My father was a WWII Army veteran. He was a Purple Heart and Good Conduct Medal recipient during his time serving his country in the Pacific campaign of the war. Growing up, I remember him as a stubborn; strong-willed and very hardworking man. By the time I became a teenager, he had become a rejected, defeated and hardened man who’s life of hard living had finally caught up to him. He died of cancer 25 years ago this week…I was 15 years old. He was an alcoholic, so I didn’t get to know the God fearing man he was until he made the choice to stop drinking and smoking to begin a 1 year battle for life. It was when he sobered up that I got to know the man. He may not have been the best role-model, but he taught me 4 positive life lessons that have stuck with me to this day: 1) Honesty 2) Hard work 3) Strength 4) Importance of Family. Even though he was not the man he wanted to be during certain periods of his life, he was able to show his God given character before he passed on. He was able to focus on change. He fought a courageous battle and took that time to focus on love, compassion, healing and forgiveness. In that brief period of time, I learned so much about him and learned so much from him. He always said he wanted to throw a big birthday party for my mom where both families and all their friends would come together to celebrate. Ironically, he was laid to rest on January 26, 1991 which was my mother’s 50th birthday. He did bring together all the family and friends that day and we did fulfill a dying man’s wish to celebrate my mother’s birthday. That was the first time I realized how many lives my father touched over the years. I loved my father with all my heart and I miss him deeply.
Throughout the years, there have been many people who have played key roles and have had a positive influence in my life, but with my father’s passing early in my life it left a major void. In May 2001, when my son came into this world, I quickly realized how ill-equipped I was to be the father that God wanted and expected me to be. When he was 4 years old, his mother and I divorced and this added a new complexity that continued to keep me from fulfilling my God given role as a father. Fast forward 10 years and my life is finally on the correct path and complete. By the grace of God and my pastor being a mentor to me over the past 2 years, I can confidently say that I am well-equipped spiritually and have a good understanding of God’s will for me as a man and as a father. There was also another man who God put into my life to help me overcome the psychological mess that I had become over the course of 38 years. He is a godly man who took me under his wing and helped me understand and see my character defects and how to overcome my fears and insecurities that I locked away for years in my emotional closet, right beside all my demons and skeletons. Today, as I write this, I am so thankful, so blessed and so humbled. I am well equipped to be a complete father to my 14 year old son and my step-children. I strive every day to be in God’s word and do His will. To be a God driven father, husband, son, brother, uncle and friend. Someone who can be a good example and role model for others, and God willing, make a positive impact on the world. We just need to be honest with ourselves, become aware of what path we are on, and if we are on a broken road we need to dig deep and work hard to identify the root cause of our struggles. It can and will set you free.
As I finish up, I want to provide some words of encouragement. No matter how old you get, what damage was done, what fears and insecurities you have…if the good Lord blesses you with a new day, there is always an opportunity for change and to make things right. My father did it…I did it…and so can you. Just continue to focus on having faith, hope and love in your heart and have God’s word and will at the forefront of everything you do. Let Go and Let God!