I got the text message from Maryellen Simmons on January 1, 2014. Gerald Patrick Word Jr. “Patrick” had passed away. Don’t get Patrick confused with his father, Gerald Patrick Word Sr. Gerry Word is alive and well. I just like to use these formal names because I am a Senior myself. The news was somewhat shocking because Patrick was 39 years of age. However, since his birth, Patrick suffered from numerous and very serious health related problems. Many of you probably knew Patrick. For the past few years, he has worked at the movie theatre in Carrollton collecting tickets.
I knew Patrick for many years. As I have mentioned in previous columns, I was blessed by God to be mentored and trained by the best criminal defense attorney in Georgia as a young attorney. This was his father. This blessing will never be forgotten.
Patrick became part of my life about the same time that my first born, Jason W. Swindle Jr. “Jake”, came into this world. Jake is a special child and no one was ever more kind to him than Patrick. Over the years, Patrick would call me wanting to see little Jake. When we went to visit Patrick, he would almost always be wearing his “Superman” shirt. It was his favorite piece of clothing.
Most of the calls when Jake was a baby regarded Patrick’s desire to just hold him. As Jake got older, Patrick wanted to tell Jake about the newest cartoons at the movie theatre. Patrick always wanted to give Jake gifts such as Star Wars posters and other movie memorabilia.
When Gerry accepted the position of head of the Capital Defender’s Office in Atlanta, my contact with Patrick became less and less. However, as many of you who knew him, the occasional phone call would come in. He sometimes would only talk for a minute or so. But, most of the time, Patrick wanted to inform me about every movie coming out for the next two years! He would of course always ask about Jake.
Now comes the important part of this column. I was honored by Gerry to serve as a pall bearer at his funeral on January 3. I learned much more about Patrick during the service.
First, it was evident to everyone who knew him that poor health had plagued him all his life. Yet, Patrick Word accepted his condition. He knew nothing of hate. He knew nothing of anger. He knew nothing of political ugliness. He knew nothing of the black hearts of evil men.
He did know one important thing though. Work ethic. Many people in his physical condition would have been fine with just staying at home in a state of depression. This was not Patrick. He worked what he considered his dream jobs since he was in high school. Finally, his favorite job, the movie theatre came to fruition. This did not happen easily though. Patrick persevered for months to obtain his job at the movie theatre. He finally got it. He loved it so much that when he was scheduled for a 12:00 matinee shift, he wanted to go in at 11:00. I am sure that Gerry loved this. As the minister said at the funeral, I fully agree that Patrick was sent to the Word family to teach all of us a lesson. I am often consumed with selfish endeavors, do not have time for important family activities, become angry with others, and even have feelings of hate. How productive is that? Is that what God wants from each of us? It dawned on me yesterday that the answer is no.
Patrick Word, your father taught me a lot for which I am thankful for. However, the example that you set during your life may have taught me more as I walked away from your place of rest. I am quite sure of this because both of my eyes were shedding tears. That has not happened in many years. I hope that God will commission you to take those tickets to Heaven.