One of my brothers wrote the obituary:
After 79 years, 50 occupations, 36 houses, and five children, Barnell Stinnett has finally gone to a well-earned rest.
Proud to call himself a jack-of-all-trades, Barnell was in his time a builder, carpenter, real estate agent, fish farmer, roughneck, hardware store owner, house painter, refinery worker, ranch foreman, owner of an oil well tube testing company, rice farmer, and vacuum cleaner salesman, among many other things.
He believed that hard work made a man, and if that is true, then he was much of a man. He is survived . . . by a reputation for honesty and integrity that will keep him in good memory for as long as those who knew him continue to walk this earth.
I spoke at his funeral:
During the nights I sat with Daddy over the past few weeks, when his illness and the pain meds had caused his Alzheimer's symptoms to escalate dramatically, he drifted among topics, but some got replayed more than others. He came back repeatedly to hoping people would remember him as a good person, a person who was fair and honest in his dealings, in his words, a man who "didn't know much but who worked really hard." He wanted his kids to be OK and to do better than he'd done. He was ready to die, but he didn't know if it was OK, if it was the right thing to let go, if he had done enough to help. He didn't want to leave us until he was sure we were OK and that Mother would be taken care of - he hated most of all leaving her.
Micah 6:8 - "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"
When Daddy repeatedly wanted to know whether he had done any good with his life, I found myself hovering around that verse. Did he get some stuff wrong? Absolutely. But when all was said and done, he lived his life by a strong sense of duty and authenticity.
He was my Daddy, and I will miss having him in this world with me. But I have every confidence in where he is. When we talked of his dying, of his leaving us, he liked that he was going to see Aunt Sister and Papa. He would sometimes smile and get a twinkle in his eyes when I would remind him that Jesus was a carpenter too, and I was pretty sure when he got to heaven he'd be given a hammer to help get Mother's mansion ready - this was, after all, just one more move.
Four years later
The incredibly raw and overwhelming grief I felt at his passing has slowly transformed into treasured memories and a deeper understanding of the impact he had on my life. Some were anti-Daddy reactions. I married someone who would definitely never rattle his glass of ice and expect me to get up and refill his sweet tea. I still struggle with working way too hard at gaining approval. But the net gain was overwhelming positive. Because he believed I could do anything if I worked hard enough at it, I grew to be a person with confidence. Because he expected me to be self-reliant, and gave me real things to do as I learned those skills, I developed a strong sense of self-efficacy rather than just an outer layer of self esteem. Because he believed in taking risks, I took them, and my world became large. Because he worked so very hard all his life, I learned to take joy in work, and to respect people of all walks of life who are out there doing their jobs; I internalized that there is dignity in work, there is no such thing as a demeaning job.
I have also come to understand some things about myself that have put a new light on some important aspects of our relationship. I had always believed, and made many decisions based on the idea, that my daddy was capable of stopping loving me if I crossed a certain line. When he was the most unhappy with one of his children, he acted as if the child had ceased to exist, not speaking to them. I watched as he did this in varying degrees to all of us - he and one of my brothers went 14 years without speaking. Just recently I came across the idea that for some people (like me) words and love are so intertwined that when someone stops communicating with us, we assume they have quit loving us. Huge AHA! moment. I saw my daddy through a different lens. Never able to express himself emotionally, his reaction to any negatively charged emotion - fear, hurt, frustration - came out as anger. When the emotion was overwhelming, he shut down completely. Then, besides his stubborn nature, he never knew how to build a bridge back into the relationship from there. If you were brave enough to confront him directly, then the relationship could be restored, but that was hard to do.
I'm not condoning the fear he created in us as children, but understanding him a bit better allows me to see it in a kinder light. And when I look at the whole picture, I am very glad that God chose him to be my Daddy. You may not think there's work in heaven, but I'm pretty sure Daddy has found a hammer.