Some lessons stick with us long after someone is gone.
On March 13, 2008, my world came crashing in around me. With no warning whatsoever my life was forever altered. The news that no one wants to hear was broken to me that day – my dad had died.
I was my dad’s only living biological child and even though I was 34 years old, I was still daddy’s little girl. He and I had a very complicated relationship during my formative years, but I had learned to love him deeply during the latter half of my life, and because of that, I felt we had a lot of catching up to do. When dad passed, I was forever changed; I was a different person on March 13 than I had been just a day prior. However, I know that I can appreciate who he was and help his legacy to live on. Here are some of the most important lessons my dad taught me, directly and indirectly, that I want to share with you.
Never Give Up On Anyone
Those who knew my dad well also knew that he had battled alcoholism for about two decades. His drinking was the reason my parents had divorced when I was very young. I didn’t see him much during my early childhood years, and then in later years I had more visits with him. Those aren’t all good memories; some of them are painful and even confusing. This is part of what made our relationship complicated.
I had this inner struggle that was part being mad at him for his behavior vs. still loving him because he was my father. I dealt with this from later elementary school years until I was in college. Even though he did some really awful things when he was drunk and even got into trouble many times, I wanted so badly to believe there was still good in there. I wanted to believe there was still God in there.
My great-grandmother was a saint and she prayed earnestly for dad and encouraged me to do the same. All those years of tearful prayers finally came to fruiting when, while I was in college, dad became sober. He was a different man from then until he passed away. He taught me not to give up on people.
Treat People Right
That was dad’s work motto that he outright shared with me. He was an appliance repairman. Many times I witnessed him refusing to charge people for a service call to their home in order to fix their washer, dryer, stove, etc. He would charge them only for the appliance part he had replaced. He’d explain to me privately that he knew they couldn’t afford the service call fee and didn’t want to create an extra burden for them. His customers noticed his kindness, because years later when I spent several hours standing next to dad’s casket, many people from the community told me how much of a blessing dad was to them. How he had helped them out in their time of need. He believed in treating people fairly in his business as well as his personal life.
Always say, “I love you.”
My dad was not a lovey-dovey affectionate kind of guy. Not with me or really anyone else (although the grandkids did their best to convert him). He showed his love to me in other ways like slipping me a little cash every now and then, or refusing to let me pay him for a refurbished appliance I needed to replace a worn-out one of mine. He and I could also engage in conversations that lasted for hours at a time. We’d talk about NASCAR, work, his grandkids, and church. Most of the time our conversations were over the phone because we lived a couple hundred miles apart, but we never let a conversation end without saying, “I love you” before hanging up. I am so grateful for that now because I know for certain those were the last words we had exchanged, just three days before he died suddenly. We never know when we’ll breathe our last breath, so what a comforting thought to know the last thing we said to those we cherish the most would be, “I love you.”
I write this on the eighth anniversary of his passing. I still remember the sound of his voice, his dry sense of humor, where he ate breakfast every morning and what uniform he wore to work in every day. I miss him as much today as I did eight years ago, and if I dwell on it too long I can still sob like a broken-hearted child. Until I see him again, however, I will hold the lessons he taught me inside my heart and do my best to live them out in my own life.
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