‘Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ‘
2 Corinthians 4: 16-18
I’ll be honest, I’ve not been sure if I’d be able to do this, but here we are…
My dad. I’m overcome with gratitude when I think about my dad. To stand up here and even try to portray all that he means in a few short moments, well, that’s simply an impossible task. What I will do is share a tiny drop in the ocean of who my father was and all that he means to me and our family.
Just a tiny drop.
When I think about my dad, I think about a servant-hearted man who was kind, gentle, loving, easy-going, FULL of joy, gratitude and so very content. If he wasn’t wearing a full on smile, then he was always wearing a slightly more subtle smile, but always a smile.
Dad loved his boat, he loved being out on the water, fishing, tinkering in the garage, building things, golfing, and he also loved simply ‘being’ with family and close friends. There was an ever present joy and contentment about my dad which made him so easy to be around. He never complained and he didn’t talk down to people. He loved the Lord and honored everyone he encountered simply by bringing warmth, kindness, presence and joy to that person.
My dad was a man of his word and he lived an honest life. If he said he would do something, he’d do it, and it would be done on time. He was full of integrity and valued loyalty, hard work, commitment and honesty.
He always taught me to honor my word, see things through and end things well.
Dad was a man of ‘fewer’ words, certainly fewer words than the three women he intently listened to talk and talk and talk throughout the years. When I think about my dad, I think about these phrases he always said to me…
He always said…‘Leigh, you look so pretty’,
Dad would always be home for any occasion where I was getting dressed up to greet me with a compliment. I’d walk out of my bedroom and he’d always say, ‘oh boy, Leigh you look so pretty.’ I never got tired of hearing him say it. It mattered so much.
He always said…‘Leigh, I’m so proud of you’,
My dad was the least prideful man I’ve ever met, but he was ‘proud’ of his girls. He carried my senior photo around in his wallet and he would show anyone and everyone. Even though there were 1,000 more recent photos of me he could have shown people, he loved showing people that old senior glamour shot. I know whoever he showed it to would always respond with ‘she looks just like you.’ And I know that made him smile.
He always said…‘Leigh, you can do anything.’
My dad, he never missed a volleyball game…or softball game…or basketball game…or any game I played over the years. He was always cheering me on and telling me how talented I was. I remember when he and I were both working at the Wellington Country Club and we’d hit golf balls at the driving range. He’d say ‘you should really pursue golf Leigh, you have so much natural ability.’ I’d just laugh and say, I don’t want to wear those ugly shorts dad. He genuinely believed I had a promising future in the LPGA. I loved that he wholeheartedly believed I could take any sport, hobby or interest ‘all the way’. I always knew my dad believed in me.
My dad was the most unselfish man I’ve ever known and he was a servant through and through.
He faithfully served the community through his career as a firefighter. I wish I could see all the people dad helped throughout his years of service line up and hear all of their stories about my dad. I bet there would be some good ones. My dad worked harder than anyone, saved countless lives and never made a big to do about it. Though, he never really thought of himself as a hero, he certainly took great pride in the job. He was always content, always happy, always satisfied being a firefighter.
Dad humbly served the Lord…always. Above anything else, my dad loved his Lord and savior Jesus Christ. He showed us what it looks like to live out his faith in such practical ways. Not too long ago a man named Daniel reached out to me to tell me that my dad saved his life. 11 years ago Daniel met my dad when he was new to church. He was going through a difficult time and would always arrive early and sit in the back. Dad would always be there ushering and talk with Daniel. He said dad’s openness to share about his own life always made him feel welcome and safe. Daniel has gone on to attend this church for years now and faithfully serves. He insists that dad’s simple warmth and care is what saved his life. The best part is, dad wasn’t doing anything extraordinary in his own eyes, but being exactly who he was. A kind man who loved God, was always present, and cared for people.
Dad selflessly served our family. Acts of service were undoubtedly his love language. My dad showed his love for us in a million little ways. Whether he was out hand washing our cars, taking out all of the trash cans throughout the house, or asking if we wanted the last cookie in the kitchen…my dad was always putting others before himself and he undoubtedly provided a beautiful life for our family.
My dad LOVED my mom. He was always thinking of her and putting her needs before his. He was her biggest advocate. If you hurt my mom, well you hurt him. He was thoughtful in all areas. Even in his later years, when he was really sick, he’d always want to make sure mom got flowers on Mother’s Day or was celebrated for her birthday. We all remember mom’s sparkling 60th surprise birthday party when we worked so hard to create a beautiful, classy, surprise brunch at Gail’s house to celebrate mom. Dad was adamant that he wanted to pick out and order the cake himself. Laura and I went to pick it up and much to our surprise, we picked up a VERY sparkly, bright pink cake. We were a bit mortified at the tackiness of all the glitter, but dad was SO proud of this cake. I’ll never forget the smile on his face when we revealed that cake. We put that cake front and center at the party, and it became the hi-light of the birthday!
Through my parent’s marriage, we’ve witnessed what TRUE commitment looks like. Dad faithfully loved, provided for and honored mom for 44 years. And mom, well there are no words to express the strength and commitment she has shown throughout this journey. As she has navigated the difficult, unchartered waters of caring for dad through his sickness, we’ve witnessed her struggle, but we’ve also witnessed her soar. Mom took care of dad, in our home, until the end, and she was amazing at it. I believe the Lord’s strength and their love for one another is ultimately what carried their marriage from the very beginning to the very end. Mom, you are amazing.
From my dad, I’ve gained so much.
Aside from his baby blue eyes, I know I inherited his grit, work ethic, love for both the ocean and the mountains and my ‘helper’ mentality. My dad was a true ‘helper’. When I think back on his life, I think about all the ways he exemplified selflessness and purely serving others, without ever needing to be seen or recognized. That is something I will remember him by, strive for daily and value for the rest of my life. Secret service is what true heroes are made of and ultimately what marked my dad’s life as something extraordinary.
2 Corinthians 4 says…
‘So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ‘
As I said in the beginning, to stand up here and even try to portray all that my dad means in a few moments is simply an impossible task.
As we’ve grieved his loss through so many different stages, I’ve used writing as an outlet to try to shed some light. Something I’ve shared several times through all of this is that,
It hasn’t been easy to maintain hope through the years, especially knowing the outcome was going to be the ultimate loss of losing dad, but God has set eternity in the heart of man and before the foundation of the earth, God knew how long we’d have the gift of our dad with us. As we were with him in his final moments, we witnessed the ever present peace that he’s been carried by his entire life, carry him into eternity.
Though our hearts are broken, we cling to the promise we have that though he is absent from the body, we know he is present with the Lord. Dad is whole, healed and has been made new and I can just hear him up in heaven saying…
‘Leigh, I’m so proud of you, Leigh, you look so pretty and see Leigh, look, you thought this would be impossible, but you can do anything.’
We love you dad, now and forever.
Maybe you’re navigating grief of your own right now. If so, I am so very sorry. I know it is not easy. The waves of emotion can feel overwhelming and though you will never ‘move on’, it can be so difficult to know how to move forward. Here is an article I wrote about ‘Why Embracing Sorrow Paves Our Way to Joy’. I hope this might encourage you wherever you are in your journey with grief today.
Be gracious with yourself. To grieve doesn’t mean you’re weak, it’s evidence that you loved really deeply.
You are not alone…