On October 31st, my family laid to rest one of Chicago’s religious pioneers, Apostle Richard Daniel Henton. As we shared our final moments with him, the Apostle’s ministry definitely stood in the forefront of our minds. But, even more than his many years as a servant of the Gospel, the love he showed each and every one of us rang loud. You see, the great man of God was the patriarch of a very large family. As Chicago mourns the loss of a general, we, the descendants and loved ones of this powerful man, mourn the loss of our precious dad, grandpa, “Papa,” uncle preacher, Reverend Daddy and much more.
My grandfather’s love will be missed. Apostle cared for so many people. He fathered children other than his biological sons and daughters. Though he had five children, I wasn’t raised with just five aunts and uncles. I can boast over more than ten aunts and uncles who knew the Apostle as “Daddy.”
My memories with my extended family revolve around my grandfather’s church and home. As I think of his love, his impact on all of us is what I think of most. I remember many family trips to Six Flags in his RV. I remember many holidays in his basement dancing with my cousins. But most of all, I remember his smile and the hiss of his laughter.
Although Apostle was not a talkative man, he was definitely funny. He always had a way to make people laugh. He would nod his head as I went on and on. And when I would finally shut my mouth, he would give one statement that would send us both into giggles. I would run to his office during report card time with my A’s and B’s expecting to leave with lots of money. And sure enough, when my grades would make him proud, I would have enough money to buy candy for myself, my sister and all my cousins.
The Apostle was surrounded by women because most of the children in my generation were girls. When a collection of us gathered for our birthdays last year, he laughed. “Look at here! All these beautiful girls,” he said chuckling. He went on to question how in the world we got so grown. It didn’t take much for us to know his love. His smile and a grin was all his family really needed to brighten our days.
As a child, I knew Apostle as Papa. But as I grew older, I knew him as a religious guide. His greatest expectation of me was that I stood behind my father, Mark, in ministry. Now that he is gone, those are the things that I hold dear to me: his smile, memories of myself and my family in his home, and his expectation of me to continue letting this world know that Christ is the answer.
Though he is not with us, his ministry will live on. His sermons will billow his voice for the rest of time. We can play his hymns. But, we won’t get his gentle smile or laugh back. As I pondered what was the most important thing that people should know about my grandfather, his humor was what came to mind. The man behind the pulpit was a man whose laughter will be missed.
Markeyla Henton is the youngest born to Pastor Mark Anthony Henton, Apostle R.D. Henton’s son and the successor of leadership at Monument of Faith. She is a blogger, entrepreneur and writer. When she is not writing or highlighting Chicago in Against the Stream Magazine, Ms. Henton is active at her church in both youth and worship ministry. You can find Markeyla online at www.sfbthesiren.com.