This is one of several letters Phil is sending to his grown children to help them know about their grandfather, called Daddy Al. You can find a link at the bottom of the page to take you to a list of all the other articles associated with this subject.
Dear Zachary and Megan,
Well, I'm not sure how much you are getting out of these letters talking about your grandfather's values, but they've been a blessing to me to write. Daddy Al passed away over twenty-seven years ago. It's hard for me to believe he's been gone that long as some of these memories seem like yesterday.
I can still remember sitting around the family kitchen table — the very same one we have in our kitchen today — and talking with Daddy Al. I was about to start my senior year in high school. Daddy Al's illness was really taking him down in a hurry. He had just come back from the asthma research center at National Jewish Hospital in Colorado. The prognosis wasn't good. However, we sat there talking about my plans to go to college and what would happen if Daddy Al lost his job.
Little did we know how hard a year it would be. The very fact that MiMi survived was an incredible testimony to her faith and strength. Daddy Al was in ICU over and over again that year. His hospital was a teaching hospital in Dallas associated with Southwest Medical School — it wasn't Parkland, but a place that was later made into a prison. It was in a very rough part of town and at night we had to pass by prostitutes and drug dealers on the streets nearby to the hospital if we were going to see Daddy Al. It was a tough, tough time for all of us.
But as Daddy Al and I sat there at the kitchen table, just a few months before all these difficulties set in, he was reassuring me that my plans for college would work out. "I've served the Lord for more than twenty years and he's never let me down. He's not going to abandon us now. Keep your head up and trust the Lord's going to go with us no matter what happens."
I remember three things from that moment as if it were yesterday — yes, even though I didn't know I would be a preacher then, I still remembered things in threes way back then. First, I remember Daddy Al's unshakeable faith. Second, I remember that he didn't assume that he would be healed; he trusted that the Lord would go with us wherever the path ahead took us. Third, he told me to keep my head up.
Daddy Al hated what he called "the hang dog" look. What he meant by that was the defeated-shuffling-along-with-your-head-down-defeated-look. He had all sorts of ways of confronting us about this look:
"Get your head up, son, you're a Ware and a Ware doesn't quit when things are tough.""Hold your head up high, Phil, the Lord thinks a whole lot more of you than you probably are thinking about yourself right now."
"Get that head up! No son of mine is going to go around disrespecting himself that way."
At the time, I thought he was just riding me too hard over something not very important. Of course Daddy Al knew some things that I didn't. He knew that we are often treated by others the way we present ourselves to them. He knew that we were precious enough for Jesus to die for us, so we shouldn't think of ourselves so poorly. He knew our attitude is often dictated as much by how we carry ourselves as it is by our circumstances. He knew our resiliency and determination are often revealed when we refuse to surrender to tough circumstances and keep our heads up and keep on the path.
As I look back, this saying means much more to me now than it did many years ago. It's not about pride or arrogance, it's about having a spirit that says, "I won't quit. The Lord didn't quit on me and I'm not going to quit on Him."
As our family journeyed with Daddy Al's illness through the "suburbs of hell," we were broken, battered, discouraged, hurt, angry, and grief-stricken. But, the Lord was there with us on the path, and because we walked with Him, and He with us, we held our heads high in hope, trusting that there were better days ahead. There have been, and we're still on this side of glory.
I wish I could promise you that there will not be hard days in your future — days that try your soul and wither your heart. You know I can't promise you that. Disappointments and difficulties will come. However, your Daddy Al was right: the Lord won't desert you. You are more precious to Him than you can imagine. So don't walk around with a "hang dog" look in tough times. Keep your head up, trust in the Lord, and keep on walking forward.
It's not so hard to follow the Lord when you are "soaring on wings like the eagles." It's not even all that hard when you can "run and not grow weary." The real test comes, however, to see if you can keep on walking — with your head held high — and not faint, in the face of trial, disappointment, and disaster. But I'm confident you can keep walking, with your head up, because we are a family of faith. We trust we are worth more than we know to Jesus and we build our lives on the promise that He will never leave us or forsake us.
I wish you could know how much I love you both and how proud I am to be your father. So hold your head up and trust that your future is in the hands of the Lord.