There are many stories I like to tell about my Father, Edward Ray Goff, but there is one in particular that tells you everything you need to know about the man. So on what would have been his 64th birthday, I am going to share that story …
It was the summer of 1988, and at Magnolia Ave. Baptist Church there was occasion for a “testimony night” when the Sunday evening service was set up with microphones in the aisles for anyone to come forward and share their story.
Those nights were usually filled with new Christians who were on fire for God and could not help but to shout their story from the mountain tops. And there tended to be a lot of old-timers who would ramble on about people and places that were no longer around.
But on this particular night, those in attendance would be awestruck by what they were about to hear.
I was sitting in the back, where the youth group tended to sit, when I heard a familiar voice.
My Dad had stepped to the mic, and as he looked around the room he said, “Some of you may not know me, my name is Job.”
There was a nervous laughter in the room, because everyone there did know him, and everyone there knew exactly what he meant with the “Job” reference.
It had been a rough couple of years in our house, and my Dad began to tell our story in great detail.
By late 1986 my Mom’s health had begun to take a turn for the worse, the cancer she had fought off before had returned. In the spring of ’87 she required two back surgeries to remove the cancer. Post surgery complications delayed the process and the cancer spread. She spent her last six months in the hospital.
Dad told the story of his struggle in dealing with the loss of the love of his life, and the added pressure of trying to raise two kids, who were 10 and 13, on his own. All those months of us taking daily trips to the hospital as her condition worsened. And of course the feeling of loss at her eventual passing.
As if that were not enough, the story continued.
During my Mom’s final days, my Dad had been having his own health problems. He told of how he started having spells where the right side of his body would go numb. His first doctor told him it was probably stress, but an eventual trip to a specialist led to the diagnosis of cancerous brain tumors.
In May of ’88 he underwent the first of what would wind up being three brain surgeries to remove those tumors. So not only was he worried about his own life, but about how his kids were handling everything.
He talked about how he had been a working man his whole life, from welder to truck driver to maintenance supervisor, and now he was being forced into medical retirement at the age of 38. What would he do with the rest of his life.
He stood there looking like a broken man, a shrunken body from all the cancer treatments, literally hat in hand (he would wear a hat to keep his now bald head warm, but always took it off in church). And just as it looked like he was about to break down, he looked to the heavens, and took a deep breath.
And that is when something amazing happened. He began to praise God … for everything. He talked about how blessed he was for being able to spend 18 wonderful years with his wife, for his kids, for his family and friends that had rallied around us during our darkest hour. He praised God for it all.
He talked about how the time off of work would allow him more time to serve in his church and community. He was always building something, either stage sets for the children’s musicals, or wheel chair ramps for someone’s home. There was always something that needed to be done, and now he was free to do those things.
You see, it wasn’t by accident that he said his name was Job. He didn’t just reach out and randomly grab a name from the Bible. My Dad read his Bible every morning and knew it inside and out. Raised in West Virginia by Southern Baptist preacher, he knew the story of Job, and knew of the similarities with his own story. And he wasn’t about to let the opportunity to talk about God pass him by.
It was an amazing night, I was never more proud. My dad was a hard working, soft spoken man, who would rather let his actions do his talking for him. But on this night he stood up to show the world that he was not about to let his Faith be undone by his circumstances.
His cancer would be beaten, but it had taken its toll. He would live on for nearly 20 more years, the last 10 in his native West Virginia, never shying away from sharing his Faith with anyone that would listen.
So for those that may wonder where I get my resolve. How it is that I can roll with the punches that life brings. How I can continue to be hard-wired with an eternal Hope and have a Faith that cannot be shaken … it is all right here in this story.
I am the son of Job.
And on that note, my sister, Betsy, and I are embarking on our third year with Relay for Life, helping raise funds for the American Cancer Society. The ACS does more than just search for a cure, they help victims and their families that are already affected by this dreaded disease.
Take a look at my Relay for Life page and help us in the fight against cancer …