My full name is Clarence Raymond Pritchard. I was named Clarence for my uncle who died two years after I was born. Raymond was my father’s middle name. When my oldest son was born, we named him Joshua Tyrus Pritchard—Joshua for the great Bible hero and Tyrus in honor of my father who was named after Ty Cobb, the great baseball player. Our second son was named Mark Alan after Marlene’s older brother Mark and my younger brother Alan. When our third son came along we named him Nicholas Andrew because we saw the name Nicholas and said, “That’s a strong name.” Andrew is in honor of my older brother Andy.
I learned something about the value of names when I traveled to Russia with John and Helen Sergey in 1991. It was our third or fourth day in Russia when I noticed something unusual about the way the men addressed one another. They would say each other’s first name and then they would add a middle name that always ended with “ovich.” My friend John Sergey was addressed as “Ivan Mikhailovich Sergei.” When I asked John about it, he said that Russians always use the patronymic. “Patronymic” is a word that means “the name of my father.” The “ovich” ending in Russian literally means “son of.” Therefore, “Ivan Mikhailovich” literally means “John son of Michael.” It’s a way of recognizing your family lineage. Every son bears his father’s name.
When John asked me my father’s name, I told him my dad was named Tyrus Pritchard. His full name was Tyrus Raymond Pritchard. My older brother Andy took his first name and I took his middle name. John thought for a moment and then said that in Russian my name with the patronymic would be “Ray Tyrusovich”—“Ray son of Tyrus.” That pleased me when I heard it because I’ve always been proud of my father. The thought of being called by my father’s name is one of the greatest honors I could imagine. I think he would be proud and pleased too.
Even though my father died 39 years ago, a part of him lives on in me and in my three brothers. If I can be permitted to paraphrase the words of Jesus, if you have seen me, you have seen my father—however imperfectly, however incompletely, however mixed in with other influences on my life. But my dad is there, sure enough, in my face, my voice, my actions, my habits. I even see him in my three sons–fainter still, but the influence is there. My sons are like me in many ways, but I am like my father in some ways and so his influence passes on to the third generation. Sometimes when I visit my relatives, one of them will say, “You remind me so much of your father."There is no finer compliment I could receive. That’s what it means to bear my father’s name. It is far more than having the same last name. His character and personality was in some small way passed on to me. And even though he has been gone for many years, I have a sacred responsibility to honor his name—to live up to the things he taught me, to try to be as good a man as he was, to live in such a way so that people who never knew him will look at me and say, “His father must have been a good man” and the people who knew my dad will say “He’s a credit to his father’s name.”
The Bible calls “Honor your father and your mother,” the first commandment with promise “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land” (Ephesians 6:2-3). For many years I marveled at the prayer of Psalm 128:6, “May you live to see your children’s children,” which somewhere I saw paraphrased as, “May you live to see your grandchildren playing at your feet.”
That happened to me this week.
Eli and Knox were playing with a toy train in our living room while Penny was bouncing on my lap. Few things in life are more satisfying than that.
Happy Father’s Day to fathers everywhere. Enjoy this day and the children and grandchildren the Lord has given you.
Ray Pritchard pastored in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. Married to Marlene for 38 years, he enjoys being a husband, a father and a grandfather, riding his bike, and playing with Dudley and Gary, beloved basset hounds.