A personal tribute from a daughter about her selfless father, a man of unwavering faith who cared deeply for his family and ingrained a ministry of caring for others in his children.
I grew up in Triangle, VA, with my two sisters, Emily and Olivia, and my brother, Gregory. Every night we would have dinner as a family. Afterward, my father would read the Bible. To motivate us to listen he’d put pudding cups, yogurts and sometimes even money in the middle of the table. If you answer the questions right, you win. Out of all my memories, my most precious memory of my childhood is when my father would get up early in the morning and walk around the house and praying. One by one we’d wake up and trickle into the living room. I’d find him kneeling there, and I’d kneel beside him. By the time he was done praying the whole family would have made their way into the living room and be on their knees.
My parents made us volunteer at homeless shelters, food banks, and nursing homes. They had a heart for people and made sure that we did too. My father was always bringing strangers home he had met on the street to live with us. It became second nature for my siblings and me to dig into own closet and find clothes for them to wear. Sometimes we would even give up our beds. We celebrated birthdays, weddings, and mourned losses together. My father would employ the men and teach them his trade. While my mother would drive others around town and help them find stable jobs and file paperwork. Those two were truly a dynamic duo. I cannot count how many people have come to our house, but I thank God for all of them.
At one point our house became too small, so my father built an addition doubling our house size. The community kids would call the house mini-mansion. Our dining room was massive. We had one table that fit 20 people and another table that fit six. During the holidays, my father would invite everyone that he knew who didn’t have families over and mom would cook. Both tables would be filled with additional chairs added. It was a sight to behold.
The thing I loved most about my father is that through all of this he never forgot about his children. He was still at our football games, basketball games, he would come to the track and help us train for meets. The official unofficial coach. Anything and everything we wanted to do, my parents were always right there.
About My Challenges and Dreams
Growing up, I was considered illiterate and took special education classes until the seventh grade. I was bullied and beat up by my classmates. My father, “God bless him” would sit at the kitchen table with me until my homework was complete. There were nights I’d be in tears crying over my papers, but my father never gave up on me. I remember the times were I felt meaningless and wanted to take my life but, “God loves me and Daddy loves.” I promise those words have saved my life many times.
Growing up I was a shy child. Being with my father and helping people gave me confidence but when I was alone, I’d lock myself in my room. In my safe place, I began to talk to God and write.
I could not read what I was writing, but I filled journals. Soon I started having dreams and ideas. I found myself dismantling my electric toys and playing with their engines and batteries. I’d dismantle cereal boxes and design playgrounds and pools with the material. The most lavished thing I ever made was a two-story house completed with a bathroom, living room, dining room, a winding staircase, and an upstairs bedroom all by hand. In the corner of my room doing math equation on a whiteboard became my thing. My teachers would get so upset. I’d never write out my equation because I did the math in my head. Seventh grade marked the end of special education for me, but it also marked the beginning of advanced mathematics.
In middle school, I decided I was going to become an engineer. I went to my guidance counselor and researched all of the schools in the nearby cities, and decided to attend Woodbridge Senior High because of their engineering program. From there, I went to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and studied Civil Engineering.
My father was also an engineer, and he and I would bounce ideas and concepts off of each other. We had developed a filtration system that I was pushing my university to sponsor. We wanted to implement it in Tanzania.
In 2014, my father passed. I remember on the day of my father’s wake there was a snowstorm and almost everybody he helped came back, and if they couldn’t come they called. My siblings and I just stared at all of the faces my father had touched; we were overwhelmed. They were coming in waves; had they all came at the same time it would have filled the church three times over. After my father’s passing, I could no longer stomach an engineering class. Neither could my mother afford it for we had lost our house and the money sharks were after us.
Film and Photography
One day while my mother was cleaning up the rest of my father’s things, she gifted me all 11 of my father’s cameras. I prayed and asked God to teach me about them. I rented books from the library, watched online seminars, YouTube videos, and at the time Harvard had put their entire digital media course on Alison.com, and I studied until my body shut down. Then two days later I would be right back at it. During this time my mother was very concerned because she could not understand how I could stay locked in a room for so long. Until one night during a snowstorm, I came to her and said, “I have an idea, and I need your help.” In her PJ’s she grabbed her coat and snow boots, and we ventured out into the cold. I set up my camera, posed on a light pole, and she took my picture. This photo describes everything we had been through, a frozen hell surrounded by waves of grief and tragedy. Whenever I look at this picture, I see the storm, but I also see my father’s Queen my mother weathering the season it with me.
A year in a half later my older sister Emily took her inheritance and paid off my old University bills so that I could attend Liberty University. The University blessed with nine scholarships and grants. When I first came to Liberty I did not like it, I tried doing engineering again and ended up with a 1.4 GPA. For the first time in my life, I was placed on academic probation. In my ear, I kept hearing in my ear “film, photography.” So I made a wager with God. “God I’ve worked my whole life to be an engineer, I will try cinematic arts for one semester and if I make straight A’s this is where I’m supposed to be.” I switched my major to cinematic arts the following semester and made straight A’s. I fell in love with the staff, the students, and the environment. They have truly enriched my life. Since attending Liberty, I have worked on seven short films, one actively running commercial and one feature film.
Even though my father’s death was tragic, it incubated something inside of me and gave birth to a gift I never knew I had. So with this gift, I would like to open a production studio that embodies both filmmaking and commercial photography. If companies can do it all in one place, why not…! But most importantly I want my work and work atmosphere to be a medium to win souls. To give hope and provoke a curiosity that would lead someone to a life-changing conversation about Jesus. Like father like daughter. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.
My Last word to my Father: It is an honor to be your daughter in every way. Even though you will not be able to walk me down the aisle, I am so grateful that God chose you to be my Daddy. I am also thankful that he gave me your eyebrows. I love the fact that I carry a piece of you everywhere I go.