He stood 6′ 3″ with thick, salt and pepper hair. His face was rugged from years of sun despite the shade his cowboy hat offered.
He was a cattle rancher, well respected, well liked and hard working. He came from humble means, but believed education provided opportunities, so he became a scholar and worked his way up to a PhD. Over the years he was on bank boards, school boards, and even the former regent of a state college. Twice a year he’d lobby in Washington D.C. for the future of agriculture.
He carried himself with a quiet confidence, never seeking out praise. Long winded stories were never his style. He spoke with purpose and intention. He loved his wife and daughters, the Texas Rangers, War World II books and old movies. He preferred the countryside to the city life, five dollar Walmart shirts to Ralph Lauren, and Ford pickups over Chevrolet. He made others laugh with his light hearted nature and dry sense of humor. He looked for the good in others and always fought for the underdog.
His name was John, and he was my father.
Merriam Webster’s dictionary describes father as: A male parent, a man who is thought of as being like a father, or a person who was in someone’s family in past times.
This year marks the third one that I won’t make a phone call or buy my father a card. I watch quietly as others around me scramble for last minute gifts and make plans for Sunday afternoon barbecues. I push down the rising thoughts that creep up every year around this time: “He won’t be there to walk me down the aisle, or meet my children.” Tears are cried.
Grieving has taught me that our hearts are much larger than I imagined; they’re so much stronger than I ever gave them credit for.
My thoughts surrounding Father’s Day usually center on two questions: How do we embrace this day if our father is no longer with us? How do we celebrate when we feel like doing anything but that?
My answer? We make a choice. We honor the grief because it means that we have loved. It has a place and, I believe, a purpose. Grieving has taught me that our hearts are much larger than I imagined; they’re so much stronger than I ever gave them credit for. This is where we press in and cry and feel all the feelings that can come with pain.
But, instead of shutting down and building up walls, we learn to release, to choose thankfulness not bitterness and gratitude over despair. Loss taught me how to give freely, to love deeply, and to cherish moments that I once overlooked. I believe in heaven, and I believe that I will see my father again, so I don’t dwell on what I don’t have in front of me right now. Instead, I say more thank you’s for what I had and I realize how incredibly blessed I am.
Maybe you haven’t lost a father. Maybe you have. Maybe you’ve never known yours, but we all have one and they teach us about life, either good or bad. By acknowledging them we see how, in turn, our lives are important and valuable. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for our father, and I believe that every person has a purpose.
… Father’s Day is important because it sets a stage to honor those who “father” well, regardless of flesh and blood.
If a father’s influence in your life wasn’t ideal, then you still have the chance to learn from their mistakes and move forward. And if it was loving, like mine, then we have the opportunity to acknowledge and thank our fathers for such a presence. Either way, Father’s Day is important because it sets a stage to honor those who “father” well, regardless of flesh and blood.
My hope is that despite your circumstances, you choose to celebrate the beautiful reflection of your father that’s in you and you would choose to love deeply. Chart a new course, knowing that deep down you have purpose and a name: Daughter.
Image via Taylr Anne