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This past weekend was one of celebration for me and for Fathers and their families everywhere. Mine was perhaps a bit more “full flowered” than most, for you see, lo those many years ago, I made my entrance into this world on Father’s Day which also happened to be my father’s 27th birthday. From then, until he passed 50 years later, we shared our day. When I was younger I didn’t realize that for a Dad having your birthday on a holiday was not really hitting a double, but more a bunt single…like kids who were born on Christmas, one blends into the other and it has a tendency to make you feel like you missed part of the fun that everyone else gets to have with 2 distinct days of celebration. But of course my Dad never let on that he felt that way…for him every day was a blessing. Without exaggeration, he was the kindest, most compassionate and loving man that I likely will ever know.
He didn’t believe in coincidences. In his core he believed in the interconnectedness of things…karma, the yin and yang that explains a lot if you choose to look at life that way. In his own way his was living and demonstrating what a life of faith is really about…that what goes around comes around if you stay true to your values and beliefs; and his was that the more love you put out to the world the more will come back to you.
When I was in my angry young man phase of life I mistook his humility and seemingly endless reserve of gratitude for weakness. We lived a humble middle class life, for which my parents where grateful and my grandparents. over the moon astounded…but for me, not nearly enough. I wanted more and I thought he needed to be tougher and more aggressive to sit at the winners table and by God I was going to make my mark by joining them at that table someday. He would smile, shake his head and say, “I hope someday that you’ll get to have what I have, but I fear you never will”. In his own humble and understated way he was issuing a warning that I frankly took too long to understand.
In the final days of his life, when a series of business losses interrupted my life and put me at his bedside rather than in a conference room, I was able to tell him how grateful I was for everything he had given me and asked his forgiveness for having been so unappreciative for who he was. He just smiled and held my hand and gave me one of his last and perhaps greatest gifts. He said, “I’m sure you don’t understand why in the middle of all of this I’m still so happy” to which I nodded my head yes. He said, “I know that I lived my life doing what I believed I was put here to do…to appreciate the goodness in other people and to try to be of help to them when they needed it…and although I don’t know what goes next after this life is over, I’m at peace…and I hope you can say the same thing when it’s your turn”.
When I look back on that moment, and what it took for me to be able to be there with him to hear his words, I know for a fact, that it wasn’t a coincidence. If I had been given the choice weeks earlier, I would have come out a winner in my business struggles and been on a plane, in a boardroom or God knows where else, continuing to do what I had been conditioned to do; to battle, to vanquish to win…but I wasn’t. I lost and had no place else to be other than at his side in what would be the last few weeks of his life. Being there made me available to him and to the gift he gave me that I will continue to share with anyone who will listen. Kindness and compassion and the ability to forgive and love, especially when your emotions push you in the other direction is what real strength is all about…and if you can do it, the reward of being at peace with yourself and with your life is something far beyond anything that the world can give you.
Oh and just to be clear about his thing about no coincidences…yesterday June 21, Fathers Day was the 35th anniversary of the beginning of the life that my wife and I would start together…without whom I wouldn’t have a reason to celebrate being a Dad.
Stay safe, stay strong and stay kind.