Yesterday was Father’s Day and it was the first time in my life that my Dad wasn’t alive to get my Father’s Day call or read my Father’s Day card. I’m lucky to still have two living grandpas and also one step-dad, and, of course, my parenting partner is a blessing too. Yet the absence of the man I began life with was hard on my heart. So today, I wanted to share a bit of what I wrote and read about my Dad, Robert Lavender, at his memorial service earlier this year.
Remembering my Dad
The number one thing to know about my Dad is that his over-riding inspiration was love. His love and devotion for me were something I questioned only in rare moments when my own fears made up stories of how he might lose his love for me. I was certain of his love because it was obvious in the choices he made even if it wasn’t always spoken directly. My Dad – in all his humanity – was one of the most loving and devoted people I know. For 41 years I was blessed by and benefited from the love he had for me.
- He was present in my life even when the physical distance was great.
- He was a kind and patient teacher for years that I can’t even consciously remember.
- He buoyed, applauded, and supported me from sidelines of all sorts.
- He opened up the world to me in ways I still discover long after the original opportunity was taken.
- He freely gave his love even when he wished I would choose differently than I had.
- And even when he acted from his own human fears, his love was there as the deeper inspiration.
My Dad was a true blessing for me and my life. I learned so much about how to be in this world from the model he set. Even though he’s physically gone, he lives on in spirit and in how I carry myself in this world. My wish is that all children would be similarly blessed to have such a dad in their lives and that even when that daddy is gone, they too will feel the love that he felt for them. Finally, I offer a potent poem that reminds me of my Dad and helps me to keep the “main thing,” the Main Thing in my life as a parent and person.
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A Life That Matters
Live a life that matters.
Ready or not, someday it will all come to an end.
There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days.
All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten,
will pass to someone else.
Your wealth, fame and temporal power
will shrivel to irrelevance.
It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.
Your grudges, resentments, frustrations, mean spirit and jealousies
will finally disappear.
So, too, your hopes, ambitions, plans, and to-do lists will expire.
The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.
It won’t matter where you came from,
or on what side of the tracks you lived, at the end.
It won’t matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant.
Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.
So what will matter?
How will the value of your days be measured?
What will matter is not what you bought,
but what you built;
not what you got,
but what you gave.
What will matter is not your success,
but your significance.
What will matter is not what you learned,
but what you taught.
What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage, love
or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged
others to emulate your example.
What will matter is not your competence,
but your character.
What will matter is not how many people you knew,
but how many will feel a lasting loss when you’re gone.
What will matter is not your memories,
but the memories that live in those who loved you.
What will matter is how long you will be remembered,
by whom and for what.
Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident.
It’s not a matter of circumstance,
but of choice.
Choose to live a life that matters.