On July 31st, 2012, I said goodnight to my dad for the last time. At the tender age of 13, I had no idea how life altering the next day would be. Twenty-four hours later, my 42-year-old father, healthy as a horse, found himself on an operating table, fighting for his life. During the emergency surgery, his brain went without oxygen for several minutes, causing permanent brain damage. Although my dad didn’t physically die that day, in a lot of ways it felt like he did. When he woke up days later from a coma, he didn’t recognize my mother, brothers, or myself. It would take him weeks to re-learn how to speak and months to learn to walk again. Over a decade later, he still suffers from permanent brain damage. Unable to remember anything, unable to have meaningful conversations, or unable to grasp what it means to be a father or a husband, he exists as a shell of the person he once was.
While I only have a few years’ worth of memories from my time with my dad, he has still played a massive part in shaping me into the person I am today. That being said, I honestly can’t remember a single time he sat me down to give me advice or I asked for advice. While I am sure he did that plenty of times, what lives on in my memory are his actions. He taught me how to be a good father by his commitment to always being home to eat dinner with us and having fun with us after dinner (even though this meant he had to finish up work once we went to bed). He taught me how to always strive for excellence in everything I do. In the early hours of the morning, before he went to work, he would set up sports drills and stations with written instructions so my brothers and I could improve during our summer break. He taught me how to love well, by going above and beyond to shower my mom with love and affection. He taught me how to serve well, by the countless hours he would spend serving our local church. I could go on and on, but you can see how these things easily sunk into my brain. None of these lessons were something that he just said to me once, he embodied them every single day. It was who he was and how he lived.
I have no idea what it is like to be a father, but I know from my own experience as the son of a father, more will be caught than taught (both good and bad). Lessons we teach with our mouths are fading, but the lessons we teach with our actions will leave a lasting impression when we are gone. What are others catching from you?
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