I lit a candle and prayed in our parish chapel not long ago for a man I know in his late-70s who is struggling with various health issues as he gets older. The candle I lit burned brightly, more brightly than the others, for the hour I was in the chapel. The light reminded me of his life filled with countless good examples and a wonderful legacy of lives he has touched. Let me tell you a little about him.
He had a challenging childhood. His father left when he was a little boy and he, his two brothers and twin sister were raised by his alcoholic mother and grandmother. He made his way through childhood with no real fatherly influence and very little money to keep the household going. The man was good at sports and played high school football and focused on girls and going to the beach as ways to escape the emotional turmoil at home.
He joined the Army at age eighteen and the military formed the basis for the man he became. He learned self-discipline, gained a work ethic and became a leader. After six years he left to join the real world and started his career. He was very different from the rash teenager he had been and was now a mature man and focused on starting a new life. He met and fell in love with a woman a few years later and they settled down to start a family.
The happy couple had a boy and both he and his wife were busy pursuing their careers and raising their child. He tried college, but after two years decided it was not for him and focused instead on working as hard as he could to support his family. The man turned out to be the opposite of his own childhood experience. Although he was not perfect, he always made time after work to play catch with his son and to teach him valuable life lessons. He loved talking to his son about the importance of getting a good education, working hard, helping others in need and always doing your best. This hard working father grew up in a generation that didn’t easily show affection and he was rarely heard to say “I love you,” but his actions showed the depth of his feelings towards his family more than words ever could.
A daughter was born after they moved to Georgia in the early 1970s and the family was complete. The years went by and the man started attending church at the urging of his wife. He found a true calling as a Sunday School teacher and faithful member of the church. The man and woman continued to raise their children and built a good moral foundation in the home and set great examples with their work ethic and devotion to family. The man was well known in the community as a good friend, hard worker, devout church-goer, selfless giver, good father and husband.
He saw first his son, and years later, his daughter off to college. He had always placed a premium on education and it made him very proud to see his children live out his dream. Disappointments and triumphs followed in the next several years as the man watched his children stumble, fall and get back up again in their pursuit of life, love and happiness. He just kept on working and giving testimony with his life and his children could easily see a great example to follow, even if they didn’t always appreciate him.
The later years saw the son raise a family of his own and the daughter get married, have a son and get divorced. Out of his sense of duty and compassion, he took his daughter and grandson into his home with his wife and they helped to raise their grandson. He still taught the timeless lessons of a good work ethic, strong values and education. His happiest moments always seemed to be a teaching opportunity with his daughter’s son and the sons of his firstborn. The man’s age, a life of hard work and a smoking addiction he only gave up in 2008 have caught up with him and he is dealing with various health challenges. Even when he is not feeling well, he always smiles and makes the conversation about you and not himself.
I wonder if he recognizes how many lives he has touched by the example of his incredible work ethic, making good moral choices, and always offering to give of himself to others-never asking for anything in return. He was married to the same woman for forty-five years until her death in February of 2010 and the dignified and caring way he handled her loss was another grace filled example to emulate. I hope he knows how he has influenced me by the meaningful life he has led and I look forward to telling him in person as soon as possible.
The man is known by several names: husband, brother, friend, Papa and Steve. I have always just called him…Dad.
Dad, thank you for being the best example a son could ever want and for showing me how to pursue and live a meaningful life. I hope I pass along what you have taught me to my own children.
Happy Father’s Day.
Editor’s Note: Adapted from Randy Hain’s third book, Something More: The Professional’s Pursuit of a Meaningful Life with permission of the publisher and Randy Hain.
Would you like to learn more about Randy Hain’s newest book? His seventh book, Special Children, Blessed Fathers: Encouragement for Fathers of Children with Special Needs (Foreword by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput), will be released June 1, 2015 and is available now for pre-order from Emmaus Road Publishing in both hardcover and paperback.