June 8, 1946 - February 22, 2014
When I found out just how sick my dad was and that he might not make it, I immediately started thinking of things I wanted to share with family, friends, and strangers. Things I found important. As I sit here preparing to type it all out it has me thinking of yet another mini message to add to it. Why do we wait for death to talk about such things? If these things were so important, why have I not spoken of them before now? Truthfully, the current situation sort of allows for such thoughts to be shared more freely BUT, I am thinking now that people should not wait. Don't wait to share kind words about a loved one... and don't wait to fix things... and don't wait to share an important message(s) like the one I'm about to.
The thoughts were filling my head even before my father breathed his last. I started writing them down while sitting on a few airplanes as I headed back to New England to be with family and attend the funeral. Even before I started writing them out, I already knew exactly what I wanted to share. A message to people including the lines "It's too late", "It's not too late", and "get over it", along with some words ABOUT my father that were more pointed towards family. Through two of my dad's marriages I have 5 brothers and 1 sister and we all grew up in very broken homes and we all had some not so good feelings towards my dad at various times. Some still hold onto some of that hurt. So, I wanted to share how or why I came to terms with who my dad was years ago.
At any rate... The following is something I only BRIEFLY shared bits off at a lunch after the funeral. Six out of the 7 children wanted to share during the funeral but there was not enough time and though I was given the opportunity, I passed it on to one of my younger brothers as he was eager to share. While I felt my message needed to be shared, I believed it possible he may have a better delivery than I AND I knew that eventually I'd be sharing it here anyway so I felt okay with giving up that opportunity.
I would like to take the time to preach a little here. If you knew my dad you would know he would be more than okay with this. In fact, if he were here right now he would be doing the same.
It's not too late...
"It's too late for me." I've heard many people use those words, including my father. My dad would sometimes speak of things he wished he had done or done differently. He mentioned to me a few times that he would have liked to learn an instrument. I told him that he should. He always told me that it was too late or that he was too old. That simply wasn't true. I have seen people older than him learn some instruments and other things in life. We all have lists of things that we'd like to do or wish we had done. Many of these things are trivial. For many of those things, it wouldn't be a tragedy if they didn't happen. It is, however, a tragedy to use your age, time, distance, or anything else as an excuse for not doing something and then spending years regretting it. Above and beyond those trivial things... more important than music, travel, etc... We have relationships. In life, there is nothing more valuable. But, we flawed beings don't always get along... do we? Even in families(some might say, especially in families) People have falling outs. It happens. People say or do things and people get hurt. Often enough, relationships are broken... too often in fact.
Within my own family I have seen children not talk to their parents, sometimes for years, and I have seen siblings hold grudges that seemed to last a lifetime. My youngest brother, though he may not see it this way now, lucked out. It wasn't too late. He spent a LONG time not talking to my father. A lot of hurt feelings, pride, and a stubbornness he inherited, and he wanted nothing to do with him for some time. His 13 year old son, my nephew(so proud of you), asked him one day if he would regret it if something happened and he never saw him again. My brother spent time meditating on that and decided to go and see him. I can't say that the relationship was made whole but I can say that my dad was as happy as can be. Mere words cannot express the joy he had. And though my brother sits here mourning today, he is lucky to not be sitting here mourning AND regretting.
There are many things that I imagine most of you today wish you could do or wish you could have done differently. For most of those things, it is NOT too late. Do not wait my friends... for too late is approaching...
For some things in life, it is too late.
My dad spent years smoking. I watched him preaching/sharing in a video to a group of bikers that he knew. During the video he brought up smoking and his own health. It saddens me watching it again because he mentions the fear that his mother would one day bury him, and that is what happened just a week ago today. But as he talks about smoking, he mentions that when he was younger and people told him to quit smoking he would reply that he would quit... when they put the dirt in the hole.
Eventually, smoking more than caught up to him. His health suffered and he eventually quit.
Our bodies are amazing and can often heal themselves. Many of you now smoking, if you quit today much of the damage can be reversed.
For my dad, it WAS too late. He spent the last few years(though not smoking) needing oxygen and dealing with a lot of heart and lung problems. He had COPD and emphysema and more. The damage was done.
With relationships... it's only too late when a person passes or moves on in life. Whether it is your health or your relationships... if something needs changing, do it NOW before "too late" really happens.
Get over it...
One of the reasons relationships suffer is because we hold on to bitterness and anger. I wish more people could see their own bitterness and think about the very word bitter. When we eat a food that is bitter we want to spit it out. Often, it leaves a bad taste in our mouths. Bitter people have the same effect.
I have close friends and family that have bitterness within them. It poisons them. I once read that being angry and bitter at someone, holding a grudge... though someone else wronged you, you're the one serving the jail sentence. You're the one in bondage. YOU suffer. Get over it... let go... forgive. That doesn't mean you have to accept someone hurting you. Hey, there are times when you need to walk away from relationships. But holding onto things hurts you far more than anyone else.
You need to decide... are you okay with "too late"? There are a lot of things in life just not worth stressing over.
There are things that my dad was not that some of us kids wish he was...
Something I came to realize long ago was that no matter what, my dad loved me. I started to understand that he was who he was. Some of his shortcomings were his own doing... some were not.
When I was younger, I heard stories about pastors and their kids. In some pastor's families, the children often felt neglected. The role of a pastor can be so demanding that family life can suffer. Now, most of my childhood years, I didn't live with my father. Like many children growing up with divorced parents, I just didn't get to see him very often. That separation only added to the distance between us. At any rate, my dad was basically a pastor and a missionary. He ministered to so many people. He was always ministering to those in need. The calling he had often does come at a cost. This too was something I began to understand as I got older. There's a story in the bible about Jesus when he was younger...
Matthew 12:46-50 (KJV)
46 While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.
47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.
48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?
49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
Those Jesus ministered to were His family.
My dad was an only child. He branched out and had 7 kids... But his family is much larger than that.
Dad was doing the Lord's work. Above and beyond the "normal" family relationships, the call to GO where God sends you is a high calling that my father fulfilled well. My dad was always busy doing his Father's work.
I don't exactly know how I came to terms with the absence I often felt as a child but, in MY relationship with my dad, my only regret is that I didn't understand sooner and put in more effort to meet my father where he was. I also deeply regret the pain and suffering I have seen my siblings go through. I wish that they all could have sooner seen the love he had for us. Though my dad put most of his physical energy into the ministries he's been a part of... what he felt towards them did not compare to the love he truly had for us. When I was on the phone with him after he first heard about the tumor, he sobbed.(something I had never seen or heard before from him) He talked of regret and of love and pride. He was proud of us. I promise that he didn't make phone calls to his biker friends to cry. The love he had for us was for us alone. Though he was often physically absent in our lives, he Really was always there.
He did the best he could with the hand he was dealt in life. It's easy to question that and say he could have done better but, I have learned that you can be doing the best you can while still having lots of room for improvement. We're all very different. We all handle things in life differently. My father often wished he was a better father, he really did. The main thing I want to express to my siblings is that despite his shortcomings, he really did love us all and he really did try. I don't know where you all stand with him but I came to terms with who he was and that it would often be up to ME to put in what I wanted from that relationship. I want my siblings to know that even though you might not have seen or felt it, dad loved Every one of you more than you could ever imagine. I hope you can look back at the more positive memories of dad and feel that his love was enough just as it was. For me, it was. In all my study of my dad and my own behavior, I have seen that I'm not always enough for my own children. My daughter once told me that she wished I spent more time with her. I was thrown for a loop. I told her I was there ALL day... I did things with them, even individually. I am a stay at home dad and I am always here. But, she wanted more. After I thought about it for a while, I told her that I might not always THINK in that way... but, I liked the idea of spending more time together. So, I told her it was okay for her to just stop and tell me "hey, let's do something". I believe my dad was the same way. He REALLY loved me, He did. And he loved ANY effort I ever put into our relationship. Whether it was his childhood, things he faced, substances he was exposed to, or simply his personality... he was who he was.
All of us have our shortcomings... don't we? Look around. most of us are VERY good at noticing those flaws in other people.
My hope in all of this is..... whether it is in regards to my father, friends, family, or anything else... That you can overlook those flaws... those shortcomings in people. Many of you hurt. I dare say, you hurt because you care. If you honestly didn't care about a person, their actions(or lack thereof) would not hurt you so much. All of those relationships in YOUR life right now... all of the ones that are straining... weigh them. Figure out whether you care for the person... then, if they care for you. Throw everything else aside for a moment and meet that person where they are right now... don't look for what you WANT from them. You've probably heard that you get what you give. You will find that you can get a LOT out of relationships when you spend more time focusing on the giving.
We all face a lot of struggles in life... and many of us have different struggles than others. We don't always understand and we don't always get along. Again, there are relationships that you will need to walk away from in life but only do so when necessary and if it actually frees you. Many people walk away and continue to look back and hold onto their anger and bitterness.
Anyway... even in your anger and bitterness... many of you have strained or broken relationships that you wouldn't mind seeing fixed. Do something about it... for "too late" is just around the corner.