This coming Sunday is Father’s Day… the day we celebrate all the great things our Dads do for us. It is a day set aside for BBQ’s, outings with families, gifts, and fun. I remember as a kid celebrating Father’s Day doing the things we kids liked to do, not so much what our Dad really would like to do. But, he seemed to just enjoy being with us and doing what we wanted to do… that was just who he was.
However, for many, Father’s Day is a day spent caught up only in memories… thinking about those good times… and bad… with our Dad. Mine has been gone for almost exactly 25 years and I still miss him.
So, for today on The Porch, let’s reminisce about our Dads. Let’s consider what are those things we might say to our Dad if you had one more chance. I also solicited feedback on this question from a few friends to get a broader perspective.
I think the things we might say if you had one more chance fall into a few categories:
- “Thanks, Dad, for all that you taught me, especially ________.” I find myself wishing I could thank my Dad for all he taught me. He taught me how to treat and love a wife. He taught me responsibility, diligence, and to pursue excellence. He taught me to play baseball and to love the game. He taught me how to fish, hunt, and appreciate the outdoors. He taught me the importance of family and just “being there” for key events and activities. One of my friends said he would thank his Dad for teaching him how to fix old junk cars. That same friend is now passing that down to his own grandchildren. You may not realize it, but your own children and grandchildren are learning from you… good or bad.
- “Dad, I never really told you what I thought of you.” Many individuals I have encountered wish that they would have taken the time to tell their Dad what they really thought of them before they were gone. One of my friends does not have that regret. As part of her Dad’s honor flight trip to Washington DC, family members were asked to write a letter expressing their love and thanks to their Fathers. She had the chance to say exactly those things we all might wish we would have said. How fortunate she was… especially since her father passed away just one month later! Another of my friends mentioned how her Dad gave her the ability to take care of herself. He taught her how to hunt and fish and do things herself without depending upon someone else to do it for her. Being independent has been a blessing to her.
- “Dad, you were an amazing example to me, especially when you _________.” Several of the friends I asked to contribute to this talked about the example their father was… of kindness… of patience. One talked about how her father cared for her mother (his wife) tenderly for 14 years after her first stroke. Another mentioned how his father always encouraged him to look forward, not backward. I saw from my father the importance of hard work and of doing what you say you’ll do. I saw him dedicate his precious free time to children, helping to begin a little league baseball organization in my home town. He was a giver that lived an amazing life of service to others.
- “Dad, I wish you would have ________ before you died.” We often look back on the lives of our parents regretting what we did or didn’t do. One of my friends mentioned that she wished her father had done a better job preparing her mother to be a widow. He lived his life dedicated to her to the point that she was not ready to live alone after he was gone. She also said that his dedication to her occurred at the expense of relationships with other family members. Sometimes, being honest with our legacy and the brevity of life needs to be recognized, whether we like it or not. Another friend’s Dad died at a very early age. My friend wishes he had taken better care of himself. Several of my friends mentioned that they had never talked about God much with their Dads. The express that they wish they had that chance to ensure that they were ready when they crossed over that river of death.
- “I hope you are proud of me, Dad. I never would have accomplished _______ without your _______________ (sacrifice, encouragement, or support).” Several of those contributing to this mentioned the influence their Dad had on their own life. Finishing school, developing skills, learning self-reliance all things Fathers help encourage for us. For others, the sacrifices made by Fathers would be part of those “one more time” conversations. I often catch myself wondering and hoping that my own life reflects the dreams my parents had for me as I was growing up in my small home town.
- “I have tried to be just like you, Dad, especially __________.” My own father was a great example of integrity. He worked in the oilfield with men hardened by weather, adversity, and years of hard labor. Yet, to a man, they talked to me privately during my summer work there about how much they respected my father. Hearing that made me to be just like him! One of my friends commented that she always admired her Dad’s “giant personality”… love for people, friendliness, thoughtfulness… that she tried to adopt and emulate. Another friend said his own life has been much better because of the honor and integrity his father displayed over his entire life.
- “I wish you could have met your _________ (grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.). You would be so proud. In many ways, they are a lot like you.” My Father died when my children were all young. He would be so proud of them now! And, he would have truly enjoyed his seven great-grandchildren! Each of them has some element of him in their look, actions, or personality. How fun it would be to watch my parents meet them today! A friend mentioned that her son wished that he could have gotten to know his Grandfather better. He wishes they could take that camping trip together that they had been planning. That same friend wishes her Dad could have met her current husband. She said she thought he would really like him and be proud she had such a wonderful man in her life.
- “Dad, just in case there was ever any doubt, I just want you to know that I always loved you.” My friend mentioned that she was whispering her love for her own Father the very moment he died. How wonderful knowing that he never had to doubt it! I would love having the chance to just say it one more time!
- “I still smile every time I think about you, Dad. Do you remember the time we __________.” My Dad was fun! He had a great sense of humor and was constantly playing practical jokes on people. I have so many memories of him having fun. He made everything more fun just by being there. My wife and I still talk about his jokes and the pranks he pulled on us.
- “Dad, I miss doing __________ with you!” – One of my friends mentioned that he missed being able to go bowling or play golf with his Dad. Those of us that have lost our parents, often just wish we could spend more time doing the things we enjoyed with them. I remember fishing with my Dad while listening to the baseball game on the radio. One of my friends said he would say, “Thank you Dad for all the countless summer days of fishing together, I sure do miss you!”
- “Well done, Dad.” I would love the chance just to tell my Dad, “well done.” His life was too short, but full. He served in the military, enjoyed many hobbies, worked hard, raised three successful kids, was respected by others, and sacrificed his own interests for others. He loved his wife of 40 years and told me shortly before his death that he knew his eternal destiny was heaven. How could you ask for more?
I’m sure that every person would add their own item to this list. Sometimes, it is good just to pause to reflect on the wonderful life and wonderful parents we were blessed to experience.
For those fortunate enough to still have your Dad living, what is it from this list that you need to tell him? The rest of us would give anything for just one more chance to say what we need to say or neglected to say. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by. Someone once said,
“Never ignore a person who loves you, cares for you, and misses you. Because one day, you might wake up from your sleep and realize you lost the moon while counting the stars.” – Unknown
Father’s Day is also a good day to consider our own legacy. Are we doing everything we can today to leave behind those memories that will bring smiles years or decades from now? Are there changes you need to make to restore relationships that need mended? Let this time of reflection on your own life serve as a wake-up call, if needed.
Finally, to all you Dads reading this… thanks for what you do; thanks for the sacrifices you make; thanks for the example you provide; thanks for your unending support; and thanks for the love you show. It may not seem like much, but it means the world to some. Keep it up and finish strong!
Happy Father’s Day!