My Dad’s Last Words

Alright. Before I get into this blog post, I have to make a few rules/declarations:

  1. I HATE for people to feel sorry for me, so please don’t. I am NOT a victim and refuse to be treated like one.
  2. You may not make judgements about my dad because all-in-all, he was pretty awesome.
  3. Today would have been my dad’s 69th birthday. So I felt compelled to let him be my inspiration.
  4. Parents, make your teenagers read this. Teenagers, make your parents read this.

Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, on with the show…

Late in the evening of September 20th, my dad, Sonny McClure, spoke his last words to me:

“If I die in a car wreck tomorrow, it’ll be all your fault!!”

Guess what? He did

It’s okay. You can close your mouth now.

I was 15 years old, and I was the epitome of a bratty teenager. I wanted NOTHING to do with my dad. He got on my nerves. He was embarrassing in the way that only the father of a teenage daughter could be. He was very overweight, and at 15, appearances mattered WAY more than they should have. He wanted to be in control of me as he’d been my whole life, but at 15, I was having NONE of that. 

I distinctly remember 3 phases of my relationship with my dad. The daddy’s girl who would climb in his lap to play “kiss the nose” while he lounged in his rust colored, faux velvet La-Z-Boy recliner. Then the preteen who could play Gin Rummy for hours on our yellow shag living room carpet while eating Spam (bleh!) and gloating every time I beat him. Lastly, the girl who couldn’t stand to be in the same room with him. The one who had to clinch her teeth and roll her eyes every time he spoke.

I don’t know how this happens. How teenage girls decide that the man who once could do no wrong, is now the source of all evil. 

Let me tell you a bit about my dad Sonny.

He was friends with EVERYONE. He lit up a room like no one you’ve ever met. He was a leader in his family of 5 younger siblings, and he fiercely loved his mom. People respected him. He was VERY smart and loved nothing more than beating his brother Terry (a super worthy opponent) at Trivial Pursuit. My dad LOVED us (his wife, my brother Shane and me), and I mean LOVED. If you messed with his family, you better watch out! When we asked him for $10, he always gave us $20. He had a comb-over that rivaled Donald Trump. He (like his daughter) did not work well FOR other people. He was a business owner too. He was a talented athlete and had the voice of an angel. Well, maybe not an angel, but he could sing a mean version of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” by the Righteous Brothers (the high AND the low parts). Oh, and he always had candy stashed in his glove compartment.


He was stubborn. He was passionate and not always in the most pleasant way. He was NEVER wrong. He was the boss. When my dad got angry, his voice would boom like thunder. He would do anything for a laugh – even if it meant making fun of his wife in front of the kids. He was a workaholic. He was quick to point the finger and blame someone else (particularly my mother and me). And he often used his quick wit and humor to make others the butt of his jokes.

So on the night of September 20, 1991, he was planning to get up very early to take his friend to the Alabama vs. Georgia football game the next day. My mom and I got in really late from a high school football game that went into overtime – Baker High School vs. Vigor High School. The dance team had to ride the buses back to school, so we were at the mercy of the football game, and remember there were no cell phones back then. 

The moment we got home, he tore into both of us for being so late. He’d stayed awake waiting on us when he really just wanted to go to bed. 

That’s when he said it staring straight at me.

“If I die in a car wreck tomorrow, it’ll be all your fault!!”

I stormed off to my bedroom and slammed the door. OOOOOOHHHHHHHHHH. I hated him in that moment.

He and my mom went to bed together that night. Although I don’t know exactly what was discussed between them, I’m sure she explained the reason we were so late, and all was right with the world (between them, that is). 

When he left for the game on September 21st, I was still asleep. 

Not long after midnight, there was a knock at the door. I heard my mom talking to someone. Then I heard her scream. It wasn’t like anything I’d ever heard. It was the kind of gut-wrenching yell that can only be conjured up in a moment like that. Just as I rushed out of bedroom, my mom was heading toward me and said “Dad’s dead!” 

Y’all. My world stopped. The police officer said it was a car wreck. 

Oh God! Had he actually fallen asleep at the wheel? Was it actually my fault? 

We found out later that he was killed by a drunk driver. That driver murdered 3 people and himself on Hwy 69 just outside of Moundville, AL near the 121 mile marker. 

That trauma has given me a unique perspective. There’s still a part of me that will always feel like a 15 year old, and there’s the 44 year old me that sees life from his viewpoint. I’m pretty sure this is why I’m able to connect with so many of my students.

So, to all the teens out there, listen closely:

  1. Words matter. I can’t say that enough.
  2. My dad stayed up. Maybe you missed that because of the shock of his last words to me, but HE STAYED AWAKE. He was so worried about us, that he couldn’t let himself go to sleep even though he knew he needed to. He loved us that much.
  3. It’s okay to go to sleep angry. It’s not okay to say things that you may never get to take back. The Bible says that we can’t let evil come from anger. Meaning don’t let sin overtake you in those moments. My dad did that. But he was a sinner, just like you and me. He, although I wanted him to be, was not perfect and was not meant to be my Savior. For a long time, I held him to an impossible standard.
  4. You’ll never ever know how much your parents love you until you are one. I know. That’s so annoying to hear, but it’s true. See, my dad wanted me to be his baby girl forever. It hadn’t quite hit him yet that HE and my mom had actually done their jobs. They had raised me to be a strong, independent, self-sufficient young lady. Someone who was ready to take on the world and make mistakes. It’s hard to let go sometimes. It’s particularly hard for parents. 
  5. Parents don’t automatically know how to be awesome. It’s true. What I need you to hear is this: Parents only know how to be themselves. That’s it. It’s not that they’re bad or good. They are what they know. They are who the world conditioned them to be. They are products of their past, just like you will be. For example, if your parents grew up in a home where fighting, yelling and anger were the norm, chances are there will be a lot of that in your home. It’s what they know. Give them grace. 
  6. Ask you parents about their childhood. I grew up in a home where saying “I love you” was just straight up weird. No one ever said it. It made people uncomfortable. In my early 20’s, I finally asked my mom what her childhood was like. She told me that “I love you” wasn’t something said in her home. There wasn’t a lot of hugging or lovey-dovey kind of stuff happening. AH!!! There it is. Understanding what made them who they are will help you understand why they parent the way they do. Guess what? After that conversation with my mom, she and I never missed a chance to say those three magical words to each other. I think she didn’t even realize until that moment how she had brought something from her childhood into her parenting. 
  7. Your parents love you so much that they would jump in front of a moving train for you. They’ll get it wrong A LOT. They’ll pretend that they have all the answers A LOT (p.s. they do not). They’ll likely get on your nerves A LOT (p.s.s. you get on their nerves too). It’s okay. Most parents really are doing the very best that they can. Most parents (who are normal functioning adults) just pray that they aren’t screwing you up too much. That’s the truth! 
  8. NEVER drive drunk!

Parents, it’s your turn:

  1. Words matter. I can’t say that enough.
  2. Take a step back in your kids’ teen years and realize you did your job. Let them spread their wings. The bottom line is that our job as parents is to raise happy, healthy adults who aren’t too messed up. You’re doing that!!
  3. Don’t ever let sin take over in moments of anger. My dad should have NEVER said those words to me. That interaction between the two of us on the night of September 20th haunted me for YEARS. I hated him for it. I hated that he left me here on this earth to struggle with that final argument while he got to live happily ever after in Heaven. Don’t ever risk putting that kind of burden on your children. 
  4. You are flawed. Keep that in mind as you move forward in your parenting journey. More importantly, acknowledge that to your kids when you mess up. 
  5. Tell your kids about your childhood when they ask. They need to understand. They need to know what and who made you who you are.  
  6. Love your kids like crazy. Tell them you love them like crazy. Make memories. Play “kiss the nose.” Play gin rummy, and eat Spam. 
  7. Help them to know that you aren’t their Savior. Help them to know who is. Tell them that you are merely a vehicle. That God chose you to be your child’s parent and raise her to know that she is actually a child of God. 
  8. NEVER drive drunk!

I’ll wrap up with this. I am so proud to be Sonny’s daughter. He, despite not graduating from college, started TWO of his own companies that did fairly well. He never let my brother or me settle. He wanted more for his family than he ever had and was willing to move heaven and earth to make that happen. And he was Sonny…if you knew him, you’re smiling and probably laughing right now. If you didn’t, MAN, did you miss out!

3 thoughts on “My Dad’s Last Words

  1. Brittney

    Best thing I’ve read in a long time! We were so young when it happened but I sure did love uncle Sonny!! He would be so proud of you just like the rest of your family is. Keep writing and I’ll keep reading! Love you! ?

  2. Marlena Himes

    Shannon, I LOVED this. It did bring a smile and I can’t wait to show it to Richard and the girls. We loved Sonny and miss him every day! Glad to know you have a blog. I’ll be reading it now and congratulations on a job well done! Love You!!!

  3. Ashlee Milstead

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. This is so meaningful in so many ways. It definitely touched my heart. What a difficult time for you to overcome! And what a powerful message you are now able to share with others. Your sweet daddy’s heart is so happy that you are able to share this wisdom now. You did a wonderful job of relaying a message that I definitely needed to hear today. And I love the part about letting your child know who their Savior is. You are amazing. So thankful God placed you in our child’s life.

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