In dying, you taught me to live, to be strong, to be humble, to be selfless, to be faithful, to have hope, and to keep a sense of humor.
I miss you more than words can adequately express. You were my sounding board, my keel, my touchstone. I valued your advice and words of wisdom in more ways than I can count. My anger would always be abated after talking to you, my eagerness encouraged, my doubts erased. You held me up when I wanted to give up. You would help me see the long distance goals when all I could see were the short term obstacles. Your reminiscences showed me that doing dumb things is part of growing up and being a kid. Your seeking forgiveness for your failures reminded me that we all continue to need forgiveness. Your approval of those things I made with wood always made me glow with happiness. Your guidance in how to use tools and methods to build things never ceased to make me think you were always by my side when I completed them. Your listening ear without judgment allowed me to speak freely with you about so many things. Your constructive criticism was invaluable to me because I knew it came from a position of love and respect. Your joy at my success motivated me to keep persevering. Your sense of humor allowed me to see the silliness in things and to not take things so seriously. Your childlike humor kept me young. As I grew older I realized how hard it was to be a father and became quick to forgive you for your shortcomings when I was a child. You tempered me in the way fire tempers steel.
When you discovered you were dying, I told you that your last lesson was to teach me to die. I am so glad you never taught me that lesson. Instead, you taught me how to live. You were strong, oh so strong, in the face of overwhelming odds. You were humble, incredibly humble, and knew that it was not by your hand that you would pass away. You were selfless, completely selfless, and always thought of everyone else even in the midst of horrible pain. You never gave up hope, always believing that you would be healed. Your humor never gave way to despair and you made those around you laugh until you simply could no longer do so. You never lost faith in God and leaned on him throughout these last years. A son could not want more from his father. In dying, you taught me to live, to be strong, to be humble, to be selfless, to be faithful, to have hope, and to keep a sense of humor. These are the definitions of love. You taught me to love.
You were a successful father even with your failures. I am proud of you, who you were, what you became, and what you taught me. I learned how to be a father from your shortcomings and your successes. My earnest hope is that I am half the father you became; that my children say about me what I say about you.
I love you and will always miss you and yearn for the day that I see you again. Death does not hold the same…prospect for me that it once did as I know I will see not only our Lord, but I will see you again. I will enjoy seeing my children grow and rejoice with them in their successes, victories, and triumphs. I will enjoy grandchildren when and if they should arrive while I walk the Earth. I will always remember you in all I do and say. Your example is my example in how I deal with students, my children, and other people. Your kindness, compassion, and forgiveness have been my watchwords for many years now. As I deal with students I consider how you would have dealt with them and the compassion you would have shown and the heart of love you would have displayed.
In retrospect dad, your last lesson was not about dying. It was about living and about love. And I am eternally grateful for what you taught me those last two and half years.
The moral of the story is this: It is difficult to discipline students and at the same time to show them they matter. It is a difficult situation unless you already paved the ground for that to happen. You can’t be a jerk and then suddenly show a student that you care. You have to cultivate that ground, to till it, and to plant those seeds just right. You have to cultivate it from day one. It’s not something you can just start. But that doesn’t mean teachers can’t change.