Last week was a hard. After beating brain cancer and then dealing with a host of other ailments, my dad passed away. So while I typically don’t write about personal matters, I think that my dad’s impact on me is something worth writing about.
My dad was Vietnam war veteran (22 years in the Navy), a Scoutmaster, a runner and a prolific reader. Of course, most importantly, he was an amazing father and husband.
One of things I didn’t expect to experience last week was all of the people who shared stories with me about my father. Some of the stories I knew, while others were fresh to me. After listening to story after story, I began to sense a theme emerging that helped clarify for me what my father had taught me. Here’s a quick list of what I learned:
People mattered – My dad always put people first. I had the privilege of working with my dad on mission trips to inner city New Orleans, food banks and visiting nursing homes. At no point did I ever see my dad turn a request to help someone. He was the first to care the widows, visit hospitals and pray for our pastor. In each of those moments, my dad sent me a clear consistent message, people mattered.
People are worth investing in – My dad’s best friend for the last thirty years was a pastor of local church near my childhood home. While I knew that they were close, I didn’t know that my dad spent his time mentoring this pastor through books. If the pastor didn’t know something about a certain subject, my dad would buy books on the subject, give them to the pastor and then he would quiz the pastor on what had learned. Over their thirty year friendship my dad bought him over 100 books.
Begin with an end in mind – My dad never started a project or task without having a very clear idea of what he wanted the goal to be. Around my parent’s house, you won’t find any unfinished projects. Everything around the house was completed. When my dad started something he was able to finish it because he knew what he wanted it to look like in the end.
Stay singularly focused on one idea – My dad didn’t multi-task. He saw multi-tasking as a failure to focus on the task at hand. My dad knew something that would take me years to realize. You can only do one thing well at a time.
Everything has a purpose – My dad rarely did anything that didn’t have a purpose. Don’t get wrong, my dad knew how to have fun (he was the king of practical jokes), however everything he did was built around a purpose.
I think my dad did this because he focused on the long term. While most people are obsessed with the here and now, my dad was thinking about how things would play out in the next thirty years and even more importantly how things mattered eternally.
I’m grateful for my dad, but I’m even for more grateful the time he spent investing in me and the people around him. Yes, some of the days ahead will be rough, but knowing where he is now and the legacy he left behind makes it a little bit easier.