Like a Tree

Jill Wiggins and her dad

A guest blog by Jill Wiggins.

When my father passed away in June of this year the pastor of the baptist church where my dad had sung in the choir and served as deacon asked not where men like my dad had gone, but instead how men like my dad were made. 

James Yancey was one of a kind. Raised poor in rural Alabama, my  daddy lost his own father when he was only eight. The oldest of his three siblings, he assumed the role of “man of the house,” by raising chickens for eggs, picking cotton, and even hunting rabbits and squirrels.

Although his life consisted of serving his country in the Army, and a career at Goodyear Tire and Rubber company spanning close to forty years, his proudest achievement was his family. He might have worked at Goodyear, but he worked for us, and though I may be close to fifty, I would unashamedly still call myself “Daddy’s girl.” 

However, the love my dad showed my three children—the oldest of whom has autism was unparalleled. He either drove my kids to school or picked them up everyday. He would typically arrive at my house each morning with a couple extra pieces of bacon and Diet Mtn Dew, and later that afternoon the parking lot of the middle school with a bag of Moon Pies and Gatorades. He loved big with words and deeds, and his three grandchildren were most often the recipient of a Grand-Father’s love.

My mind feasts on metaphor and symbolism. Maybe that is why I teach English. I look for patterns, themes, motifs in literature and in life. I have a friend who calls these “sacred echos”—sounds that reverberate with a holy significance.

I hear the reverberations of words spoken by the pastor of that baptist church about a strong man—an oak, planted by streams of living water. My mind recalls an ancient proverb I read in one of my dad’s books, describing a wise man who plants shade trees under which he knows well he may never sit. And sometimes, those echoes are given a visual representation—an oak stem with three small acorns, shaded with loving care and symbolic significance by a dear friend.

About the author:

Jill lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her husband John and three children. She currently teaches middle school English and her Daddy would want you to know she was selected last year as her district's Teacher of the Year. Her work has been featured on the PCA Women's enCourage website, and she has been featured on the Storytellers Live Podcast.

Amy and Jill's dad came up with the acorn sketch together as a gift for Jill after he passed away. You can find a reel (video) titled "Unfinished Business" about it on Amy's instagram account linked here.

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