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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

My Father Called

By Bob Kilpatrick
June 15, 2014

Cindy and I were sitting at the breakfast table enjoying the quietness of a California-in-July morning. Sunlight was beaming through the floor-to-ceiling windows in our living room, and the morning birds were flitting about the backyard when the phone rang. It was my father. My parents lived in Georgia, and it was always a welcome occasion when they called.

“Hi, Dad,” I said.

“Hello, Son,” he said in his warm, reassuring Charleston accent. “I’m in the Veterans Hospital in Asheville, N.C. I’m just about to go into surgery and thought I’d call you and tell you I love you.

“No reason to worry,” he said. “I’ll be in surgery for only 4 hours.”

We talked for a minute more, and then wrapped it up.

“I love you, Son. I’m so proud of you,” he said.

“I love you too, Dad,” I said.

We ended all of our conversations that way.

Several hours later we got another call. It was my mother. “Bobby, it’s not going well,” she said in her delicate Southern tone. All the anxieties I had not felt about Dad’s surgery suddenly rushed into my mind. I was gripped by fear.

“They’ve hit some sort of a snag,” she continued. His surgery had a 97 percent success rate. But as I heard my mother’s tone, I knew that was the end for Dad.

It was still early, and I had much of the day to get through. I put on my grubby clothes and took my tools and began digging up a broken sprinkler pipe.

I was working with my hands, but I was crying with my heart. I had avoided ever thinking that someday my dad would die. I followed the pipe on its underground path, hoping the whole sprinkler system wasn’t falling apart. I thought of the surgeons, thousands of miles away, trying to repair my dad’s heart, to get the blood flowing again, to patch up the old system and make it work like new.

Orphan House

My father, August Christian Kilpatrick, was born in Charleston in 1923, the fifth son of six children. When he was 5, his father’s death forced his mother to put him into the Charleston Orphan House. Little Augie Kilpatrick grew up in that environment where food and the best clothes belonged to the strongest children.

For reasons Augie never knew, his mother at one point removed all of his siblings from the orphan house but left him there. Perhaps the strained financial status forced her to do so. But the fact left him wounded.

But the most damaging experience took place like a staged tragedy every Saturday when prospective parents toured the house seeking children to adopt. At the orders of the matrons the children would make their beds perfectly, grab the best clothes they could get from the pile, and stand at attention with hair neatly combed. The prospective parents scanned the toy soldier audience of children, finally selecting one to call their own.

Time after time, little Augie was left standing wondering why nobody ever chose him. This went on for nine years, and soon became a painful charade to him. His self-esteem plummeted. No matter how straight he stood, or how neat his clothes were, he was never chosen.

What no one had told him was that Augie was not eligible for adoption because his mother did not want to lose any of her children. Though he found this out when he left the orphan house at 14, the feeling of abandonment manifested itself. He became an angry man, looking out for himself because no one else would do it for him.

He got a job in a naval shipyard, then joined the Army Air Corps, and his anger made him an eager fighter. Life was a series of personal challenges. In one instance, after an Army sergeant had made a disparaging remark about him in a bar, Augie, a second lieutenant, took one swing and knocked the man to the floor.

“When he comes around,” he told the sergeant’s friends, “you tell him that was from a second lieutenant who’s still wet behind the ears.”

It was not until years later, after Augie had become a Christian and a chaplain in the Air Force, that the wounds of childhood were healed. On Christmas Day 1969, my father, a Southern Baptist minister, was baptized in the Holy Spirit, and he had a once-in-a-lifetime vision in which the Lord took him — the 5-year-old Augie from the Charleston Orphan House — onto His lap and, with a loving smile, said, “Augie, I choose you.”

I was 17 at the time, and the change in my dad was apparent. He was confident in ways I had never seen; comfortable with his own abilities and character. Most importantly, he had renewed faith in his calling from God to minister to people all over the world.

These thoughts occupied me as I went about the business in my yard, hiding in hollow routines from the avalanche of emotions tottering over me. Later that night the phone rang. My daddy had gone to be with the Lord.


Grief swept over me like the tide breaking the shore. I wept like never before in my 42 years. When I finally reached a point of quietness and exhaustion, I went upstairs to comfort my children.

“We’re all missing Granddaddy,” I told them. “One of these days you’re going to be standing at the bedside of your own children, and you’re going to be saying good-bye to me, and you’ll be grieving with them because they’ll be missing their granddaddy. And when you do, I hope you have as much love for me as I do for my dad.”

The months that followed were the hardest in my life. As with most men, my father set the pattern for my life — even when I thought I was acting out of my own unique character. His example had guided me through early marriage and fatherhood. As he climbed up into his 50s and 60s, I felt secure knowing the trail was being blazed for me. After he was gone I suddenly felt unguarded, unprotected.

There was no longer someone between me and ... it. The other, the universe, the rest of my life. It was like being in the second car on a roller coaster, going up and up towards the top when suddenly the first car disappears over the curve and nothing is left between you and the sky.

Now I was the lead man, the one setting the example for my own four boys and one girl. Deep loneliness and insecurity set in. As a singer and performer I was perhaps more able than others to keep up appearances; inside, my thoughts were in constant motion, approaching turmoil.

I spent an entire week alone in a small cabin in Kauai, Hawaii, that stood where the forest meets the endless Pacific Ocean.

During that week, while it rained and rained and as I walked along the beach and in the nearby groves of trees, I began to understand that to lose faith in the purpose of men’s lives is to lose faith in God’s Word. I realized that despite weaknesses or failures, we must still strive for perfection, and that God will make up the difference between what we are and what He made us to be. In my father’s life, God had given love where there was no love. In turn, my father had become an emissary of the love of Jesus Christ.

In the same way, I felt my own sense of calling being renewed. Ever since I was 19, I had known that God wanted me to minister to people through music. Though Cindy and I had been confronted with uncertainties and failures, God had been faithful. Doubt never eclipsed my faith in God’s calling.

I think of that day when Augie Kilpatrick called me on the telephone and we said we loved each other for the last time. But I also think of my Heavenly Father calling me to a life of my own, a life abundant in joy and spiritual development — just as He called my father, and just as He calls each one of us.

BOB KILPATRICK is an ordained minister, and the third inductee into the Assemblies of God Music Hall of Honor. He is married to Cindy, his high school sweetheart. They have five children and live in Fair Oaks, Calif. 


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