October 16, 2020
Carrie Brown McWhorter pins a flower on her dad’s shirt at her parents’ 50th wedding anniversary celebration in August 2019. (Photo by Anna Bennett)
EDITOR’S NOTE — Our content editor Carrie Brown McWhorter works hard for you each week determining which articles should go when and where. She manages the team of writers and keeps up with all that needs to be covered by TAB. As our production team wrapped last week’s issue of The Alabama Baptist, Carrie and her family were preparing to say goodbye (for now) to her sweet daddy, Gene Autry Brown. He died the next morning, Oct. 10, from complications related to dementia. Her tribute to him touched our hearts. I wanted to share it with you.
My daddy was one of the best — not only a great dad, but a truly devoted and loving husband, son, brother, uncle and neighbor.
I remember Mrs. Alma Bentley, our elderly neighbor, telling me about daddy coming by to tell her I had been born — the first granddaughter in the Brown family in 13 years.
He was so proud, especially that I was a girl, she said. I don’t remember my brothers being born, but I remember sitting around Granny Brown’s kitchen table when daddy came in, whispered in her ear and then told us that we had a baby sister. He was proud of each of us from the day we were born.
How busy those days must have been. On most of them, he was awake by 4 a.m. to head to Atlanta to work. Mom was already up too — cooking breakfast for him and catching up on housework before getting all us kids up and out the door to school, where she was headed as well.
Many afternoons, they barely walked in the door before we were all headed to whatever game the boys were involved in that season.
Another late night, and he and mom were up again the next morning to do it all over. Honestly, I don’t know how they did it, but they rarely missed a ballgame, band show or school event.
Kids, especially at the ballfield, were drawn to him. He knew all their names and always made them laugh. The same was true at church, family gatherings, holiday parties, weddings, funerals or wherever. My dad made everyone feel special with a funny comment, a kind word or simply a smile.
There are stories — so many stories. I wish I could remember them all. But he and his siblings couldn’t tell them without getting so tickled they could hardly finish a sentence.
He taught me a sense of responsibility and love for others, not just in words, but in true practice. One of his greatest frustrations, at least it seemed to me, was doing something for someone who then felt they had to repay him. Giving was supposed to be its own reward, and it bugged him that the other person thought they owed him. He was generous — with his time, his money and his kindness.
The son of a Baptist preacher, sometimes I think he waited so long to profess his faith and join the Church not because he didn’t believe in Jesus but because he saw too many people who talked a good talk but didn’t walk the walk. Walking the walk was what really mattered.
He paraphrased James 1:27 to me more than once: It was our duty to help widows and orphans, he said. And when he waved goodbye to my husband, Owen, and me as we headed to the terminal to fly to Kazakhstan to adopt our son Avery, I wonder if he thought about that verse.
In John 13, as Jesus nears the end of His earthly life, He gives His followers a simple command: “Love one another. … By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”
Loving others unselfishly seemed to come naturally to my dad, though no doubt he often had to work at it — to intentionally choose the loving words or actions even when the other person wasn’t very lovable.
We grieve — Owen, Avery, our daughter Stella and I — along with my mother, siblings and the rest of our family. But we also celebrate a life well lived.
I pray that I am passing down my dad’s legacy of kindness, generosity, responsibility, laughter and love, especially of love, not only to my children but to all those I encounter.
The love of an earthly father who models the love of our heavenly Father is truly a precious gift.