Every year when I was little, my dad took me to his hometown of De Leon, TX, and we would stay on my cousin’s farm. These trips planted seeds of love in my heart for country life where things were simple, food was fresh, nature surrounded us, stars shone bright in the pitch-black night sky, and family talks around the dinner table were a daily ritual. Our days there were filled with all of us kids climbing haystacks, driving tractors, riding irrigation pumps, milking cows, and walking down long, winding, dirt roads through endless acres of land.
I was always sad to leave, but happy because I was with my dad who knew how to make me feel better. He would “let me drive” as I sat in his lap, putting my tiny hands on the steering wheel and then we’d coast along the two-lane highway in the middle of nowhere. Thinking about that today probably makes you cringe as you read this (I know I do), but those pre-seatbelt, car-seat memories visit me often. So visceral, these memories. I close my eyes and I’m transported back in time.
There are countless memories like these and I am so grateful to my dad for imprinting his legacy on my life in this way. It wasn’t a trust fund, inheritance or growing up in a big house with all of the finest things. No, these legacy-defining memories cost nothing but time.
In May 2001, the roles reversed. I drove my dad back to the country to see family. He was only 60 years old then and nearing the end stages of Alzheimer’s. It was my turn to help make things better for him. He passed away January 2, 2002. Just as he always held my hand to bring me comfort and make me feel safe, I held his hand as he took his last breath, then we returned him to his final resting place, where he wanted to be, in De Leon.
As Father’s Day comes this Sunday, memories like this come alive in my soul as I attempt to bring him back – see his smile, hear his laugh, and feel his big bear hugs – as if I’m communicating with him in Heaven. My dad was one of my LoveLights. He poured love into me and taught me about kindness, decency and respect.
To all the fathers out there:
You have the power to break generational cycles by pouring unconditional love into your child. Unconditional is the operative word. Meet them where they are with no expectations. Lead and live by example. Your love, time and attention is worth more than any amount of money or accolade. Your love IS the currency that helps your child develop self-worth and self-love. You are showing your sons what kind of man to be for his future family, and you’re setting the model for what your daughter will look for in a man.
To all the mothers:
Support the men in your life to be LoveLights for your children, no matter if you’re married or divorced. Equally important is for you to be a LoveLight and to raise your sons to be the same. You are setting the model for the kind of woman he will marry and teaching him how a man should treat a woman.
Your Legacy of Love Matters.
My dad was my hero and his love stays with me to this day. It is my prayer that you can experience that kind of love from your fathers and with your children, or even your nieces, nephews, godchildren and friends’ children.
Happy Father’s Day to all the amazing LoveLight dads who love unconditionally and dare to move past their own junk in order to give their best in raising the next generation. When you think about it, that’s what our Heavenly Father does – loves us unconditionally. If He can love that way, then we have no excuse not to do the same.
Dads come in various forms – biological, adopted, foster, mentor and friend. What are some stand-out, legacy-defining memories you have about your LoveLight dad?