On Purpose [a tribute to Roy Lovin]

The sunshine hits me and I’m 19 again. It’s like my mind sorts through a hundred other warm, spring days and I land on this particular one.

I’m sitting on a bench outside of Livingston Hall. The sky is almost a perfect baby blue—the color you’d paint in the nursery of your first-born son. I hug my jacket closer to my chest and feel the cool breeze float up the pant leg of my sweat pants.

“Would you like a sandwich, Mr. Roy? I can make you a Peanut butter sandwich.”

He looks back at me and holds out his hands. They are wrinkled and gnarled from old age and years of working the plough. He wears the same thick, red flannel jacket every day and walks down to the soccer field. He’s the girls’ biggest fan on game days.

I occasionally drive him to the Dollar Store to buy his groceries because I see him walking miles on his own. “I’m all right,” he mumbles. I smile as I pull over to pick him up. “I know you are. I just want to go with you.”

He told me once that he never learned how to read—that his Pop needed him to work the farm as a boy. He would close his eyes and grin—nothing but gums. His head would sway a little bit. “The Lord is always good. Always good.”

He looks as me, the breeze blowing against his wrinkled cheeks. “Sure, a sandwhich’d be good.”

I tell him to wait on the bench. “I’ll be able to see you from my apartment window, Mr. Roy. I’ll be down in a few minutes.” I’m suddenly filled with purpose.

From my second story apartment, I can see him. I meticulously spread the peanut butter and the honey on the bread.

The phone rings. The caller ID says it’s my mother.

“Hello?” I look out the window at the still old man. Tears start to roll down my cheek.

“What’s wrong?” Mom asks me.

“I don’t know what I’m doing Mom. I’m here and I don’t know what I want to do or who I want to be or what I want to study.” I gulp back my tears. “All I want to do is make Mr. Roy a peanut butter sandwich and sit with him in the sun.”

For a moment, there is silence.

“Well, Audrey, then that’s what you do today. You make him a sandwich. And you sit in the sun. And if you wake up tomorrow and you can make him another one, that’s what you do. That’s who you are.”

A car backfires outside my window. I look up, back in Nashville. Twenty-six and looking out at that perfect blue sky. When I see how vast and empty it is, I feel Spring coming. A hundred different days replay in my mind but today, one in particular stands out.

Momma called me a few nights ago and told me that she heard Mr. Roy had passed. And ever since, it’s like I’ve felt the breeze differently—like an old self has come back to remind me of what it was I learned years ago.

Some moments mold us and make us but occur so softly and slowly that we forget they ever happened.

Some days, I struggle to find my purpose. I wonder if I’m contributing very much. I wonder if I’m on the right track. I wonder at the fact that I could still be asking the same questions after eight years.

But I started thinking about how much clarity I used to get sitting next to him—sitting in the sun eating a peanut butter sandwich. And about how complicated we sometimes make purpose or calling.

Maybe the real answer is just finding the people who need sandwiches and someone to sit next to them in the sunshine. Maybe that’s who we become. Sandwich makers. Maybe our purpose is determined more by the daily choices we make than by what we study or where we apply or where we choose to live.

Maybe nothing else really matters.

Somewhere today, a few hours away, Mr. Roy is being placed in the earth. I hope the sky is blue there too. I hope the breeze feels cool and sweet. I hope spring and life are all around.

I hope everyone there is able to say, “The Lord is always good, always good.”

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Photo credit: Lee Clarion

4 Replies to “On Purpose [a tribute to Roy Lovin]”

  1. It was a beautiful day. The sky was very blue. The sun was shining and the day had a warmth to it. The wind would blow just a little bit to cause a touch of a chill. Roy would have loved how beautiful the day was. We did not call his burial ceremony a funeral we called it Roy’s wedding day. It was a beautiful service. Just the way he would’ve liked it. Thank you so much for writing this about him he was such a special angel to all of us that were lucky to have known him.

  2. Being a close nephew of 4, as far back as I can remember you’re beautiful tribute described my “Uncle Roy” I’m very very fortunate Spiritually to have helped my Uncle Roy, by playing Gospel songs to him as Jesus walked Uncle Roy just within a few minutes of Uncle Roys walking into his heavenly home ! From the bottom of my heart, Thank You so much for a beautiful tribute and by God giving him the last name of “Lovin” that was Uncle Roy !

  3. Thank you for your tribute to my great uncle Roy Lovin. He was the last surviving sibling of the my grandfather’s family. They were beautiful, loving, hard working people. Your story let me know Roy was cared about and loved. When we came to visit Roy we always took him to Captain D’s to eat. He would joke that they were so much better than Long John Silver’s restaurant. I am so glad that Roy had endearing people like you around him to be kind to him in the twilight years of his life. It seems to me that he was much beloved and I am so happy about that. I know that there is a big celebration in Heaven and that Roy is home.

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