My father died exactly twenty-five years ago today. There have been few days over this past quarter century that I haven’t thought of him. I was extremely fortunate to have him in my life for those first thirty-seven years. I truly wish I could have had my father in my life even until now, but I am thankful for the time we had.
Having had a wonderful father gives me pause because I know many individuals that either never knew their father or had him in their lives for even fewer years that I did. A father plays such an important part of our lives… ways that we might even realize. When I think of my own father, I am reminded of five key ways he impacted my life:
- He was a great role model – Much of what I know in life I learned from my Dad… not by what he said, but by what he did. By his actions, I learned how to be kind, how to care for others, and how to be a good husband and father. He showed me what it means to live with honor in the workplace and how to see the good in people. Whether he knew it or not, the life he modeled for me showed me what kind of man I wanted to be.
- He was a terrific teacher – Though I have had dozens of teachers in my life, none was better than my Dad. He taught me the value of hard work, what it means to be accountable for my actions, and to make good, well-reasoned decisions. He taught me to do what I said I would do and fulfill my commitments. I learned much from him that I would likely not have never learned from anyone else.
- He was a source of unconditional love and acceptance – I was blessed to have parents that loved us unconditionally. Yet, they had high expectations for us. We had no free passes, simply because they loved us. Anything less than our best was just not good enough. I know I am blessed to have had this in my life.
- He was an amazing provider/protector and made our lives fun – My Dad worked harder than anyone I have ever known. His work was hot, dirty, and physically demanding. He worked outside in all kinds of weather – no such thing as a rain-out or snow day for him! Yet, we always had fun. We always took time away for a vacation. My Dad kept us safe, yet gave us freedom to learn by experience. He provided a perfect balance.
- He encouraged me to be more that I thought was possible – My Dad believed I was capable of anything. He taught me that the only limits were self-inflicted. Though he did not go to college, there was never any doubt that we would find a way for me to go. He gave me the gift of pragmatic ambition… do what you want in life, but understand that it has to pay the way.
So, I just wanted to reach out to those of you that didn’t have a father in your life in ways that I had. Whether or not you benefited in life to have a great father, you can still be a source of inspiration and encouragement for others. You can be the role model to show others how to live and serve others. You can teach others how to live, thrive, and make their way in life. You can extend the kind of unconditional love and acceptance that someone else needs. You can offer wings of protection to someone that feels alone. Or, you can be an encourager for those that seem to be in a valley.
Today, I’m thankful for my Dad. I think back to many wonderful memories. But, lest I find myself stuck in the past, I know I have to look ahead to the impact I can have on others. As long as I am able, I want to have a positive impact on those in my life. No matter what lies in our past, we can make a difference for someone by giving of ourselves in the future. Find a way to encourage someone today. You never know when your words, touch, or actions might help pull someone out of a challenging time.
For those of you that find that the loss of your father is still too fresh, I urge you to give it time. Time has a way of turning sadness and regret into happier memories and encouragement. Eventually, you will look back on your time with your father as the blessing it was.
And, finally, for those of you fortunate enough to still have your parents in your lives, take a moment to call them or write them a note. You just don’t know what you have in this life until it is gone. Someday, when you look up from a phone call, they will be gone. Send them a word of thanks and encouragement today.