“Have I got a story for you!” Elaine said to me recently. “It’s about Daddy, my best friend. When he was dying, I couldn’t bear the thought of losing him. I loved talking to him, I begged him that we stay together,” she said.

Francis McDonald Hamlin was 86 and very ill, but he never thought that he was going to die. Concerned, Elaine drummed up the courage to gently ask, “Daddy, I want to ask you something, If you can, someday, after you pass, could you come back and let me know that you’re OK?”

Francis had been adopted by his aunt and uncle at age 4 after his parents died. He worked a paper route, and, when his dad died, he started working at the local water treatment plant. Water treatment interested him and he needed a job to support his mom and their maid. He cleaned vials in the chemistry lab and also kept the paper route. Because of his hard work, the family was able to stay in their home.

Francis was rugged, tall and handsome. He was a drum major in high school, a lifeguard and a diver. His Mexican fishing and hunting buddies called him “Pancho” as they traveled together all over Texas and Canada.

His first business venture, collecting fruits and veggies and taking them to the market, earned him enough to achieve his dream of establishing The Hamlin Company.

Francis soon became the valley’s water expert, testing, carrying chemicals, and installing pumps and piping. His company flourished, so he decided to start building swimming pools. His became a third-generation large company, receiving international awards and gracing south Texas with many gorgeous pools.

Francis and his wife had seven kids. Together, they water skied every lake in Texas. His motto was always, “Just have fun!”

He and Elaine loved Texas. He bought boots and ornaments for her and together they rode horses in parades. She was the only one of the seven siblings who could really talk to her dad. Francis was strict and demanding as he had been raised to be so.

His discipline and patriotism served him well as a Scouts leader, producing exceptional Eagle Scouts. He was tough and some of those boys later became Marine Corps generals.

Although Francis never went to college, he was a regular guest speaker on water purification at Texas A&M. As state water commissioner, he discovered chemicals in the water along the border that were causing birth defects. He fixed the problem and saved many lives.

A month after he died, in the middle of the night, Elaine felt something pressing down on her. Opening her eyes, she saw her daddy’s face, 10-12 inches from her face! Instead of his usual huge smile, he now simply smiled softly, as if pleased or proud. He faced her for several seconds; she wondered whether he wanted to kiss her or just look closely at her.

Then, the following month, her dad appeared to her a second time! This time – full body, in color, leaning on one hip, with his arms crossed – at the foot of her bed. He was wearing the fishing clothes Elaine knew so well: the red checkered shirt with the “Pancho” tag across his left shoulder. He was in khakis, with his fishing buckle and belt, a towel hanging over a belt loop, and a topper under the belt that the maid had made him years ago.

Again, he had a smile of confidence and looked young, his butch cut with dark, not gray hair. Again, he disappeared like smoke.

He was OK.

Blessed are the dead, who die in the Lord.” Revelation 14:13

“…so that you don’t grieve like the rest, who have no hope.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13

Terice Richards
Author: Terice RichardsEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Columnist
I am a hospital chaplain with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. I have been writing professionally since 1981 as a radio and television news reporter, anchor and producer. I earned an M.Ed. from the University of Houston and a B.A. from UCLA. I am a certified teacher for Pre-K through 12th grade and completed the practicum for pastoral care ministry certificate from St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston. I live with my family in Kingwood.

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