Thursday, November 8, 2012


It is astonishing how we associate clothes with a person, especially someone who is dear to us.  All manufactured clothes come from a supplier and are displayed in stores with no attachments to people.  They are there for anyone to purchase.  But after clothes receive an owner, they become personal property and a part of the identity of the person who owns them.  This is so evident when, after the death of people we love, we deal with, in some fashion, the importance of their clothes.  A perfect example of this occurred around the time of my daddy’s death in April of this year. 

A week before Daddy’s death in April of 2012, I was visiting my parents, which I did more frequently since my retirement.  When I visited by myself, I usually arrived in time for breakfast.  For this particular visit, I had left Birmingham very early on a chilly spring morning that required some kind of jacket.  I had recently purchased from Wal-Mart a plaid jacket with a hood, for the ridiculously low sale price of three dollars—quite a bargain!  It served its purpose well that morning, keeping me warm as I left my home before daybreak.

When I arrived at parents’ house, we had our hugs and greetings, and then I took my warm jacket off, and placed it in a chair against the wall next to the piano.  We had a wonderful breakfast as always, and then I helped Mother with the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen.  Daddy returned to his easy chair in the living room.  Eventually, I went into the living room and sat on one end of the couch opposite Daddy.  We did our usual small talk while Mother went to the back part of the house to get ready for a doctor’s appointment in Jasper.  During my conversation with Daddy, I got up from the couch and went to the chair where I had placed my new Wal-Mart jacket.  Bringing the jacket to Daddy’s chair, I proudly showed him my new purchase.

He loved the jacket and could not believe I got it for just three dollars!  He was truly impressed.  Personally, I don’t know if he was more impressed with the jacket, or with the price.  Daddy was always a bargain hunter.  He liked the jacket so much that I offered it to him as a gift.  In true Cecil Kilgore fashion, he told me he did not want to take my jacket.  I explained that I had also purchased another coat at the same time, and didn’t really need two.  He still would not accept the jacket.  Instead, as Mother came into the room, the first thing Daddy said was, “Beat, I want you to go by Wal-Mart and buy me a jacket like Johnny’s!”

Daddy and I had a good day together while Mother was gone, as we talked about different things.  I cherish those talks. I can’t remember all the things we talked about, but it was on that occasion that Daddy shared with me about the bronze foot marker he wanted on his grave.  He shared at length what he wanted the marker to say.  He wanted me to take care of it when he died.  He said the Veterans Administration would furnish the marker at no charge because of his service in the army during World War II.  I wrote down on a small piece of paper what Daddy wanted on the marker. Then I carefully placed the slip of paper into my billfold. I could not have believed that day that it would be very soon that I would be taking that paper out and doing just what Daddy had charged me to do.

When Mother returned that afternoon from Jasper, without a plaid jacket from Wal-Mart, she told Daddy that she did not see any jackets on sale.  I stayed around a little longer that afternoon, so I could also have some time with Mother.  When it was time to leave, I told them that I would plan to be back the following Tuesday.  Before I left, as I said goodbye to Daddy, I said, “ I’m going to leave you the jacket.”  He accepted.  As we said our goodbyes, Mother said, “Don’t forget your jacket.”   Daddy responded, “Johnny is going to leave it here for me.”  As I went out the door, I assured him again that I had purchased another one, and did not need the jacket, and that I would see him next week. 

I returned the following Tuesday to visit my parents, and the jacket was still lying in the chair where I left it the previous week.  We had a good visit that day, but a short one, because I was traveling from Nauvoo to Oneonta, Alabama to begin a singing tour with the Alabama Singing Men.  (I have been a member of this organization, made up of Ministers of Music from Baptist churches throughout the state, since its creation in 1973.) The tour was to begin on that Tuesday in Oneonta, and continue through Thursday, with the final concert being at Central Baptist Church in Decatur, Alabama.  Immediately after that final concert in Decatur, I had a voicemail on my cell phone.  It was from my brother, Ricky, asking me to call him.  There in the parking lot of Central Baptist Church, I returned the call. When I got Ricky, he simply and sadly told me that Daddy had passed away.  Perhaps never before had I had such a feeling of disbelief.

The family was all meeting at Mother’s for the night.  Since I was in Decatur, I went directly to Nauvoo from there without going home to Birmingham.   It was long and sad drive.  Upon arriving at Mother’s, it was evident that she had been surrounded by family, friends and neighbors who were all at the house.

During the next two days, we made the arrangements for Daddy’s funeral, which would be held on the coming Sunday. After everything settled down, and we had time to reflect, I noticed the plaid jacket in the chair where I had left it.  A week after Daddy’s funeral, I took the jacket, as it had become a kind of symbol of those last days with my dad. 

During these chilly fall days, I proudly wear my plaid jacket, purchased from a Wal-Mart sale rack. It still serves as a memory of my father and I wish so much that he was here to wear and enjoy the plaid jacket he had liked so much. Whether it was bought for three dollars or one hundred and three dollars, the jacket is worth more than any amount of money to me now.

During the first month after Daddy’s death, we took all his clothes and stored them in the upper house that Mother and Daddy owned.  A few weeks ago, on Friday, October 26, 2012, Mother and I took them to Main Street Ministries in Double Springs, Alabama, where they can offer them to the less fortunate. I was grateful that Daddy’s clothes went to a good cause. 

Front Entrance to Main Street Ministries
Double Springs, Alabama

Workers at Main Street Ministries
(From left to right)
Dorothy, Jim, and Jewell
Daddy would have been pleased that they are available for the people of Winston County, where he worked for so long.  But giving those clothes away was an emotional and difficult thing to do.  Many of our Kilgore cousins have had to experience those same emotions because all the children of Virge and Sarah Kilgore are now gone.  Everyone grieves differently, yet all things are in common.  Such is the importance we place on our loved ones’ things—especially, their clothes.

Johnny Kilgore

I just heard from Daddy's oldest grandson, Shane Kilgore in response to this posting just a few hours after my initial post.  I thought it would be appropriate to edit the article with Shane's thoughts and a picture he send me.

Hey Johnny I read your blog about the jacket. I loved it I just wanted to share this picture of papas jacket that Mema gave me. I have not even worn it yet I don't want to mess it up it's the only thing I have that belonged to him. I believe it was his army jacket can you confirm that for me. I love him and miss him. 

Shane Kilgore

I wrote Shane back in appreciation and told him that it was a great looking jacket.  Also, told him I wasn't familiar with the jacket because Daddy had so many clothes.


No comments:

Post a Comment