Today would have been my precious father’s 77th birthday. Two weeks before Christmas, my Mom held him and my brother and I held his hands, as God brought him Home.
I am missing him and thinking about him so much today – especially about what an incredible gift that I’ve been given in my Dad. What a gift so many of us have been given in our amazing, imperfect, loving, hard-working, strong, caring Dads.
Guys, you may not feel like you’ve got this fatherhood thing figured out – my own father is among many thousands I’ve interviewed who said he regularly wondered if he was doing the right thing, if he had what it took to be a good dad to the kids he loved more than his own life. And as his grateful daughter, let me tell you what I told him regularly – and reassure the rest of you who wonder the same thing: your impact is profound and eternal. If you are trying to show love, your kids see it. If you are trying to be present in their lives, your kids notice. When you have to show tough love and establish boundaries, your kids may not like it at the time, but they will be grateful for it later. And even when you think you’ve messed things up, your kids also see the good things, even as you ask for forgiveness for any bad ones.
Even at the very end of my Dad’s life, I watched him courageously struggle to be a great father and husband. As many of you know, Dad was completely incapacitated by a stroke about 20 months ago. He and my Mom, married for 54 years, had so much courage in confronting such a devastating situation together. But it was definitely so hard to watch him get weaker each time an infection came along, and to know how frustrating it must be for such a brilliant man (a Fullbright Scholar and Ph.D.) to struggle to think and communicate. And yet even when he required total care, and it would have been completely understandable for him to feel frustrated or grumpy – he was kind. He was a man of character.
It was especially hard to hear the hospice nurse tell us that suddenly, he didn’t have much time – knowing that my brother lived in Singapore (a 26-hour flight away), and it would be at least a day and a half until he could get here.
My Dad had slipped into near-unconsciousness near the end, but we suspected he could still hear us in some way. We told him to hang on, that his son was coming—and he did. My parents’ pastor came and prayed last rites over him, but he kept hanging on. His lungs were filling up and it was hard for him to breathe, but he made it the day and a half. And as Jeff raced my brother and his wife home from the airport at high speeds, we could tell he was working to stay. So his son would also be there at the bedside, and the family would be complete as we said goodbye.
We were together for 12 hours before he died. Twelve precious hours to hug and cry together. To tell Dad what an amazing husband and father he was. To share funny memories. To cry together.
Then Dad left to be with Jesus.
But one day—one day—we will all be together again.
My Dad was an amazing father and husband. He was an amazing man. But he was also a normal one. Just like all of you amazing, normal, average fathers and husbands out there.
Today, on my Dad’s birthday, I celebrate and pay tribute to a great man… and all of you. You may not hear it often enough. But you mean more than you know.
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Shaunti Feldhahn loves sharing eye-opening information that helps people thrive in life and relationships. She herself started out with a Harvard graduate degree and Wall Street credentials but no clue about life. After an unexpected shift into relationship research for average people like her, she now is a popular speaker and author of best-selling books about men, women and relationships. (Including For Women Only, For Men Only, and the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage).
Her latest book, Find Peace: A 40-day Devotional Journey For Moms, focuses on discovering biblical direction to become a woman of serenity and delight in all seasons – and have impact for generations to come.
Visit www.shaunti.com for more.