Every May I try to spend some time reflecting on my dad’s life. He died ten years ago, May 19, 2004. These are just some quick reflections on what I’ve learned since he’s been gone.
-a man falls many times, but a father’s words pick him up
When I lost my dad at 18, I didn’t think that I could make so many mistakes and fail so many times in 10 years. I’ve carried past affirmation from my dad through these times, but I have really missed hearing encouragement from him. He was so good at this. It’s amazing how powerful the words of your dad can be: “You are doing a good job. You can do it. I believe in you.”
-time heals wounds, but scars dull the heart
I don’t know exactly how it works, but the more time that passes, the less pain you feel. This is hard to comprehend while you are losing someone, but it’s true. “Healing” can take many forms. Big wounds tend to leave big scars. I had so much pain from losing my dad that I swore to never allow myself to feel that kind of pain again. I’ve kept that promise, but I’ve lost a lot of my ability to feel things along the way. The past year has begun a hopeful process of restoration, but true healing really hurts.
-a dad can help too much, but a son always needs help
This is one of the only faults I can find with how my dad raised me. I don’t doubt his motives, but I think he helped me too much. He protected me too much. Ironically, the past 10 years of struggle have made up for this and now I know that a son always wants his dad’s help. Even if it isn’t anything material, a son can always benefit in some way from his dad being available to help.
-memories cost moments but last forever
Another reality, when someone dies you carry memories of them rather than who they were or what they gave you. I guess this means that you can be the greatest person in the world and give everything to your child, but if you don’t make time to create memories with them, they won’t really remember much about you when you’re gone. I think that since my dad let me taste the value of this, I am eager to pass it on to my own family now.
-adversity accelerates the transition to manhood
So obvious, but I think we miss this in today’s culture. My dad gave me many foundations while he was alive, but it has been in his absence that I’ve been forced to live in the wild and apply the principles he taught me. The best intentioned and most expensive educations from parents can sometimes come second to the transformational power of adversity. The last 10 years have shown me how much I was babied and forced me to grow into a man (Without the foundational guidance of my parents and additional mentors in the midst of adversity, however, I’m not so sure whether adversity would have changed me for the better or worse).
-it is best to just love one woman
This also is obvious yet another thing we miss today. Like so many things in life, it’s actually not complicated at all. It’s just difficult. It is better to grow up with the same mother and father your whole life. It is better to feel warm in a home where mom and dad laugh, hug, and kiss each other. It is better to watch your mom love and care for your dad on his deathbed. These are the simple things that my dad taught me. They are hard to obtain but far better than the empty promises that woo a man to love more than one woman. This has been such a help to me as a husband and father.
-a man can provide for his family even after he is gone
I don’t think that dad succeeded with all of his career plans, but I never wanted for anything growing up. My mom spent most of her time working at home with four kids and volunteering in the community, so my dad’s death gave me some serious questions related to provision. I trust that God would have provided somehow, but it’s hard to imagine what the last 10 years would have been like without my dad’s life insurance. It doesn’t have to necessarily be life insurance, but a man can provide for his family even after he is gone, and every dad should at least be thinking about this possibility.
-your friends and enemies affect your children
I haven’t run into my dad’s enemies yet, though I’m sure they are out there, but I have definitely encountered many of his friends and received much from them. A dad’s decisions affect his children, period. One of the best examples of this was when I was starting out on my first venture and needed to raise seed money from people. I was introduced to someone that my dad had mentored while he was in college and the first time we met he said to me, “If you are Mark’s son, it doesn’t really matter what you are doing because I know it will be good. I’m going to fund you.”
-write everything down
I keep a journal (http://dayoneapp.com/) because my dad kept one and gave it to me before he died. I have the last ten years of his life in these journals. I wish I had more years, but I am grateful for everything he stored up for my siblings and me through his writing. One day I want my kids to know my heart, my thoughts, my mistakes, my wisdom, my dreams, my life…They can use or not use it however they see fit, but I want to at least give them the choice.
-God is a father for every generation
This is probably the most encouraging thing for people who lost their dad or never really had one. I’ve talked a lot about this with other friends who have had to live without earthly fathers. The Bible says that God is a father, and teaches us what kind of father he is. It is amazing how much wisdom I have gained through reflecting on how God, along with my dad, has cared for me as a father. There are many things I wish I had from my dad and still desire each day, but I have never been fully without a father. This is honestly a mysterious and spiritual thing I am just beginning to grasp.