Heart Gifts

B.J. Funk

B.J. Funk

By B.J. Funk –

Here’s a Valentine riddle for you. My daddy gave my sister and me the same gift every day of the year. It was never wrapped. What was it?

If you guessed “Love,” you would be only partially correct. Let me explain.

I don’t know my mama’s secret. If I did, I would bottle and sell it. I only know that she must have done a lot right, because my daddy absolutely adored her. You may think the following letter is a bit mushy. You might say my daddy had a gift for gab, and a flair for words. You would be correct on all three counts. Before you read it, however, I need to tell you one thing. He meant every word of it. I know this because he reiterated it by his actions for 62 years of marriage, and for some of that time, I was an on-the-scene observer.

The date was March 23, 1938, the day before their fourth wedding anniversary. He begins, “My Darling Wife, with the arrival of tomorrow marks our fourth anniversary. May I again, as I have told you so many times, tell you of my love for you and of the only genuine happiness I have ever known.

“I know the Supreme Architect in the creation of you, Miss Nellie (his pet name for her), planned with the greatest of care and discretion to make you as near like an angel to reside on His earth as possible. I am sure it must be one of considerable pride and happiness in your mother’s eyes to see such a beautiful creation, coupled with one of such God-like character, as her daughter.

“I am having the florist send you some beautiful roses as, to me, they seem to express such as I have seen and found in you — purity, character, integrity and last, but not least, the greatest of all, Christianity, together with beauty unsurpassed.

“I do hope He will be good enough to this most unworthy person to let me keep you, the greatest of all treasures, many, many years.

“All my love, forever and devotedly yours.”

I cried when I found this letter among Mama’s things after she died at the age of 94. It sounded just like him, all of it except one part, the part about the roses. Though I do believe he would have cut off his arm for her had she needed it, he was not normally a gift-giver. While Mama always made sure their girls had gifts at birthdays and Christmas, Daddy believed in gifts of the heart. We girls were too young to understand “heart giving.” We are not scarred for life, mind you, but it would have been nice to receive a special gift that he chose just for us.

My parents were opposite in temperament and personality. Daddy was vivacious, funny and full of humorous tales that brought a happy flavor to the atmosphere of our home. He also didn’t mind a cuss word every now and then, and at those times, when we objected, he said, “Miss Nellie, you shouldn’t say things like that,” and we laughed once more – Mama too.  Her contribution to our atmosphere was peace and mercy.  Her gentle spirit flavored everything that happened.

I suppose that was part of her secret. While Daddy spoke without thinking, had firm convictions that we dared not question, and possessed a quick temper, Mama sprinkled kindness throughout our home. I’m certain she had to work to attain this skill, but she became Proverbs 15:1, A gentle answer turns away wrath and over the years, she became his crown. Proverbs 12:4 states, A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown.

He didn’t cater to gifts at Christmas. He said often, “Every day is Christmas!” I actually grew to agree with that thought. But, still…

What were those heart gifts? He paid all of our bills. You might not think of that as a gift, but if you climbed into a cold bed and had no heat, you would change your mind. He bought the groceries. Not a gift? If you went to bed hungry, you would change your mind. He also wrapped respect in an invisible bow and handed it daily to Mama.

You have likely solved my Valentine riddle. It is the best gift a father could give his daughters: love and respect for his wife.  Because he did, then we did.  Proverbs 31: 28 followed naturally. Her children arise and call her blessed. Because he did, we did. Our blessed Miss Nellie. I think it fits.

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