Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

September 16, 2004

Jack L. Picton, 1927 - 2004

The day after I learned that my step-father, Jack Picton, was dead, I sat down and collected my thoughts about him in writing. It amounted to a portrait of the man, which I eventually read at his memorial service on Saturday. My brother, Brent, suggested I post it to the blog, so here it is:

Jack Lloyd Picton, 1927 ~ 2004

He died in the house in which he was born. That is no mere item of trivia about Jack Lloyd Picton. He was rooted in that place. One could almost say, to know the house is to know him.

In time, people began to call it “Picton’s Palace.” They were just being funny, because it wasn’t really a palace at all. Then again, it was. It was his world. It was the world he worked hard to make, as much as any king, or any billionaire, makes his world.

I think he valued work above all else. For him, work was very nearly life itself. Work made all things possible.

But, as you all know, he also liked good times when the work was done. When he was worn out, he treasured rest. He liked whiskey, cigars, jingling the ice in his glass out on the patio on a starry summer night.

After he retired, he began the hard work of living with emphysema. From this work there was never time off, never rest.

He was a master at cards. On the day he died, he played rummy with his wife after coming home from the hospital, winning his thirteenth straight hand. A baker’s dozen, he called it. Jack always made the most of every hand he was dealt.

He admired gadgets, inventiveness, and street-smarts. Near the end of his life, he manufactured a special bracket for his wheelchair, so that it could carry his oxygen tank. That was Jack all over.

He loved football passionately, and I think I know why. Football requires courage, intelligence, and stamina. Jack was a man of courage, intelligence, and stamina.

He revered his mother. The only time I ever saw him cry was at his mother’s funeral.

He was totally devoted to his wife. Whatever was his, was hers. Right to the end, they spent every moment they could together. They seemed to require each other. It is a cliche, but nevertheless true, that they seemed to complete each other. They were best friends.

He was a giver. One of the reasons he worked hard all his life was so that there would be more to give to the people he loved.

As a boy, you see, he knew poverty. And he hated it. He never romanticized it, as some people do. I think this giving was his way of doing battle with poverty on behalf of others. This was the way he showed his love for them. When I was young I misunderstood this. I thought he was equating love with things. I decided he was “shallow.” But I was the shallow one.

He was “old-school” when it came to emotions. You had to read them in the lines around his eyes, because he seldom spoke them out. Anyone who knew Jack knows that he could at times be gruff, infuriating. Most especially with those he loved. When my mother called to tell me he had died, she said, “He loved you very much, even though you might not think so.”

The Apostle Paul once wrote a prayer for some people he loved. He wrote, I pray that you would be rooted in love, and that you would have the power to grasp how wide and high and deep and long is the love of Christ. Well, we don’t usually grasp that understanding all at once. Little by little we are shown . . . by people. Jack, in his own unique way, was one of those people.

And if I could speak to him now, there is just one thing I would say. There is just one thought I would like to express to him with all my heart. If I could speak to him now, I would simply say, “Thank you.”

By the way, you can read a more particular (and poetic) remembrance of Jack here.


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