My father died three days ago, and it seems so soon to reflect on his life and the contributions he has made into my life; yet it is a testament to the parent he was to me that I feel compelled to share what he bequeathed to me. The only way to keep anything is to give it away, and by sharing what he has given me I hope it will live on in your hearts and my own.
Three years ago, my beautiful son was born and I began to understand the weight of responsibility associated with being a parent. There are joys and sorrows in raising a child, and if you truly care about the child, you likely will find yourself questioning every single decision you make. I cannot say I agree with every decision he made or every opinion he held, but the essence of a person comprises more than that. One of my favorite authors, Bob Goff, wrote that every time he asks God about his opinions, God asks him about his heart. “We won’t be remembered for what we said but how available we were,” he wrote.
My father was the best person I knew, and it is precisely because of the love and generosity I experienced from him. The investment he made in my life fueled everything about the way I live my life now, and because of how available he made himself to me, I understand the importance of being present than being perfect.
As soon as I comprehended the span of 54 years between us, I dreaded the day of his death. I imagined, not illegitimately, that he could die when I was ten, or fifteen, or twenty. I count it a gift that I have in fact had twenty-six years of relationship with my father, and despite the typical highs and lows inherent with the transitional teenage years and becoming an adult, each year has been marked with my unequivocal knowledge that I was loved.
This love was validated in verbal expressions, but conveyed most clearly in the generosity of time, energy, and affection he showed in his sacrificial emotional availability to me. He was the best listener I’ve ever met. After a heavy workday, when he must have wanted nothing else than to kick back and relax, he would come to my bedroom and listen to me for hours every night. He cared so deeply he actually cried with me when I found out a boy I was interested in was dating someone else. It was a fanciful infatuation, but he knew what it meant to me and understood my pain enough to be present with me in that moment. He actively expressed his love to me until the day he died. Though I would rather him still be with us, I cannot question his devotion.
He was quiet, notoriously being unable to talk for two minutes straight; but it wasn’t out of a lack of engagement. He was observant and intuitive, and consistently supportive and involved in my activities and interests. He was a reliably steady force in my life, and I can truly say any commitment he made to me he always followed through. I will always remember him joining me behind the piano, tapping his foot to the beat. I will always remember lazy Sunday afternoons watch (and falling asleep to) golf tournaments. I will never forget his quirky grin as he sang about LSD in Muskogee.
It still is so hard to accept he is gone, to have watched his breathing slow and eventually stop. What I keep of him still is intangible, but very real, and I share with you: the memories, the love, the lessons, an embodiment of the qualities I want to characterize my life.
Dad, I love you more than you could ever know, and I’m endlessly grateful for all you were to me. I hope my son is half the man you were. I hope he will see you in me. I love you.