“One of the greatest gifts I’ve ever gotten came from GOD. I call him DADDY.” UNKNOWN

For the past 2 years, my mother, my sister and I served as caregivers for my father.  Sadly, our role as caregivers ended on February 7th, 2020 at 5:02 pm, when the man we call daddy, Mr. Johnny Lee Lathern took his last breath.

My parents were married for 64 years and as their child, I learned some invaluable lessons as I watched them evolve individually and in their partnership. While growing up, typically we’d attend church with my mother while daddy stayed home watching football games. But, when I was 7 or 8, that all changed. I vividly recall my dad’s transformation into a man of GOD. On Sundays, instead of watching football games, we began attending church as a family.  He chose to become the man that GOD created him to be. He didn’t just attend church, he lived it –in his heart, through his actions, and in his words. I watched as he and my mother studied their bibles and prayed for our family every morning. Eventually, he became very active in church and sat on various boards and committees. He served as a deacon, head of the deacon board and faithfully taught high noon bible study until his health started failing. He truly LOVED the LORD and loved talking about GOD’s goodness and mercy to anyone willing AND unwilling to listen.

The man we call daddy was a man of integrity. Daddy was a man who ALWAYS had advice. He was the daddy who you could talk to about anything and he’d provide honest solutions. He would tell you like it was whether you wanted to hear it or not. He was principled and really was NOT interested in changing his views to meet the changing times. He let it be known that he was our father and NOT our friend. He was a protector. He didn’t like any of our boyfriends (probably why I’m still single…LOL). After we’d come home from a night of partying, the man we call daddy would walk through the house to make sure we were home and wouldn’t rest until he had that assurance. The man we call daddy was the type of father who said: “as long as you live in my house and party on Saturday nights, you’re waking up and going to church on Sunday too” and “as long as you live in this house, you are going to follow the rules.” The man we call daddy was compassionate. Before whipping us, he would say, “this is gonna hurt me more than you” and whipped us anyway. He was the daddy that we shared with cousins, and friends who had lost theirs. The man we call daddy was faith-filled. He touched lives by sharing his faith in GOD. Whenever someone departed, he would always say, “take the LORD with you everywhere you go, because you are going to need him.” He encouraged us to always TRUST GOD, stay in church, and to study HIS Word. The man we call daddy made sure his name had value and as a result, he was loved and well respected, especially by us.

On February 7th at 6:30 am, we received a call from the hospital letting us know that we needed to get there quickly. My mom, sister and I made that journey praying all the way. When we got to Daddy’s room, the crash cart and medical staff were in there and his vital signs were declining and he was struggling to breathe, but I was still trusting GOD. That’s what the man we call daddy had TAUGHT me to do. Selfishly, I wanted him here and was trusting GOD to perform a miracle. After all, HE could have. For the remainder of the day we played and sung his favorite gospel tunes, while he received visits from church members, pastors, deacons, and friends. It was as if they knew. But, how could they? Hell, even I hadn’t known. Or was it that I simply wasn’t ready to accept it? At 4:30 pm, his respiration rate was down to 9 and his heart rate was in the low 20’s, THEN I knew it was just a matter of time.

Daddy was a protector and a provider until the end and would have NEVER left us willingly. He needed to be reassured that my mom, my brother, my sister and I would be okay without his presence. I knew we needed to give him OUR permission to leave. So, we gathered around the man we call daddy and told him that we loved him and knew that he loved us. I apologized for wanting him to live a life filled with medical challenges when I knew it wasn’t what he wanted. At 4:50, we each reassured him that we would be fine and gave him our permission to go see GOD and to reunite with his family and friends that had gone before him.

At 5:02, on my sister’s birthday, we witnessed the most beautiful site. My 83-year-old father, the man we call daddyMr. Johnny Lee Lathern, took a long deep breath, closed his eyes, and traded his hospital gown for a robe, his cap for a crown and ascended to sit at the right hand of GOD. As he transitioned, he had a glow. He had the most peaceful look on his face, and I imagined that, at that very moment, he was hearing GOD say, “WELCOME MY GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT, REST NOW.”

Daddy, thanks so much for ALWAYS being there for us. I experienced your love from the day I was born until the day that GOD called you home. Despite the many disappointments that I may have caused, your love was never withheld or doubted. Whether I was in college or lived down the street, you ended every phone call by saying “I love you.” You constantly and consistently told us how much you loved us and you showed it even more. The man we call daddy was NOT perfect but he was perfect for OUR imperfect family and we are so grateful that GOD chose him to be the Patriarch of our family and are so very appreciative of the gifts of wisdom and insight that he so freely shared. So as we learn to live without the man we call daddythe biggest link in our family chain, we will continue to love each other as you loved us, and will continue to add value to the Lathern name.

Deacon Daddy, you took the LORD, with you everywhere you went NOW rest in love knowing that you will FOREVER LIVE through the memories in our minds, and in EVERY beat of our hearts.

SHIP TALK: Do you have any memories of your dad?

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33 Replies to “WE CALL HIM DADDY”

  1. OMG, this was so very touching. I had to hold back the tears as I read this. The strength that you and your family possess is remarkable and I commend you all. What a wonderful tribute to the man you call daddy. RIP Deacon Lathern.

  2. The Man you called Daddy was an amazing man, and I am so happy that I had the honor of knowing him. He had that quick wit about him with a sense of humor that made me laugh even when he didn’t, but would continue on with his stories. I regret that I didn’t make time to take my son Wes over so he could teach him the game of golf. My son clearly remembers him and the lady you call Mama and remembers being a part of their Anniversary celebration. They were both gorgeous on that day! Cleaner that the board of health! So loved and so blessed, he will be missed.

  3. Very BEAUTIFUL Tribute.
    He was a great man!
    I am still praying for comfort and strength for you and your family, Val. I love you all.

    He was a Man of God

  4. Thank you so much, Yeah, he is sitting at the right hand of the Father looking over us. I’m hoping he send me them lottery numbers..LOL.

  5. When our love ones who know the Lord are at home with Him, that leaves us with heavy hearts, but God can help to carry the load. I want your family to know that God will uplift each of you, so hold on to his hand as you move forward. Blessings and condolences to you all.

  6. Valerie thank you so much for sharing this beautiful tribute. I was filled with emotions as I read the expression of love and gratitude. I cried as I read but yet filled with joy because it is good news that your Daddy is resting in the mansion not made by hands. Continued prayers for your peace and comfort.

  7. It took me quite some time to be able to read this. I hurt for all of you. However, my prayers were answered. You were all strong enough to receive God’s will no matter what it was. I am thankful to know you and your family. You have no idea how much love I have for you and your Mom.

  8. To you and your family I offer sincere condolence for your loss but your message was one of victory so I’m happy than you were able to find that. Your narrative it was very enlightening and id have loved the opportunity to have met him and received some of his wise counsel. I recognized in photos the eyes. Grieve too for sleeping on that opportunity. But thru ur descriptive remembrance he did leave a blueprint that if leads to a treasure trove of love and the greatest victory of all. Thanks for sharing that. It’s sad but it’s victorious and and this is his legacy to you his ladies

  9. Rhonda, I was “team live” but when I looked in his eyes, I knew he was ready to go. I was being selfish. Once I accepted the fact that he was leaving, I am so grateful I cooperated because it was in exchange for the most beautiful site ever. What I wrote I meant. He heard GOD say, well done. Don’t be afraid to let go. Live now, love now. Not too many people can say they have their AARP with their parents. LOL

  10. The beauty is being blessed to have been chosen to have a life FILLED with love and unselfishness. I’m not married but I can say that I’ve been loved by a MAN that I was blessed to call daddy.

  11. Stevie…I remember that. You were our kid tag along. LOL. Thanks for that. You had a solid dad and I know you paid attention so your daughters will certainly revel in the blessings of calling you their daddy. Thanks for the condolences

  12. Oh My God this was Truly Touching while I was reading this I went into my Front Room to give my Daddy a kiss he is also facing life challenge But I am Trusting God everyday with My Parents Health I Love them so much and I Love what you wrote cause this Reminds me so Much of my Daddy whom I Truly Love

  13. The tribute to your Dad is so beautiful and heartfelt ! It took me to a place with my Dad. There was nothing he would not try to do for his family. Not talking monetarily but leaving work to attend a recital, track meet , basketball game … whatever it was 110% support and love! But he to was stern and get that belt lol
    God fearing too ! Yes if we went out on Saturday you better get up for church on Sunday!! Loving husband and just a great Man
    Miss my Dad everyday
    Love you Dad

  14. Mane your words paint such a wonderful picture…That was Beautiful. MR LATHERN Is da Coolest! I remember As a kid running behind y’all (All Girls) he always looked out for me so I had someone to shoot the breeze with while ya’ll were gettin all fly for the LAKER Games or VENICE Beach. He’d be like …“STEVIE! come in here-I alway enjoyed talking with MR LATHERN-He just was Cool Dude✊🏾 I Pray that my 2 Daughters will revere me in the same manner in which y’all LOVE “THE MAN YOU CALL DADDY”
    ✊🏾My sincerest Condolences🙏🏾

  15. Your expression of Knowledge, Love, Gratitude and Understanding of your Father, brought me to tears. I’m overjoyed reading this.
    May the Lord continue to Bless and Keep you and the entire Family. I know He will 🙏🏽

  16. Valerie, thank you for this powerful message and providing us an intimate moment inside the heart of your family. Your dad, and example of being an imitator God through Christ Jesus. As I read your story I saw my dad. Loving. Kind a great provider and protector. Always there for my mom and siblings. A God fearing man. Thank you for sharing your dad with the world. God bless you all.
    My heart felt love to each of you ❤️❤️❤️

  17. So beautiful! Got me up in here crying this a.m.! May your daddy rest in heaven 🙏🙏🙏 xo

  18. Well written and beautifully said. I experienced his compassion and kindness first hand. Peace be with you all during this time and region times to come

  19. Love & Light My Friend this is absolutely beautiful. I never got to meet “The Man you called Daddy” but after reading this I feel like I’ve known him all my life. What an amazing person and what a remarkable life. How lucky for you and Yolanda to have had such an amazing Dad and the memories you will share for ever.
    Sending healing prayers and comforting hugs. I am so sorry for your loss.

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