Monday, July 11, 2016

My Father's Legacy

Today my father would have been 88. This is the first birthday we’ll be spending without him here on earth. He was called Home January 29th of this year. It’s been a very difficult journey trying to get used to life without the physical presence of this wonderful man in our lives. Each first so far has been extremely challenging; Easter, his favorite holiday, Father’s Day, and now his birthday. Never before has “To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears”, in the Hail Holy Queen meant so much. As Father’s Day was approaching last month I wanted to write some thoughts about my dad and found a note I had written two years ago after visiting him on that Father’s Day. It speaks to the legacy he has left which I am so very grateful for.

Father’s Day, 2014

Watching my dad decline, seeing him sitting in his wheelchair, head lowered because he's just too tired to sit up and stay awake, I wonder, where did this strong man go? This strong, confident, joyful, boisterous full-of- life man, always so quick to give a smile and tell a story.  And why did I expect he'd be that man til my dying day? Did I really believe he'd stay young and strong? 

These past five years I have watched him decline.  I’ve watched his body try to take over and watched him fight back. A fighter he is. My daddy is strong, brave, courageous.  

We used to hit heads a lot in my younger years. Oh how I would argue with him. I didn't want to do things his way, didn't want his advice. But now how I treasure the lessons he taught me. I wonder if I let him know before his mind began to slip away. I hope he knows…

I hope he knows that I did listen I did hear. I did observe his way of life, his integrity, his generosity, and most importantly his faith. And when I put into practice the most important lessons he taught me, life is much better. A plaque that hung in our home when I was growing up stated “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” And boy did my father believe it to his core and practice it. I’d laugh at his convictions at times. Thought they were too extreme. Now I have the same ones. Others think I'm too extreme. With joy I can say my father taught me. 

My parents had me at the ages of  41 & 42. As a child I’d watch my siblings have their babies and how much joy they brought to my parents lives. I’d wonder if my parents would still be around to see my kiddos. (Young person’s mind!) God has blessed me with 21 years of parenting and my parents know and enjoy every one of my children. My dad even came to meet our youngest in the hospital in a wheelchair! I don’t take lightly the blessing of the years I have had with my parents. Especially these past 5 when my dad really began to decline. I’m so grateful for every day with them on this earth. 

These days are fleeting. Each visit my daddy slouches a little more. Each time I leave I hug him a little harder.  Make sure he hears me tell him how much I love him. Bless him. Each holiday or birthday I'm grateful for another one. 

Two years later I faced the first Father’s Day and now his birthday without him. Today while my heart broke wide open again because it was so incredibly hard to face the reality that he is not physically here, it is a day to be brave and focus on what I am thankful for in regard to my dad. To focus on the blessing instead of the loss. To look to the positive instead of the negative feelings I have, as he always taught me to do. 

The blessings: I was given 2 more years with him. I was able to spend more days with him in which he was less confused. I had moments with him that were precious. One day shortly before his death he held my hand so hard I thought it might break! He kept telling me over and over, "It’s just so good to see you." I didn’t want that moment to end. I’m thankful for the grace that moved me to go see him his last day when I had planned to wait a few days. Such a gift spending his last day on earth with him. I am full of gratitude for the example of love he and my mother have shown. They would have been married 65 years this coming September. They are a true example of Christ-like love, never giving up, remaining best friends through all the ups and downs. And in 64+ years there are a LOT of ups and downs to share!! That love spilled over into raising their 6 children. Their model of raising a family was completely in line with God's order and plan for a family. My parents respected each others God-given roles and encouraged each other in them. Most importantly, although right up there next to their example of love, I'm thankful for the gift of faith. 

There was a theme running through each eulogy my siblings and I wrote for my dad. The theme was how much his faith impacted our lives. The most important job in the vocation of parenting is to raise our children in faith. To help them attain Heaven. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this; "2222 Parents must regard their children as children of God and respect them as human persons. Showing themselves obedient to the will of the Father in heaven, they educate their children to fulfill God's law." and  "2197 The fourth commandment opens the second table of the Decalogue. It shows us the order of charity. God has willed that, after him, we should honor our parents to whom we owe life and who have handed on to us the knowledge of God. We are obliged to honor and respect all those whom God, for our good, has vested with his authority." It goes on to state that "parents have a grave responsibility to give a good example to their children." My father handed down this knowledge of God well. He was an excellent example and he taught us well that we need to fulfill God's law.  

My dad learned these things from his mother. She was a woman devoted to prayer. A few days after my father's death I learned  that he had my grandmother’s prayer book, Rosaries and medals in his possession all these years. It brought great joy to me. I cherished this as most of my childhood memories of my grandmother surround her perpetual prayer life, always holding that prayer book and Rosary. She was never without them. I was able to use her Rosary one morning after my mom shared this treasure trove with me. I cannot express how wonderful it was to pray using my grandmothers Rosary beads. What a gift! This legacy of faith has been passed down through the generations. No easy feat as each passing generation has squeezed God out of the picture a little more. My faith has been formed greatly by my father, and his mother. This is the best legacy a father could leave his children. And I do believe when his Creator called him Home my daddy heard the words “Well done good and faithful servant.” 

Happy Birthday to the first man I ever loved. And the first one who loved me. Kiss God for us all!

No comments:

Post a Comment