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Tribute to my father

Life Tributes

Sunday, September 23, 2012    

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President of the Press Association of Jamaica and Gleaner Managing Editor Jenni Campbell recently lost her father. Campbell's grief moved her to pen this tribute which was read at the Thanskgiving Service by colleague Erica Virtue.

MY father was by no means an angel. He was far from that, but he was closer to perfection than most ordinary men.

He had an understanding of life that befuddled most of us. He possessed a joy and contentment that was equally unexplained. He was a simple man who chose to live a life devoid of material trappings and made himself a servant to his God, his church and his community. As the psalmist says: "Light is shed upon the righteous and joy on the upright in heart."

You could hear his laughter before you see him and still sense its echo long after he had gone.

A tall man, with strong bones, as a young child, I called him Dada, but to nearly everybody else he was Sir Camp. I guessed they saw royalty in him, in his upright carriage and his peaceful and caring manner. He was the visitor to those who were sick or imprisoned, the mourner at the house of those who mourned, and the dependable brother who turned up at every call. During his final days, many from his own church -- Waterloo Seventh-Day Adventist -- and his community -- Lauriston and Tredegar Park -- visited him in hospital. This we truly appreciate. We are specially thankful to President of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church Pastor Everett Brown who spent a lot of time calling to check on him and visiting him in hospital. And I am personally grateful to my own pastor and his dear wife Rev Errol and Mrs Carmen Bolt who took the time to visit and pray with him. It is only when you are in the position to receive visitors at your lowest moment that you fully understand how important just turning up is. My father understood that well.

He gave meaning to Isaiah 55:12 - "You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands."

He had a booming voice that held the base line in songs the choir sung at various functions. He loved to sing and he did not miss an opportunity to travel with the choir to wherever they were slated to perform.

About two months ago, he recited for me a poem he had prepared for a church function. He recited with energy and pride. His eyes brightened with delight as he enjoyed the sentiments of the words. I will never forget how happy he was about that presentation.

I have memories of a childhood where my father would carry us and a large group of our friends from Barbican to downtown Kingston to Grand Market early Christmas morning. We lived for that. I remember him leading devotion in our living room in the evenings after Sabbath, and although we sang the same songs nearly every week Wonderful words of life, Come thou fount of every blessing until we knew the words by heart, we still gathered at his beckoning. He started every prayer with Psalm 139, "You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar". This etched a picture in my mind of being searched by God and He discovering any hidden sin. It forced me to think carefully about my own actions as I grew up.

Between him and Mama we had to attend Sabbath School, were members of the Pathfinder movement, and had to go to Summer Camp at Robin's Bay every year.

Sunday was a good day at our house, the booksellers would come by with car trunks filled with bedtime story books, On Becoming a Woman or Man series, good nutrition manuals and others. I was always assured of a new bedtime story book to add to a growing collection. My father would sit for hours on the verandah and read from a thick heavy book called The Great Controversy by Ellen G Whyte. For a man who lived so simply and without contention, who possessed such a tremendous spirit of peace, I was always taken aback by his intrigue with this Great Controversy.

On other days, he always seemed to have a lot to do, his work bench at the back of the house was the place he produced his greatest treasures: beds, dressers, tables and what-nots. He was the fixer man, old furniture always littered the yard as he was the man people brought damaged goods to for repair. The smell of varnish was a constant around the house and his nails carried the stain of wood he shaped into useful items.

I remember when wooden clogs were in style and a must-have for every little girl, my father decided to build me a pair. I must have been the only little girl with clogs made and varnished by her father. He was proud of those shoes, though the wood he used was too heavy for tiny skinny feet, and though he did not have the tools to give them the fine finish of those purchased in the stores and they made a loud embarrassing clang on the floor when I tried to wear them, drawing more attention than was wanted. Yes, he was proud. I was embarrassed.

Critically, he saw himself as a servant of the Most High. My father was not in the business to make money. In fact, he was more about lending his trade to assist a needy person. He did not care whether or not he was paid. All he wanted was to ensure that he did whatever he could do to help out a brother or sister in need. That was good enough for him. It was in helping others that he found his greatest joy.

This was the thing that made my father and broke him at the same time. I cannot say that he chose a simple, caring way of life, because he did not expect much, or because much was not forthcoming anyway. But, however we choose to look at it, he was content in his choices. I want to especially thank his neighbour Bobette and her family who surrounded him with love and support while he was in Lauriston.

He believed in God and took Him at His word. The story of Christ washing the feet of the disciples had real meaning to him. The story is told: When Jesus had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."

I end with Isaiah 35:10 - "And the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away."

Campbell's Thanksgiving service was held at the Spanish Town Seventh-Day Adventist Church. The interment followed at Meadowrest Memorial Gardens in the parish.

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