What My Father Gave Me

Honor your father and your mother (which is the first commandment with a promise) so that it may be well with you, and that you may have long life on the earth.—Ephesians 6:2-3

This Father’s Day is my first without my father in this world. As I’ve shared before, ours was a complicated relationship, largely because of people who kept us apart for many years. But my father was—is—dear to me, and he gave me much for which I’m thankful.

First, he and my mother gave me life. Though I had little contact with him as I was growing up, he gave me financial support and, as he was permitted, emotional support. For all that, I am grateful.

When I was an adult and could pursue a relationship with him, I recognized many common traits between us: a love for chocolate, a great appreciation for the outdoors, our upbeat dispositions, our sense of humor and propensity for easy laughter, a need for speed, and the absolute inability to sit still for more than a few minutes at a time.

He also gave me his passion for music, a gift passed on for generations in our family. My last childhood memory of my father was of him singing and playing “What’d I Say” by Ray Charles on guitar as I danced around our coffee table. I was 2. His eyes grew wide when I shared that memory with him. “How did you remember that, sweetheart?” he asked. (He always called me “sweetheart.”) “Because it was all I had,” I told him. I can’t help but think how happy my dad—now playing and singing with a heavenly choir—would be to know our family now uses music in worship.

My dad also gave me love. Every time I talked to him, he told me how much he loved me, almost as if he had to make up for lost time. At his memorial service, a friend of his pulled me aside to tell me how much my dad loved me, how much he talked about me, and how proud he was of me. That was yet another precious gift.

My father—known as the Candy Man because he passed out candy in his neighborhood and in town—was also a generous man. Every time I visited, he would try to give me something. He could not sit comfortably without constantly seeing if he could give me something or do something for me.

Now that my father is gone, I hope to carry on the best of him. I want to be a vessel for God’s love. I want to make people happy to be around me—to make them smile and laugh. I want to be generous. I want to be kind. I want to be the best musician I can so I can honor my earthly father and my heavenly Father. And I want to make them both proud.