11 Things My Father Taught Me in Life and Death
September 3, 2013 my mom and aunt showed up to my door with the worst news I’ve ever gotten. “They found your dad.” I was confused because I didn’t know he was lost. I’d just sent him a text the day before telling him how I appreciated all he’d done for my family.
“Where did he go?” I asked, wondering why they were so frantic.
Any bad thing happening to him was the furthest thing from my mind. My dad was the all American black man. A country boy to his soul, he was a hard worker. So hard in fact, that he missed seeing his only daughter get married – for work. He was a highly esteemed Veteran, a football and baseball coach, and a father figure to every one of my cousins.
“He’s been missing since last night…he went fishing…somebody shot him”.
I refused to accept that. Not my dad… Who? My dad? My mind inserted every man who’d ever been a father figure to me. She had to be talking about them, not him. I called his phone so he could tell me he was fine. He was superman, and Meteor Man, and the Hulk all rolled into one. In my mind, he could never die.
He never answered my calls again and I immediately regretted every time I should’ve called but didn’t. In the weeks that followed, I fell apart. I was afraid to leave the house alone. Everything stopped and I was a fatherless child – again.
My dad was not allowed to be very involved in my childhood but we’d mended fences in my adult life. He was a very active grandpa to his only two grandsons – and all I could think of was how they would be without him and how would I explain his murder to them.
It took me some time to get over my grief but I had a family and a business that needed me to show up – and my father had a legacy that had to live on.
It was time to remember all the lessons my father tried to teach me in his life and make them worth something in his passing.
11 Things my Father taught me in Life and Death
The show must go on
Looking back, it seems my dad had an acute awareness of how short his time here would be. He made sure my brothers and I knew that “one day” we’d have to survive without him. When I was growing through my hardheaded years and reached out for help, he was VERY limited in how far he’s reach back to help me because I “needed to learn to get through life on my own”. What I thought was pure meanness, I now value more than ever.
Hard things happen in life, but you can’t let it stop you. Let adversity fuel you.
[tweetthis display_mode=”box”]Hard things happen in life, but you can’t let it stop you. Let adversity fuel you.[/tweetthis]
Money is one thing, but it’s not everything
Growing up my mom and stepdad were very well off. They’d gotten a large settlement and were the definition of “new money”. On the few occasions I did see my dad I didn’t understand his warnings of what life becomes when you never earn what you get. I thought he was crazy to work so hard and live below his means. Even though he always seemed to have money, he was more focused on “having love”. Now that I’m an adult, working hard to realize my goals – and raising children in the process – I understand his stance. It’s so easy to get caught up in having (or not having) money and forget what life is all about.
Nothing beats Hustle
About a year before he was killed he came to pick me up from work. I was a single mom at the time working a dead end job, totally not living up to my potential. He lit into me about how I could be so much more but I “had no hustle”. I’d become content in the lie that I “was doing my best”. He knew what I was capable of and wasn’t letting me off the hook.
Losing him pushed me to maximize my talents and “leave this earth, empty”. Thinking he’d be here forever showed me that I won’t. So if I want better, I’d better get up, get out & get something!
Be better to people than they are to you.
I got my fire from my father and I hate to feel like I’m allowing myself to be walked over. We all do, don’t we? In his latter years, my dad strived to be more like Christ. He reminded me often of how much it hurt him to be ex’d out of my life but how he forgave my mother and everyone involved and it worked out in the end. When my mom and stepdad divorced, my dad was in her corner. After almost 15 years of being bashed and persecuted, he stepped right in and helped us out. That was a beautiful example that I try to live up to everyday.
Never let anyone steal your joy.
When I was 17 my mom sent me to live with my dad in the middle of my senior year. I had to leave all my friends and everything I knew to live with a man of only seen a handful of times. I was livid and stayed in a funk for weeks. One day he took me for a ride and told me how important it was to keep my joy in tough situations. He said “God gave you joy, don’t let man take it away”. I never forgot that lesson.
[tweetthis display_mode=”box”]Things my Father taught Me: God gave you your Joy, don’t let man take it away! #Fatherhood #Daughters[/tweetthis]
It’s OK to be a soft woman/mother
I was raised by a tough woman and taught to BE a tough woman. For a while I was proud of the fact that my demeanor said “nobody mess with me!”
When I became a mother my dad was my number 1 supporter. He was my son’s first father figure, but I felt I needed to be extra strict because my son’s birth father was absent. My dad told me one day that “mama is the name of God in a child’s mouth”. I’d become so hard that my baby was scared of me. I was trying too hard to make sure he stayed on the “straight and narrow”. My dad assured me that my son would never lack a good man in his life and that if I wanted my son to know love, I’d need to be soft and loving. He made it ok for me to let my guards down and I appreciate the relationship I have with my boys now because I heeded his teaching.
Everything doesn’t need a response.
- I find myself re-teaching this lesson to other women often. Why? Because it’s one of the truest ways I’ve learned to keep a peaceful home. How crazy that some of the best lessons I’ve learned about womanhood have come from a man. He taught me how to respect myself with the power of my words. He also taught me the value of silence and how to use it in my favor. Of course I thought he was a misogynist but I’ve learned that he was really wise.
It’s better to be at peace than to be right
- My dad was what people called a “good man”. He made mistakes of course. Having 4 children with 4 women was one of them. He once told me that as angry as he was about being seen as an “absentee” father, he had to learn to be at peace or he would drive himself crazy. He resigned himself to being a father to every child he met who needed one and even sent one of his mentees to the NFL. Years before his death he was able to forge a positive relationship with all of his children.
It’s so easy to let our egos run rampant and “fight to be right” at the expense of a peaceful existence. One of the things my father taught me was that the rewards of peace are lasting and deep rooted, while being right feels good in the moment.
[tweetthis display_mode=”box”] The rewards of peace are lasting and deep rooted, while being right feels good in the moment. #Fatherhood #Lessons[/tweetthis]
Marriage is a covenant, not a convenience.
- People love when I post this but the credit goes to my dad.
I love that my husband had the chance to ask my father for my hand in marriage. It was an honor that I almost didn’t grant him because of bitterness. That day my dad sat us down and told us this: “Marriage is not about liking each other, and you’re still married when he/she ain’t making you feel good. It’s a covenant. You’re not making a promise to each other, you’re making a promise to God. Honor that.” It’s the very best marriage advice we’ve ever recieved and the best that we give to others. My dad was a perpetual bachelor but I once wrote about all the great advice he gave.
[tweetthis display_mode=”box”]You’re still married when it don’t feel good. It’s a covenant. Ur making a promise to God. Honor that.[/tweetthis]
You get out of life what you put in
From my marriage to my kids to my relationship with my mother, my father taught me that my experiences are my responsibility. When I thought all the girls in my school hated me, he reminded me to look in the mirror. He always reminded me to look in the mirror and fix me before attempting to fix the world. That formula has made my life exponentially better. It has reminded me of how powerful I am in every situation and stopped me from assuming the role of “victim”.
Time is a luxury, not a privilege
Writing this post has brought me through all the feels and memories. Nothing could’ve prepared me for the reality that I’d be writing posts in memory of the things my father taught me. This year he would’ve been 48. At one time, he was an all-star football player, had a beautiful singing voice, and was a super talented poet. He put his dreams on the back burner for everyone, hoping to be everything for everybody. He always felt like he was falling short of that, and he, like we, thought he’d have time to get back to his dreams. If only he’d known that pursuing his passion would’ve allowed him to show up more for the people he loved.
His death taught me that I must give all the gifts God has given me while I’m alive. Death is always a glaring reminder of how finite our lives really are. The late Dr. Myles Munroe was famous for saying that the richest place on earth is the grave yard. “Because, there lie all the dreams, visions and purposes that will remain unfulfilled.”
[tweetthis display_mode=”box”]The richest place on earth is the grave yard. There lie all the dreams, visions and purposes we never fulfill.[/tweetthis]
We stopped celebrating western holidays, including Father’s Day, about 3 years before my father passed. I didn’t give him a call to say Happy Fathers Day every year, but I made sure to hit him up often to remind him of how right he’d been all those times.
I’m grateful for the long talks we had in his last years. I’m thankful for all the laughs and the lessons I savor like good soul food now. I’m grateful for all the gifts and talents he left with me…and the hustle that I’ve finally grown into. I was able to BE his flower while he was living. I get sad knowing that he won’t see me blossom into the woman he knew I could be. However, I’m proud to be applying the things my father taught.
I’ve learned that motherhood and fatherhood are so much bigger than a day on the calendar. It’s the legacy we leave that lives on in our children. I’m blessed to be Gary’s daughter and to make sure that means something.