HARRAH, Okla. — Bobby and Patricia Dillard raised their daughter, Tamie, on a strong foundation of Christian faith.
I am blessed beyond measure that they did.
My future wife — the mother of our three children — grew up in the Harrah Church of Christ on the eastern outskirts of the Oklahoma City metro area.
Pat Dillard with “Bea Bea,” granddaughter Kendall and daughter Tamie. (PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR.)“Mama loved us kids,” said Tamie, the middle child between Tod and Lance. “She told us and showed us and worked hard for us. But the best way she loved us was by loving Jesus. She took us to church, this wonderful little church right here.
“She taught Sunday school. She and Daddy drove a JOY bus. They picked us up late at night after youth events. They sent me to a Christian university when I wanted to go. Our parents made sure our foundation of faith and family was ingrained in us, and I am so very thankful for that.”
So am I.
I met Tamie in the fall of 1988 — 25 years ago — in a journalism class at Oklahoma Christian University. She was a gorgeous freshman. I was a geeky junior.
It did not take me long to fall in love. It took her a bit longer — to remember my name. But soon, we started dating, and Tamie brought me home to meet her family.
I’m shy by nature, so I probably didn’t say two words (except for “yes, sir” and “yes, ma’am”) the first time that Bob and Pat welcomed me into their home.
They kept inviting me back, though, so I either passed the test or they took as much pity on me as their daughter did.
Bob and Pat Dillard on their daughter Tamie's wedding day in 1990.
I remember countless Sundays when Tamie and I made the 45-minute drive to worship with Bob and Pat at Harrah.
Afterward, we’d enjoy gigantic cheeseburgers that Pat grilled, and Tamie and her mom would tell stories and laugh nonstop. Later, when I’d be there for breakfast, I fell in love with Pat’s enormous, fluffy biscuits, which she made from scratch.
In April 1990 — 18 months after Tamie and I started dating — Bob walked my bride down the aisle at her hometown church, and he and Pat gave their daughter away.
In the years that followed, Brady, Keaton and Kendall arrived, and Bob and Pat became “Pops and Grammy.”
The extended Dillard family at Christmas several years ago. (PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR.)Later, they — with their beloved poodle “Bea Bea” — retired and built their dream home in a secluded, wooded area of southeastern Oklahoma that I refer to (sometimes affectionately) as “The Boonies.”
“Her own little paradise on earth,” Tamie said of her mom’s two-story deck overlooking a creek. “Hummingbirds nested in the trees there — dozens of those beautiful, tiny creatures — and Mama loved them.
“She made them nectar from scratch and hung several feeders for them. She sat outside in a wicker chair in the morning to have coffee with Daddy and marvel at how they darted about and the sounds they made, their antics and just everything about them, from their varying colors of males and females to their sheer determination.”
Pat was a lot like her beloved hummers: seemingly small and fragile at times but incredibly strong and resilient. She was a fighter.
Pat Dillard with her grandson Brady years ago. Brady, now 20, delivered the eulogy at her funeral.
She battled physical setbacks and a debilitating disease with grace and perseverance. She never let lupus and fibromyalgia stop her from doing the things she loved.
It might have taken her a bit longer to finish a project, but she pushed through pain and exhaustion to get it done. She was a woman of vision, with an expert eye for decor, color, scheme and style. She could visualize how something would look — a room, a recipe, a dress, a rug — and create it. That was one of her many gifts.
On Sept. 11, Pat suffered a heart attack and had to be rushed to the hospital. Two days later, she left us — suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 67 — to go meet her Savior. I grieve for her, and my heart breaks for my father-in-law, who has lost his constant companion of 48 years.
Eight days after my mother-in-law’s death, her many loved ones filled the Harrah church. We wiped away a million tears and paid tribute to a woman who made such a difference in all of our lives.
Pat’s 20-year-old grandson Brady, a preaching major at Oklahoma Christian, delivered the eulogy — a testament to the legacy of faith that she leaves behind.
"Mama loved us kids. She told us and showed us and worked hard for us. But the best way she loved us was by loving Jesus. She took us to church, this wonderful little church right here."daughter Tamie Ross