Fathers are so important in our lives. To those fathers who are still with us, Happy Father’s Day. To those fathers who preceded us in death, who are gone too soon, we remember you. A special shout-out to all of the single fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers, father figures, uncles, clergy, godfathers, neighbors, counselors, support group facilitators, employers, volunteers, coaches, teachers, soldiers, warriors & mentors, biological fathers, adoptive fathers, fathers-in-law & fathers of choice.
Most fathers have been a caring presence in the lives of their families, providing emotional, spiritual, physical, educational, nutritional & financial support. Some fathers have walked away from, betrayed, wounded, been absent from or abandoned their families, or perhaps caused pain & suffering; fortunately, this is relatively rare, though it is painful when it happens to you.
We have a choice to focus on who is present in our lives, who is showing up, caring & advocating for us, imprinting us in a positive way, rather than focusing on who disappointed us, did not meet our expectations or chose addictions over us. We have an opportunity to reflect on our ancestors, to show gratitude & respect for the sacrifices & contributions they made. We have a choice in how we respond to the experiences in our unique lives. What lessons have we learned from our father or father figures? What have we learned from the loss of our fathers?
For those of us who have experienced the death of our father, consider the following. Do you take time to reflect on what you inherited or learned from your father? Do you think about who stepped up to bridge the gap that your father-loss created, though they could never fill the unique role of your father?
Here is a challenge for you: write a note of gratitude to your father. If your father is dead, write a legacy letter of remembrance, detailing your appreciation of & respect for your father. If you are thinking of a father-figure who is living, write a legacy letter telling them how they imprinted your life in a positive way. Consider a home altar with photographs, candles & your legacy letter or journal. If your father is living, express your gratitude in writing or in person, have the important conversations & tell him Now that you love & appreciate him, with details of how he has made a difference in your life.
My father, Jim, died of heart disease at age 34, when I was a month old. I was the youngest of four children under the age of six. I learned about death, resilience, persistence, loving-kindness & gratitude. I learned to be mindful of others who experience loss. I learned from stories of family & friends that my father was a good guy, a handsome man who smiled a lot, who loved his family & friends, proudly served his country in the U.S. Navy, worked hard to provide for us; he had a home & life insurance which helped our mother, Margaret, have some emotional & financial stability as she navigated her unexpected loss.
He was an ordinary man who was extraordinary to those who loved him. Our mother, a woman of faith, stepped up to fill the role of mother & father, taught us to pray & kept us engaged in our community. She enjoyed her children & also worked hard to provide for us; she taught us that our relatives & friends were very helpful in providing practical support. We felt like our father lived on through us.
Disclaimer: never leave candles unattended; consider using flameless candles.
Marguerite O’Connor, M.Ed.