Dad would have turned 95 yesterday.
In a season where recent deaths have reminded me of how grateful I am for the people in my life, I couldn’t stop thinking about Dad on his birthday. Memories of his quirky sense of humor, wise words and unconditional love for me and our family were amplified.
He died fifteen years ago.
I’d been planning on flying up to Chicago to see him and Mom. Life kept getting in the way. The day he passed away was about two weeks shy of when I was planning to see him.
I was devastated. Dad had been having small feather strokes for several years, so more and more of him was taken away with each attack. Like a puzzle with random pieces removed. He wasn’t the man I grew up with, but he never lost his smile nor his joy at seeing family.
Fifteen years later, there are still small cues that cause me to tear up in memory of Dad. At Einstein Bagels, the smell of cinnamon sugar reminds me of his favorite bagel. Walking down a street I get a whiff of Old Spice aftershave–the stuff we’d always gotten him for his birthday. I hear a big band sound and am reminded of how much he and Mom loved to dance.
The memories are beautiful but bittersweet. He’d have loved to have seen his grandkids become adults. He’d have enjoyed his great-grandkids, being reminded of their parents he knew so well at that young age. He was a storyteller and would have been thrilled to share the stories I heard growing up, stories he never had a chance to tell my kids.
We’re all leaving our imprint on this world. Dad, my friend, Betty, my cousin Janie all had life stories that caused people to see the bigness of their hearts. The joy they brought to others every day they lived.
Dad always reminded us of how we could choose to respond to others. “It doesn’t cost a nickel to be kind.” “You’ve got to walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins to be able to appreciate what they’re going through.” “Don’t judge others unless you’re ready to be judged yourself.” Much of what he said was Biblically based. His whole life was reflective of his love for people.
I don’t think a lot about dying. It’ll happen one day. I’m absolutely sure of where I’m going, so I’m not panicked.
I do wonder how I’ll be remembered. What will my kids say when I’m gone? What will their memories be of me? Will it be moments of tenderness I’ve shared with them? Or the naggy me that comes out way too often?
God gives us 24 hours every day to choose how to treat others. I don’t want to be obsessed about my legacy when life is over. I want to live a life of value now. One where I’m not always thinking about how I look or how I’m received.
I’ll leave that to the politicians.
Dad’s value was loving God, family, others. He didn’t just talk it. He lived it.
How will you be remembered?