943 in Marietta, Georgia. He grew up in a loving family, had an older brother that he admired greatly, and lived life to the fullest. He will be remembered for being a Renaissance Man and every bit a “throwback” to a time when right was just right and wrong wasn’t debated but simply known to be wrong. In many ways, he couldn’t understand American Society in 2020.
Most people will remember him wearing a suit. A good suit was his shield and sword. You would rarely see him without his shirt tucked in. He had short pants but they were for the beach. He worked out in khakis. He was a true believer of the saying “When you work, work hard but when you play, play hard, too”.
If I ever wanted to brag about my family (which I do a lot), he was my go to. He always responded with the meaningful and kind comments you’d expect from a proud Daddy and grandfather.
It wasn’t unusual for Dad to take off, at a moments notice, with his wife Rhonda, for a long weekend at the beach. They would eagerly go to a South Carolina shag dance beach club called Fat Harold’s. He wore t-shirts from Fat Harold’s proudly.
If you needed a recommendation on a good book, he’d have one. He preferred paperback. I bought him a kindle but he still liked paper, he said. Music choices? Vast but never complicated. Cars? Yes, he has quite a few, from his precious 1951 Chevy pickup, a 1960 Willy’s Overland Wagon, to a hot rod Chevy Deluxe, just to name a few. He preferred his old Woody station wagon, though. It has stickers from Fat Harold’s on the back. He claimed the car has a corvette engine in it. He definitely drove it like it did.
He always mailed a card on my birthday. His Momma taught him to do that and he would never have wanted to disappoint her.
At Christmas time he bought dozens of caramel cakes from Cecilia’s Bakery in Athens. He’d stack them three deep on layers of styrofoam in the back of the station wagon. He’d then drive all over north Georgia making deliveries. He loved doing it.
He and I talked a lot. Daily via text and on the phone as much as we could. We both stayed busier than we should have but we would regularly take an intentional time out for lunch or maybe a quick 9 holes of golf. He preferred 9 holes. 18 just took too long, he said.
He put a pool in behind his house many years ago. Occasionally he liked to skinny dip in it and advised me that I should always call before I just showed up. He told the story of one particular dip in the pool when, in the midst of swimming a few laps, his lawn keeper showed up. He finished his laps, climbed out of the pool in his birthday suit, and waved at the lawn guy as he cruised back into the house. He laughed about that story a lot.
My Dad was a fairly private person. He kept his heart challenges to a limited few for over a year. The issue with his heart was a thing called “”Afib”. You can google it. He knew everything a person could know about it, but he didn’t want to talk about it. It happened occasionally and he had come to know what to do to correct it. Except this time, I suppose. It truly frustrated him that it would occur. He had a lot of people to see and too many things to do. He just didn’t have time for an irregular heartbeat.
In my Dad’s passing, my family, and this world, has lost a Lion. He was fair but opinionated. He was impartial but educated. When you disagreed with him you always came away wondering why you had chosen the wrong side. He was what this world needed and, as cliche as it sounds, this world is worse off without him.
The one thing that Dad came to love and protect more than anything was family. He and my Mom divorced many years ago. My parents didn’t talk much in his latter years but he’d ask me about my Mom every now and then. I know he still loved her, in spite of what happened between them. My Dad couldn’t “unlove” anyone. It just wasn’t in his chemistry. As my Mom said yesterday, “we spent a lot of life together and we raised two amazing kids.” Yes ma’am, I agree.
Family was critically important to my Dad. He loved his grandchildren immensely and never missed an opportunity to make an impact on their lives or give them a word of advice. We will all miss that advice dearly.
So, like many others have said, love on your family. You don’t know when a goodbye will be the last. I’ve read and heard those words many times before but they now mean so much more to me today. I’ve turned around more than once in the last few days, expecting my Dad to be standing beside me, asking me, “How you doin’ Ol Boy?” I wasn’t ready for this, but my Dad was. As I told someone else- he didn’t want to go, but he was always ready, just in case.
To that end- I don’t question God’s timing. It’s always perfect. I know Dad is teaching some dance lessons in heaven and Jesus also has a really good Judge, Advocate and Mediator, just in case he needs some backup.
I love you, Dad. We’ll miss you. Every day. And by the way, we’ll be at the beach this summer. I think we’ll stay two weeks this year, just like we’ve talked about doing for way too long. I have a lot of wonderful memories I need to help create, just like you did. Love you. I miss you already. A lot.