Monday, April 28, 2014
My Dad, Remembering a Life Lived Well
Remembering Leon, My Dad
I apologize for being away from the blog for the last several weeks….but not really. My aging father, for whom I have been primary caregiver, entered the hospital and then left life here to be with Jesus in glory. So I have been very busy with all the things that surround such events, and the blog has had to wait. Though it doesn’t have anything to do with divorce, I wanted to share some things with you today.
When my uncle passed away, my cousin wrote an incredible tribute to his father, listing a few pithy life lessons he had learned from him. It touched me deeply. Though it may not be as profound, I thought I’d share a few similar thoughts about my father I wrote the day he died. They are life lessons he exemplified, taught and valued. I was privileged to share these last few years with him as caregiver for my mother and him, until he passed away earlier this month, at the young age of 94. Maybe some of his lessons will have meaning for you, as well. (They are in no particular order.)
1) Dad believed life was sometimes hard, not perfect or fair, and that the task of life was to face its challenges head on, making the wisest choice you can, and then doing the best one can do at each given task.
2) Dad believed you followed through on your commitments. And he firmly believed that God and family are the most important commitments. He was married for 67 years, and he was at worship and Sunday School every single Sunday unless there was a MAJOR reason he HAD to be gone. (He even attended the Sunday before he entered the hospital the last time.) Health issues made it hard to get to do all he wanted and see everyone he’d like, but he loved all his extended family dearly, even those he didn’t get to see very often.
3) Dad believed in being fair, honest and hard working. He wouldn’t charge the outrageous prices his competition would charge, because he knew money was precious for regular folks who worked day in and day out at jobs. He kept busy working on things his entire life, even planting this year’s garden a week before he died, as well as sending hand written birthday and get well cards to people he knew, and some he didn’t, even while doing physical rehab after hospital stays.
4) In his business practice, he was customer oriented with old fashioned values. Many a time we shot family pictures for people on Christmas day, or interrupted our Christmas Eve celebration to go open the story long enough to get somebody the film they needed and had forgotten to buy. And you NEVER, NEVER, NEVER kept a customer waiting in front of you while you talked to another on the phone, nor dared to close the store in their face at 5:02, just because they were a couple of minutes after closing time!
5) He believed waste is wrong. Growing up in the Depression, he hated to throw any food away, always finding a way to use leftovers for turkey soup or whatever. He cleaned his chicken bones until they looked polished, and would find a way to repair anything at least 10 times before he would waste money to buy a new one.
6) He reminded me just the other day of the importance of generosity and of helping other people, a lesson he had learned from his father, who told him, “Don’t ever turn a man away hungry.” He tried to be generous, and cared about people whose lives were hard.
7) He believed you do your best to make things right with others when a relationship is broken, but that you can only do your own part…other people make choices that are sometimes foolish, and you can’t live life FOR them.
8) He believed in humility, and was never very impressed with people who were impressed with themselves. He tried to make a difference in his community, even attending a Board meeting for the local museum a couple of weeks ago.
9) He loved beautiful things (which was regularly demonstrated in his profession as a photographer), and ALWAYS appreciated when somebody did anything nice for him. He liked the flowers in his yard that came from bulbs my sister gave him, and he loved seeing the beauty in nature every day.
10) He believed life is meant to be lived, and that we are each here for a purpose designed for us by God, and the greatest thing we can do in life is try our best to follow the purposes God designs. Therefore, he made a regular practice of reading and studying his Bible. Many a time I walked into his rehab unit to find him reading from the scriptures, and in the last few weeks, he would pull out notes he had taken about questions he wanted to discuss with me.
This does not even begin to describe my father, but they are things that have been important to me. A survivor of the Great Depression and years of combat in World War II, I think the greatest achievements of his life had to include the lifetime commitment of his marriage, sharing special memories and thoughts of the wife he missed, since she died just over a year ago. And I would have to include the great courage he showed in facing the challenges that come with age, and the diligence with which he approached every exercise assigned for his recovery.
I only hope that when my time to go arrives, there will be those who have even half the esteem and high opinion of me that people who knew him had for my dad. I don’t know if they can hear us in heaven, or would even have access to blogs written on the internet, but if somehow you can, then dad, thanks once again for being such an incredible father. I miss you every day.