DARRELL MILLER, January 26, 1946 – July 27, 2021.
BRENDON D. MILLER – July 31, 2021
Today is the first day of my life officially without Dad, after 51 years. I know he passed on Tuesday, but his body was still here to see until buried yesterday. He is now back at home at Harvey Bend on Troublesome, right where he grew up, and along with Mamaw and Papaw (Elsie and Ola Miller) and his grandparents (my great-grandparents) William and Isabelle Miller. Unfortunately our family took another hit on Friday morning and Cousin Drewey Jones will be joining him at the cemetery tomorrow afternoon. Dad, Mom and I lived at Harvey Bend from the time I was born in 1970, until I started second grade when we moved to Jackson in 1977. I have to say, it is such a grand place, just seems smaller now than in my memories, and I will now be spending much time back on 476 at the Bend in my visits with Dad.
I was going to write and post this yesterday, but we did not have electricity from just after midnight on Friday morning until around 11:00 last night, so I could not use a computer. The immediate family just sat in the dark at my house all yesterday afternoon and talked. Good stuff.
I want to give my tribute to Dad, because I simply could not yesterday during the funeral. Despite all the speaking engagements I have done, I attempted twice to start thinking and planning what I would say, and both times I broke down, so I knew it could not happen. I had planned to speak and tell some not “Top Cat Tales” even though I was related many from the old Falcon days and other exploits, very few of which were PG and most involved Dad’s old Limo, but to honor Dad for all he had done for me, Mom, Elizabeth, Evan and Carson, and the whole community. Dad was so quiet and secretive about things, very few, except those that he helped, knew how generous and caring he was.
One thing I always knew is that he loved me. There was not a single time in my memory, no matter the circumstance, that he was not there for me when I needed him. As the only child, I have always been very happy and have always done things on my own. It was fun being the only child until June 21st. From that day until now, it sure has not been much fun. I have had to make all the calls for both he and Mom.
I have always been told that the death of a parent changes you, and much like bodily changes in getting older, I thought was pure BS. Both are real. I thought I could handle it. I have sat with people doing estates and cases and done their work without really knowing the exact feeling. Well now I do, and I can relate so much. Life will truly never be the same. However, I have the life that I have and will have going forward due to Dad.
Dad helped so many people. So many have come to me with stories and facts that I never knew. From giving people credit at BCT, giving people jobs, and just helping those in need with every day things, just incredible.
Dad was truly bigger than life to me. Driving around in that old beat up Tahoe that he bought back from salvage after it was totalled when I first started practicing law in the late 90’s. He simply would not let me buy him a better vehicle, as he said, “this is fine, don’t need it”. But that was him, he did what he wanted to do, and did not apologize for any of it.
Dad was so intelligent and had such a business mind. It always amazed me that Dad could sit in a meeting and calculate numbers in his head and tell you if the venture or decision was good or bad. I definitely do not have that ability. With all my education and degrees, as an honors graduate with a legal degree, I am basically in the top 1% of educated persons in the US, but did not ever hold a candle to him, with his high school degree, and learned business accumen. I honestly, have not ever make a significant business decision without consulting Dad. The next will be my first. Sometimes I did not want to hear what he had to say, but in the end he was right.
I will say that Dad was the only reason I am an Attorney. I had no plan for this career path. It all simply came about after I graduated from Union and had gone to my NFL and pro football tryouts and saw that it was time to go on to work, and was working in management at Tremco, Inc. in Barbourvile, Kentucky. I did inventory at the plant and was at home one weekend night at the Exhaust Shop with Dad and Uncle Hob and the crew, and our cousin Stanley Turner (now my Assistant County Attorney) was there. Of course a few cold ones were in action, and I was complaining about working 60 hours that week. Dad pipes up and says, “Hell, go to Law School, like Stanley.” From there I explored it, took the LSAT, and was admitted to Chase. That is how I became an attorney, no grand plan. Just Dad thought I should, and I guess it was meant to be.
Of the many things that Dad and I did together throughout our lives, the two most special to me where my first run for County Attorney and building Sugar Camp Golf Club.
Man did Dad love politics and when I decided to run for County Attorney the first time, he was ready to roll. Of course, I basically knew no one. Sure some people knew me from football at Breathitt and seeing of the stuff from Union, but other than the people I had represented I was an unknown. Dad went with me practically every day out on the campaign trail around the County. Seemed like everyone knew “Top Cat” or “Darrell.” Most did not care to hear from me, they wanted to talk to Dad. All he had to do was tell them we needed their vote and for them help us. We spent most every day together strategizing and working. I learned so much about dealing with people and treating them right, cause it truly does come back to you. In the end, I won 20 of 21 precincts and began my County Attorney career. Simply, said, would not have ever been where I am today without me being Dad’s son.
Our time together building Sugar Camp was truly special, despite that fact that it was a huge financial loss and did not work out in the end. Everyone seemed to want a golf course in the community and thought it was a good idea. I had just taken office as new County Attorney and wanted to make our community better, and Tony Watts and I planned the course. This was one time I did not listen to Dad, and we did something that he did not think was best. He told me from the beginning that building a course in the community was not a good idea as he simply thought the people would not support it. He was, as always, exactly right. I did a big business plan and presentations and got the ball rolling. But it did not look like it would happen, until Dad said he would build it. Despite him not thinking it would work, Dad made the commitment to allow me to use the Noctor Farm and use his labor and equipment to build the layout. We had a great time. My day was to go to Noctor at 6:30 in the morning to meet with Dad and get the crew started, come to the office and court, head back at lunch, then back to work, then back at closing and stay there till dark with Dad planning the next day. In the end, he and I basically positioned every bit on dirt on the place to make the layout. It turned out awesome and we truly had some unique holes and course that promoted tourism. I learned so much from him during that time from 2004 through opening in 2005. In the end, unfortunately, he was indeed right, and while we attracted many people from outside the County to play and had many events, there never was a plus financial year, and the core group of members was not enough to make the course feasible on an ongoing basis with only us financing it. Then several local golfers left us to go to Booneville for a cheaper price, which again Dad told me would happen. Dad and I both lost an amount of money that I will not reveal, only that I will have to work for many more years, but we tried, and he did it all for me and to try to benefit our community.
Also, it was incredible that Dad (and Mom) never missed an athletic event of mine, save one. Of course they were there for all events at Breathitt, both football and baseball, but they also never missed a football game (save one) my entire football career at Union, and came to almost all the baseball games I pitched at Union as well. No matter where in the country we played football, they were there to support me, and watch me punt and kick a few balls. Dad bought a new caprice classic each year of my career to drive to the games. The only game they missed during my entire football career was at Lambuth in Jackson, Tennessee. We had a monsoon the night before, and the game was going to be mud bowl, so I called them at about 4:00 in the morning to top them from making the drive for the game that day. In Baseball, anytime that I let them know I was starting (pitching) a game during by two years, they were there. Of course they could not anticipate a relief appearance and missed those, but boy was I always supported and given the ability to succeed in all situations.
In the end, Dad went through a terrible ordeal. A knee replacement surgery on June 21st, and following that procedure a bowel blockage that set off two emergency surgeries, 32 days in ICU with complications of his heart and kidneys, a tracheostomy surgery, and pneumonia. When doing the Facebook posts I did, I did not ever disclose to anyone how critical the situation was from the beginning. The surgeon informed be before the bowel surgery on the 26th, that while it was not likely, it was entirely possible that he would not make it through that surgery. After the bowel surgery on the 26th and then an emergency heart procedure on the 27th, Dad did not ever really respond to commands, but he could tell I was there and would look at me when I spoke.
There were good days, and really bad days with Dad coding twice and being revived, one of which I was present for. (You just don’t ever unsee that). After the trach was inserted he did not ever get well enough for transport to the Acute Care Hospital to try and get him off the ventilator. The doctors advised me on Friday, the 23rd, that all options had been exhausted as the medications and antibiotics were not stopping the pneumonia, and that unless a miracle happened, it was at matter of time. The time was coming this week for me to have to make decisions I simply did not want to make. It is my belief that Dad undertook his final act of selflessness on compassion for me, and took care of matters on his own on Tuesday and saved me. I honestly don’t think I would have ever been sane again if I would have had to do that.
Dad had just been so exceptional in caring for Mom during the last few years. Without details, Mom has developed some substantial cognitive and memory issues, and Dad was just incredible with her. This, along with the fact that he had made his eternity secure, are the greatest gifts to me. I now am confident that we will talk again in eternity.
I want to thank everyone so much for the outpouring of love and support. I am not sure I will have the time to thank everyone that came in person, text, messaged or comments on posts. Just phenomenal, and myself and the entire family are so appreciative.
Thanks so much to Billie Jean Marshall (Dad’s sister) and Deana Robinson (my cousin and Billie’ daughter, for those who do not know our family). Billie went to the hospital with Dad nearly every day at ARH while I was at work and then Mom and I would come up at night. Deana has just been phenomenal. Helping me with so much during all this.
I will now be conducting all of Dad’s businesses and taking care of my Momma in addition to all that I already do with family, County Attorney, Law Practice, and BSN. So I ask those out there to have some patience while I get everything set up the next few weeks.
Thanks so much to Pastors Drewey Lee Jones (another close cousin who did his part of the funeral yesterday just after Drewey, his father, had passed) Pastor Gordon Little, Pastor Kerney Bouchard, for the message and Candy Dunfee, Naomi Mitchell, Alice McIntosh, and Matthew Hollins for the music.
Thanks from me to the cousin crew, such a bunch of guys that I always looked up to: Dad, Holbert Miller, OJ Miller, Hoy Marshall, Kerney Bouchard, Denny Bouchard, Drewey Jones, and Day Boy Jones. They were only cousins on paper, but brothers otherwise.
Also thanks to special friends of Dad like Marvin Neace, the late Hayden “Hubcap” Hudson, Arlin Hudson, Larry “Flip” Fletcher, Harold Hutchinson, Jim Baker, Chick Little, and all the Falcon guys.
Ryan Turner sent me a message last night in which he rightfully welcomed me to the club that none of us want to be in. Those who have lost our fathers. He is correct, me, like he with Eugene, now have a hole in my heart that will never be filled.
I will end with this: In life there are days in which you have sunshine and/or rain. How you handle the rain, affects how much you can enjoy the sunshine.
Blessings to you all.