Much has been written lately about courage, bravery and heroes. While recognizing our armed forces, the firefighters, the police and medical personnel all display bravery and heroics, I also believe heroes can be found in our everyday life as well. I had such a hero. He was a simple man who did ordinary things, but he did them in the most extraordinary fashion. My hero was, and forever will be my dad.
I could give a thousand examples of how my dad was heroic, but first I want you to know a little about him. He was a humble man, one who loved music, reading, bird watching, woodworking and classic cars. He was a nurseryman, landscape architect and plant propagator. He also loved dogs (he tolerated my mother’s love of cats) and I cannot remember a time in my life that he didn’t have one or more dogs. Most importantly, dad loved his wife, loved his family and above all, loved the Lord. His faith was his guide post for his life. Every day to the best of his ability, he tried to live his life the way God has commanded us to live. That is a hero.
When my parents discovered they were going to be unable to have children of their own, they began their mission to adopt. One of my earliest childhood memories was of me sitting in Dad’s lap, combing his hair while he told me the story of how I joined the family. I was perhaps 4 years old at the time, so I didn’t have a deep understanding of the subject, but I knew I was wanted and I knew I was loved. The story he told me went like this:
Your mom and I couldn’t have babies the same way other families did, so we went to a special place that had babies who needed homes. Since we already had your brother, we knew we wanted a little girl this time. Then I saw you in the Bargain Rack. You were priced at 2/99-cents. It sure was lucky you were the 49-cent one!
Now again, I was only 4 and didn’t understand what adoption meant, and clearly I had little or no math skills at that time because I was convinced that being the one offered for 49-cents made me more valuable. But the thing that stuck with me was how very much my brothers and I were wanted. Biology was not a factor in how committed mom and dad were about being our parents. That’s being a hero.
When I was about 8 years old, I lost one of my favorite toys, a toy hand grenade that I used in our frequent games of “army.” It was already growing quite dark and we had a huge yard so it was impractical for me to search for my toy that night. I was nearly inconsolable when dad took me to bed and I fell asleep still crying. But I awoke the next morning to a miracle: my toy was sitting on my desk, strategically placed so it would be the first thing I saw. I was so excited that I ran to my parents’ bedroom to share my excitement over my grenade’s return. Dad just gave me a big smile and a hug and we went on with our day. It was only later that day I learned from Mom that after I had gone to bed, my father went outside with his flashlight and methodically began combing our yard for my toy. It took him nearly 2 hours, but he located it and took it to my room. He did this, not for credit or personal glory, but simply to make his baby girl smile. That is a hero and that, in a nutshell was how he lived his life.
When Dad suddenly passed away in 2011, I found out how truly special he was. As we stood greeting those who came to his visitation, I was told one story after another how my dad had impacted someone’s life. One gentleman met my dad at a gas station one day. The man was having a bad day and apparently it showed in his demeanor. Dad saw him and struck up a conversation that led to the man telling Dad all the challenges he was experiencing. The man went on to say that Dad shared the gospel with him and that day his eyes were opened and he accepted Jesus as his Savior. Others told us of how he had given them jobs, provided them counsel over various issues and mostly how he always had a smile and a kind word for everyone. That is truly a hero.
So as Father’s Day approaches and I prepare to spend my 5th such day without my heroic dad, I am focused on honoring his memory the best way I can — by trying to live my life as he lived his. Dad believed every person had worth and should be treated with respect even when they were disrespectful. He taught me I should always be honest in my dealings with others even when they were dishonest. We should love everyone, even and especially the unlovable. And we should always keep God first in everything we do.
These values are so important and seemingly in shorter supply every day. It is my hope that my father’s legacy can continue and more people embrace his example Let’s all try to love a little more, hate a lot less and try to leave this world a little better than how it was when we entered it. Let’s all strive to be the kind of hero my dad was.