A tribute to Papa Doc

Posted: Jun 11, 2003 12:00 AM
Editor's note: Rebecca Hagelin wrote this column last year just one week after her father's death. Since Father's Day is this Sunday, it seems appropriate to reprint the tribute Rebecca wrote to her father last year.

The small child froze in her footsteps and slightly cocked her head to listen more carefully. What was that sound?

In the stillness of the hallway near the family bedrooms, she heard it again. It sounded like a low, mournful cry ... a soulful weeping.

Knowing that her daddy was the only other person home, she tiptoed silently and slowly toward his room, filled with concern and curiosity. As she drew closer, the little girl could see that the door stood slightly ajar. She gently pushed it open just enough to peer inside.

A sense of holiness permeated the air, and in an instant her impressionable young mind and spirit were impacted so deeply that she would embrace the memory of that moment countless times throughout her life.

I was that little girl, and what I experienced that day some 30 years ago would forever define my father and guide my faith.

In the solace of his room, I saw my daddy kneeling beside his bed weeping and praying from the depths of his soul for one of his young patients. As the sobs and tears flowed freely from this great man, I lingered for a moment in breathless awe as I felt my faith in God soar beyond my own understanding.

My Papa Doc, as he affectionately became known in his later years, was a Johns Hopkins educated pediatrician. He was the epitome of the brilliant, loving physician often portrayed in Norman Rockwell paintings. His commitment to his young patients was all encompassing, with the end of a long day's work often finding him immersed in medical journals so that he might remain on the cutting edge of treatment advances.

Much more than a practitioner and student of medicine, my dad was a man of God. And on that day many years ago as I peeked into his room to discover the source of the mystical sound, it became clear that my daddy relied on the awesome power and wisdom of the Great Physician to guide him.

This past week, my father died.

I wish you could have known him.

Dad lavished love and comfort on tens of thousands of children over a career that spanned nearly 45 years, with 38 of them spent in Lakeland, Fla. Had he not been limited by age and illness, Dad would have chosen to care for and serve his patients forever. His immense compassion for the hurting and the lonely were a reflection of the Christ that lived in him.

Humble in spirit, yet confident in the Word of God, Dad didn't just "practice" his faith – he lived it. He studied diligently, worked tirelessly and prayed endlessly. He was a quiet man, but his actions boldly proclaimed the hope and grace of Jesus.

Dad loved, trusted and adored my mother in a manner rarely found in marriages today. His actions and heart toward mom exemplified a biblical command that many don't even know exists: "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church, and even gave himself up for her."

He was a man of honor and the quintessential southern gentleman. He approached others with the greatest of respect, defended those unjustly treated and kept silent when personally offended. I remember his telling me, "Becks, I just don't think it's right to question the word or the memory of another Christian in public."

For Dad, honesty wasn't the best policy, it was the only policy. I recall driving by a beautiful Georgia cotton field during a family vacation one summer. Having never seen a "snow topped" crop before, my brothers and sister and I started begging mom and dad to stop so we could pick a few. Dad explained that it wouldn't be right to take even one of what didn't belong to us. We then proceeded to drive for several miles well out of our way in search of the farmer's house to ask permission. The farmer graciously gave us our cotton, but the real gift that day came from our dad.

Ever mindful of his own shortcomings and imperfections, Dad privately called on the mercy, wisdom and grace of God throughout each day. As he worked, walked or read, if you looked closely, oftentimes you could see his lips moving ever so slightly in prayer.

Dr. Henry J. Redd Jr. lived the life we should all strive for. He wasn't just a good man; he was extraordinary. I count it among the greatest of blessings to have been his daughter.

Thanks, Papa Doc, for all you have shown me. You will be missed.