Three years ago today, my dad died of lung cancer. I want to honor his memory here by sharing what I wrote for the memorial service. The pain of his loss is still present and surfaces at strange times and in strange ways.
Reading these words again reminds me that Growing Up doesn’t have to be complicated and it reminds me that I still have some ways to go to take the lessons he taught me and implement them for my own life.
From July 2017–
My dad was a simple man. I say that in the best possible way.
He knew the power of a handshake and taught me such power. Just a few days before he died, he still gave me one of his patented handshakes.
He taught me that life wasn’t about comparison but an opportunity to get the most out of your ability. To this day, I tell our girls each day as they go to school to, “do your best.” I learned that from my dad.
He taught me that little things can make a big difference. My parent’s neighborhood is set up like a circle. Everyday, when he was able, my dad would carry each neighbor’s newspaper from the driveway to the porch. On trash days, he would roll the big trash cans from the curb to the house so that the neighbors wouldn’t have to do it. This sounds like a small thing, but just about every neighbor I talked to after his death mentioned his kindness to do this day after day.
I mentioned that my dad was a simple man. A good way of thinking about simplicity, as it relates to a person, is they know what matters most. My dad knew what mattered most.
Before he retired, his job sent him to schools in small towns around the area where my parents lived. Instead of cranking up his favorite song or listening to talk radio, my dad would turn everything off and pray and meditate and sit in silence. What a simple yet profound thing to do in our day and age.
One Easter growing up, I noticed something strange at the dinner table. The rest of us were enjoying our meal but dad was just drinking orange juice. He wasn’t broadcasting it but he was fasting in response to the sacred event. I had never been exposed to this before and this action really had an impact on me. My dad took his faith serious enough to sacrifice something. What was I willing to sacrifice?
Not too long ago, my dad and I were on a long trip out of town. He took the opportunity to tell me, “If there is anything I have done or said that hurt you, I am sorry.” Here was a man in his sixties asking for forgiveness. He was at the age where most men don’t think they owe anybody anything. You are supposed to be set in your ways by then. It takes a real man to go first in a situation like that. Unfortunately, I wasn’t man enough to return the favor and tell him that if there was anything that I did that disappointed him or hurt him, I was sorry.
What mattered to my dad was consistency, integrity, love of Jesus, family, connections with close friends, and kindness to others. These are the things that should matter the most to all of us.
May we all practice this kind of simplicity.