To our website visitors – normally I wouldn’t use this platform for something so personal, but today i wanted to share a little bit about the best man I’ve known – my Dad. I wrote a piece about his gardening life a few months back that you can read here.
I was awakened today, Thursday, May 24, 2018, with a very sad call from my mother. Dad, age 79, passed at 5:55 am this morning, in the nursing home. He always was an early riser. While not a total surprise, we didn’t expect it this soon. But when does one expect death? He suffered from Lewy Body Dementia, Torticollis and recently a small mass was found on an adrenal gland, the extent of which was unknown due to his advancing dementia and weakened body. Here is a short memory I’d like to share today as part of my processing and healing experience. Thank you for sharing in my grief journey. ~ jayne
W J D
Willard Jay Downing.
W J D. My dad. He always went by Jay Downing. Except for his woodworking projects, those he signed “Willard”. He referred to those as Willard Originals. There are a number of Willard Originals among the family now. Until a few years ago, I had a small end table in my home, that he’d built during high school. WOs were built to last, as only Jay Downing knew how to build things, solid, sturdy with excellent craftsmanship.
But honestly, our memories of Dad are the real pieces we treasure. He lived his life, like his projects. He was solid, sturdy and of excellent reputation, deep integrity. All who knew him, knew he said what he meant, and meant what he said. And he only said it once, so don’t ask. Just stay out of his way when he was working. He had zero patience for anyone slowing his pace. His work spoke of his character. Done right. Done to last. Done with excellence. The key word being Done. He never left anything undone.
J E D
In 1983, I graduated from Oak Hills Bible College with a two-year certificate in Biblical Studies. A couple of weeks later, I went off to Beauty School – Cosmetology if you want the formal term, driving a classic olive green Chevy Impala. He’d picked up this large “Mrs. Aster” car inexpensively, then applied TLC to it inside and out so I’d have a vehicle, a tank really, to get me around, now that I was a big kid.
First day of Cosmetology School we were given a kit of equipment that we’d be using throughout our training. Nearly everything was packed tightly in a
black case, stuffed full. Hair brushes, combs, hair cutting cape, clamps, a bunch of hair setting rollers in three sizes and permanent wave rods. Hundreds of perm rods. Five or six sizes, several dozen of each size. We were told to go home and mark everything in the kit with our name or initials. With three classes of students, 25 or 30 students per class, if you wanted to get through the 11 months of training with your equipment, you’d better mark it.
How does one mark hundreds of small plastic pieces in a way that won’t wear off, wash off with chemicals or in the sanitizer? My dad took the whole case, down to his work desk. He spent several hours meticulously “engraving” my initials, J E D, with the tip of his soldiering iron, on every single piece. Every perm rod, the snap bead end (Do you know how small those are?), every roller, every hairbrush handle, everything. Even the extra organizer boxes they’d given to us to store clippies, bobby pins, combs and small items. IF he could melt J E D into it, he did. I took my case in to school the next day, confident I would be the only one that would graduation with my stuff.
True to Dad’s character …
Done right. Once I saw one of my brushes on another person’s workstation at school. I asked, “Is that your brush?” “Yes, it’s mine.” “Then why does it have my initials on the handle?”
Done to last. I had those perm rods, and some other pieces of the kit in my possession until a couple of years ago when I had to downsize my life. The rod elastic bands were rotting and I had long given up doing home hairdressing other than haircuts. What I had left still had my initials on them.
Done with excellence. His daughter was going to come out of this beauty school thing with all her stuff. Cuz once you pay for something, you take care of it, use it properly, store is securely and use it for a long time to come.
Last week, we were getting dad settled into The Gardens at Cannon Falls nursing home. Friday, May 18. He’d just been released from a three-day hospital stay. Mom had sent some clothes and socks for him. One must have plenty of socks. The nursing staff asked we mark them with his initials. Handed permanent markers, I got to work. I suddenly saw myself writing W J D on his socks. Just like the perm rods and rollers and hair brushes of so long ago. I marked his shirts, pants, belt, pillowcases, socks, everything but what he was wearing at that moment.
Dad, I’ve learned from the best. I will always work with integrity. I want to bring honor to your legacy.
Done right. Done to last. Done with excellence. Never left undone.
WJD – Willard Jay Downing.
WWJD stands for What Would Jesus Do
They are not so different.
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.” Psalm 103: 17 – 18