We were honored by a visit from his only brother, his older brother, and his wife and daughter driving to meet with us and hear about his struggle. No one seemed to believe that it was possible that he outlived his little brother. Our visit with this extended part of my family was one of the best visits we have ever shared with them, and as is often the case in these situations, we felt like we became closer while sitting around the living room that afternoon.
On Monday, family, friends, and old-time acquaintances gathered to celebrate my dad's life. It's not the type of gathering that most of us look forward to attending. I, for example, know there is a possibility of a public, emotional display - tears and sobbing. And I was doing well concerning all of that, until...
We prayed and had an appropriate hymn, and then one of the elders of the church asked if anyone would like to say anything. That was mom's request - to ask others to speak. My brother and I only requested that the service be short - nothing long and drawn out - but Mom wanted to take a little time to give people the chance to share their memories and say something nice about my dad. I wouldn't expect readers to watch the Monday's memorial service in the video below, but there were some really beautiful moments in there, and honestly, they were unexpected.
Following the preacher, a secretary and teacher from Mustang High School came to the microphone. Since retiring from almost 50 years as a quality inspector, Dad enjoyed working as a substitute teacher at the high school, especially in the foreign language department. Apparently, he would even wear a beret when subbing in French class. These two ladies told the audience that my dad donated items to the high school when he could find them - goggles to the science department, a golf caddy for the gold team, and other specific items to other classes. The teacher told us that students would request Mr. Hoggatt as their sub. She said that even though they didn't always do what she planned, that she knew they were receiving other lessons. She said it was like their grandpa was subbing. They heard stories about his children and grandchildren, and she figures they learned received the message that he loved them. These students would see my dad at the store and run up to him, excited to see him.
Was there anybody else with something to say? Yes, a couple more.
My daughter had been sitting in the back in case her anxiety overcame her...but the next thing I knew, she was walking, cane in hand. If you know our 2020 story, you know that, some time before C19 struck the entire planet and a few months before her dog died, something called Conversion Disorder struck my daughter. Suddenly, she couldn't walk. She had seizure-like symptoms and an extremely low heart rate. She had numbness in her arms and legs. In short, we thought we were losing her. And here she was, heading up the steps to the podium to talk about her grandpa. That's when I had my burst of emotion. My Little Lady spoke about "Pickle" which is what she called him. She talked about his humility.
Finally, my mother stood and walked to the mic. Without a waver, she related their story - how they met, their short courtship, eloping and not telling their parents until later. She talked about finally telling her parents - how my grandad stormed out of the trailer house and slammed the door, and then about how he returned and sat her down...and proceeded to tell her, "This is how you treat your husband..." Mom told how her own parents adopted Dad as more than just a son-in-law. In fact, her mother's last words were "Poor Don". She ended by changing the words to a song Dad often sang - whether with family on vacations or with the students he saw when substitute teaching - The Poor Old Slave. She appropriately applied new words to the old song in order to personalize it for us all.
The elder then related the facts about dad - somewhat of an obituary, along with some snippets we had sent to him to capture my his personality and quirks. We had kept things light-hearted, and I think people appreciated the things we had to share. He also inserted his own additions to our comments, adding that Dad was without fear when defending Scripture.
Another couple of songs, including Dad's favorite, Home of the Soul, a prayer led by my father-in-law (Dad conducted his wedding a few years ago.), and the family was ready to receive visitors at the front of the auditorium.
Back home, the family shared the meal, provided by the church, and spent the rest of the day together. Hearing everything that I heard on Monday was humbling to a son, but a source of pride at the same time. We loved the man, and it was sweet to hear what others thought of him. To have him recognized as a solid, Christian man, a quiet, yet positive, member of the community, and a happy and satisfied patriarch was refreshing. He lives on in his two sons, who have each found opportunities to preach, as well as in his grandchildren who are finding strength in his legacy.