1-image-006He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.
~Clarence Budington Kelland~

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there.  I hope this has been a day of not only celebration, but reflection on the privilege of fatherhood and the gifts that are bestowed upon each of us when we become parents.

If your Father has passed, this Sunday in June can be a tough 24 hours. You have this love to give to your dear old Dad, but he is no longer with you physically.  The commercialized aspect of the day illuminates the absence of him, and you can feel the pains of grief all over again. For those of you experiencing your first Father’s Day without Dad, this can be especially raw.  The year of “firsts” after you lose someone special is something that you have to walk through, and not around. And it is not easy.

For those who, like me, have been without Dad for some time, it can still be a day of melancholy, a time where you can’t help but think, “What if he was here?”  You notice the families out for Father’s day brunch, you see the greeting cards that say just the right words, but Dad is not here to be showered with love and affection.

I know I’ve been thinking about my Dad all day. He passed away in April 1993, but there is not a week that goes by that I don’t think about him. I remember his tin whistle, how he loved to entertain, his artistic talents, and the long, long chats.  My Lord, my father could tell a story. He could create a visual with words like no other.  He would draw in his audience with his descriptions and details, and he NEVER took any shortcuts on stories. He enjoyed it so much, some stories seemed to go on forever.  I remember one particular time when I was in high school; my date came to the door to pick me up to go see a movie.  My dad started talking, and by the time his story was finished, so was the movie.  I spent my entire date sitting in the living room waiting for him to finish. Maybe that was his plan all along.

But as much as that probably exasperated me, I will always be thankful for the time he gave to crafting his words, to talking to his children.  He was a deep man, and thoughtful and contemplative about life.  Some of the deepest chats I’ve ever had were with him.  He helped me understand that it was important to think about the tough questions of life, and that not every answer would be black and white.  Those stories all had a lesson about life attached, weaved within the colorful words, and devilish grins.

I tell you this small snippet about my father so I can better explain how I choose to celebrate Father’s Day since his passing.

He may not be able to open up a card or present from me, so my gift to him is to use what he gave me.  Each time I do, I feel like I am honoring his spirit, what he taught me, how he raised me, and how he lived.

Here’s some examples:

Tell a good story:  Each time I write, or try to tell my own story to another, I think about him.  I think about what example he set for me for living a grateful life. I think about his flare for storytelling, the use of a good dramatic pause, or injecting some simple humor to lighten up things when needed. My father showed me how to see the world with optimistic eyes, in less than perfect circumstances.  One of my gifts back to him is to continue to see a world of possibility, magic, kindness and love, and tell stories about this beautiful life.

Work Hard:  I really can’t recall my father’s hands being without the marks of hard work.  They were always clean, but he had the calloused palms and grease stained fingers of a man who put everything he had into a job well done, and supporting his family.  I can still see  him walking through the door after his shift at the Mill, no spring left in his step, but always a smile on his face.  My gift back to him is to enjoy a hard day’s work, and to smile while I do it.

Be Kind:  My Dad was a doer and a helper.  He was never afraid to jump in and lend a hand when needed, nor did he ever have the expectation of something in return.  He showed me that the return on an investment of kindness is tenfold.  My gift to him is to be generous of heart, and to be kind to those I meet on my journey.  And, just as he did, I will do so without expectation or condition.

Be Resilient:  My father did not have an easy life.  He had struggles and hardships like most.  A mill accident left him with a crushed leg.  He had heart troubles, and like many other fathers, shouldered the burdens of raising five children quietly.  It couldn’t have been easy.  But with each challenge that confronted him, he rose to the occasion and focused on the solution, all the while sheltering his children.  He tucked all of us in behind him, protecting us from the storm.  He showed me how to rise.  My gift to him is to live a resilient life, and to help others recognize that same resilience in themselves.

Love without Condition: I remember the moment that my family found out I was pregnant.  Far too young, not even close to being prepared for parenthood myself, it must have been a hard pill for them to swallow.  Sitting on my bed, I listened for the sound of my father’s footsteps walking though the door after a hard day’s work.  He would be coming home to much more than a cold beer and dinner.  And, when hearing the news, he sat on the bed with me, and held my hand and told me he loved me and everything….absolutely everything was going to be just fine.  He could have said so much more.  But he just loved me, when I needed it the most.  He made me feel safe because he knew I was terrified.  He put aside all of his own feelings and he just loved me without condition.  My gift to my father is to love that way.  I choose to not only love my family unconditionally, but to open my heart and let others know that I am here, no questions asked, no judgment….just love.

My Dad may not be able to open up a card or present from me.  But I believe, that today and every day, I celebrate him by using the gifts he gave to me during our time together.  I can feel him smiling.

How about you? How can you celebrate your father today and every day?