This weekend I attended the funeral for a friend’s father. His father was in many ways larger than life, as evidenced by all of the stories and accolades given by family and friends. While I had never met the man, I left feeling that I had a sense of what it was to grow up in his house, or to be mentored by him… he was someone that I would have appreciated meeting at some point in my life.
My friend actually performed the service. I admired him for taking that step – it’s hard enough to do a funeral, much harder to do when it is someone that close to you. Years ago I had to do the service of my sister, and I have to admit that it was one of the toughest things I have ever had to do. My friend did a great job, honoring his father with stories that made us laugh, cry, and reflect on our own relationships.
At the funeral many people came up to pay their respects to his father. People that worked with him, trained with him, or lived with him as family all stood and gave story after story of the effect he had on their lives. Many people talked about how their lives changed for the better. Out of all that was said, one thing stuck with me, and continues to ring in my head. My friend said, “I am honored to be the son of my father.” Hearing those words stilled me… even reflecting on them now, they still do. Wow… what a relationship they must have had that would cause him to declare that about his father.
I began to think about my own family relationships. I have two great sons (and a fantastic daughter 🙂 ). Ironically, my oldest son’s birthday was the same day as the funeral. Both of my sons have grown into strong men in their own right. I am proud of who they are and who they are becoming. Hearing my friend’s words, I thought of no better epitaph of my life, than at my funeral my sons would say the same thing about me. My mind spun with what I am or am not doing to earn that honor… do I spend enough time with them? Do they know how much I love them? Am I an asset to them or a liability? When they speak of me to their friends, is it with pride or shame… or do they speak of me at all? I thought that I don’t just want that epitaph at my funeral… I want it every day of my life.
It is a shame that it takes a funeral to bring about the best comments about a person. It’s like we hold the best until the end, taking all of the things we have felt over the years and pour it into the couple of hours we have with family and friends. It feels good to be able to recollect, to remember, and to give testimony to those around us of the person we love. As much as it is said at funerals to “not wait”, we find ourselves settling back into old habits once the funeral is over… we mean to give the compliment… we mean to have that lunch… we mean to make that call… we mean to say, “I love you”. As I write this, I am thinking of the last time I hugged my sons (thanks mom… you have made me into a hugger extraordinaire 🙂 )… while it hasn’t been “that long”, it has been too long.
As I thought of my sons (and daughter) during the funeral, I also thought of my relationship with my father. I have to admit that over the years our relationship has been strained for many reasons. He will always be my dad, but I have found myself pulling away, and putting up, not boundaries, but rather walls to protect myself. It just seemed easier than engaging him in conversation that could end up polarizing us again. Yet, when I think of him, I do remember the good times, the laughter, the talk of things we both love, the highly intelligent and charming man that he is…
I’ve been meaning to make that call…
I so want my sons to speak of me with honor… I have to believe that my father would want the same. However it’s hard to honor someone on the other side of a wall, especially one of your own making. The scary part in this is that I don’t know if tearing down my walls will bring about that honor. What would make me say, “I’m honored to be the son of my father?”
Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Maybe it is not trying to get to the end, so much as it is doing what can be done. I don’t have a lifetime, and don’t need one… I have today. I can’t change the past, but I can change how I react and respond to him (and to others) right now. I can make that call…
In addition, I can accept that honor now… the honor of being the son of my father, not because he has done anything specific for me, but because he is my dad. He has a lot of great qualities, and even though he may bug me sometimes 😉 , I know without a shadow of a doubt that he loves me. I think that is a great start.
So here’s to taking steps, making calls, having lunches, and giving hugs… lots of them.
One of my favorite videos shows the power of a single step… Free Hugs for all 🙂