A Tribute to my Father, Slayton Hennigan
I have posted about my father before at this link and this link. He was a unique man who loved life and loved attention and loved the stage. He spent all of my life singing as a bivocational music minister. He was joined on many occasions by my mother and her strong alto. I grew up listening to music and singing along with my parents.
When my father moved from assisted living to the nursing home end of “The Oaks of Louisiana” he was 95 and he was worried he would fade away; lose his identity. He was so afraid no one would know him. Well, he was so wrong. For, my father up until the week he died sang constantly for the workers and occupants of his wing of the nursing home. Just a year ago, he won first prize in a talent show at the assisted living end of his location for dressing as a woman and singing with three other men dressed as women. You see, my father would do just about anything in order to have the opportunity to sing!
In fact, he sang at his own funeral and anyone who knew Slayton Hennigan would have nodded and known instantly this was typical for him. So, I want to share with you a wonderful presentation from our Associate Pastor and Minister of Senior Adults at Brookwood Baptist Church, John Harp. John asked me for my father’s Bible. But, my father, unlike my mother, did not write in his Bible. But, he had a box of sheet music he had collected over his entire lifetime. I gave the box of music to John and this is what he came up with. It was wonderful and exhilarating and a fantastic testimony to my father’s life. I hope you enjoy it:
Funeral Service for DANIEL SLAYTON HENNIGAN
October 15, 2012 2:00 PM
MINISTER 1 – Rev. Gary Palmer
Segue’ – Thank you Gary. Slayton loved music. He loved to sing … especially songs of faith. He took advantage of many family gatherings to demonstrate this by singing the song, “There is Coming a Day”. Sit back and enjoy this recording of Slayton and join me in looking forward to the happy day of reunion with our loved ones in eternity.
SONG – “There Is Coming A Day” – CD
MINISTER 2 – Rev. John Harp
There is indeed coming a day when the downside of loving and grief will be past-tense. Until then, we consider it worth the price to embrace our families and friends and let the warmth of life together keep us steady in a fulfilling life together.
Slayton was born June 13, 1914 in Saline, LA to William and Lillie Hennigan. He professed his faith in Jesus Christ at the age of 11. He married Lena on July 27, 1935. She was 16 and he was 21. He told me on 07/27/04 that when he first saw Lena he said to himself, “She has all the right stuff in all the right places.” They enjoyed 69 years as husband and wife, ending only at her home-going on August 4, 2004.
Slayton was a Postal office worker until his retirement. He demonstrated his passion for music and worship by leading music in churches for 38 years. He lived in Blanchard for many of those years and led music at the First Baptist Church of Blanchard.
He played the guitar and loved watching the Grand ‘Ole Opry. He truly had an entertainer’s blood flowing through his veins. He enjoyed fishing and cooked the best fish on the Coleman propane Camp-stove.
Slayton was a “handy-man” too. He excelled in “rigging!” He was of the school that thought duct-tape could fix anything. He practiced his skill with his own flair. Every bathroom faucet he changed out gave HOT water through the handle marked “C” and COLD water through the one marked “H”!
I became Associate Pastor at Brookwood 12 years ago, and seven years ago Slayton joined me in making several hospital visits. I was inspired because he then was 91 and still interested in serving God in some way. That impressed me.
You said it well when you wrote, “Mr. Hennigan was a devoted husband, daddy, papaw, Great-grandpaw, and great-great-grandpaw. He loved to sing and entertain family and friends.”
I mentioned Slayton’s love for music a moment ago. He had song after song after song copied for use. However, not all of his singing was songs of faith. He had some interesting titles like …
- “Blue Yodel No.6”
- “Blue Yodel No.7”
- “Blue Yodel No.8”
- “Blue Yodel No.9”
- “Blue Yodel No.10”
- “Blue Yodel No.11”
- “The Bull-Dog on The Bank”
His music does tell much of his life. The clear majority of his music was songs that told a story … the story of faith. Slayton’s faith story began much the way ours does, with an awareness of God reaching into our world through His Son, Jesus Christ. How many times did we hear him burst forth in song, “O Holy Night”?
From the Bethlehem birthplace, Slayton, at age 11, journeyed and knelt at the foot of Jesus’ cross and pledged his faith in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior. That was a day he never forgot and gave direction for his life’s journey, one of love and praise to his Savior. We heard the passion in his voice as he sang, “A Hill Called Mount Calvary,” a song that heralded his statement of Faith.
From that day forward, Slayton’s life had a theme. The love he had for you and me, was firm because its foundation was a righteous love for his Savior. With all the beauties of the world, he kept balance in an upright perspective. “I’d Rather Have Jesus” he clearly marked in another song book. We can say of him that he kept choosing Jesus through his whole life.
Just as he kept choosing Jesus, he chose to keep “Standing on the Promises” of God (#335) for daily living. God spoke truths in His Word, and Slayton believed them and lived in their benefit. As a result, his affection for Jesus continued to grow. It is no wonder that he prized the hymns “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” (#448) and “I Need Thee Every Hour” (#450).
Lest you think that the Christian life is just a humble dependency on our Lord, you must realize that is simply the foundation from which the believer in Christ is able to have joy beyond the circumstances and see the glory beyond the grief. Slayton embraced this truth and shared it strongly when he belted out the hymn, “Because He Lives”! Looking forward in such a way guided the path for a sweet, deep joy in service to God for the good of others around him. The joy seemed to deepen with maturity. As years evolved into decades, Slayton found truth in the hymn, “The Longer I Serve Him the Sweeter He Grows.”
As the years progressed, so did the genre’ of the musical theme. With feet firmly planted in this world, his heart began to dwell more on his future hope of heaven. Several hymns began to carry a deeper meaning and growing affection. Hymns like “Mansion Over the Hilltop”, “I’ll Fly Away”, and “The Holy City”.
Witnessing first hand this glorious anticipation Slayton owned, I understand better why he chose as special the hymn of question, “How Long Has It Been?”
How long has it been since you talked with the Lord
And told him your heart’s hidden secrets
How long since you prayed how long since you stayed
On your knees till the light shone through
How long has it been since your mind felt at ease
How long since your heart knew no burden
Can you call him your friend how long has it been since you knew that he cared for you?
Surely that is the question for us today. Do you know that Jesus cares for you? Do you know that he gave his life to give you a chance to receive eternal life? Do you know that He cares for you? If you don’t you can discover God’s love today.
“In Times Like These”
If you do know God’s great love for you then you can join Slayton and all the redeemed in some of the great songs of hope that celebrate God’s great love for us and His eternal home for us.
Songs like … “How Great Thou Art” and “I’ll Meet You in the Morning”. But I think my favorite for Slayton is “Where We’ll Never Grow Old” because at 98 he can say, “Been there; done that!”
I want to leave you with God’s Word from Philippians 4.8-9. Paul writes these encouraging words from his heart to ours …“Finally, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about these things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
Indeed, may God’s peace be on you all!