I had been feeling the need to write a tribute for quite a while but had continued to push the thought aside. I was married and had four young children, with another one on the way. I had plenty of things that were keeping me busy. Very busy. Every day.
But I had this nagging thought. What if my dad were to die tomorrow, without knowing how much I truly loved and appreciated him? What if I only took time to formally honor him in a eulogy? That was not what I wanted.
My desire was to compliment, acknowledge, esteem, show respect to my father while he was still around to hear it, feel it, and know it. After talking with my siblings, we decided to make this a joint project, to each write up some thoughts on Dad and our growing up years and then to compile them into one letter to frame and present to him for Christmas, from all of us. I can tell you that it is the best gift we have ever given him.
A tribute says ‘you are worthy. You have value. You may have failed me, hurt me, and disappointed me at times, but I am taking off my judicial robe and releasing you from the courtroom of my mind.’ A tribute allows you to take a hard, honest look at a person and your experiences together and to recognize the things they’ve done right, the sacrifices they’ve made.
According to Dennis Rainey in The Tribute and the Promise, writing a tribute is like a two-way blessing, “…a blessing to the parent in finally receiving thanks for what he or she did right, and a blessing to the child who can grow old knowing no words were left unsaid.” That was certainly true for me. When my father opened the beautifully framed tribute that Christmas, my brother read aloud the words we had lovingly compiled in front of the entire family. It was a very touching time. One I will never forget.
My dad isn’t big on sharing his feelings. Words don’t come easily. But the emotion on his face spoke volumes. And that gift is hung on the living room wall as a constant reminder and praise. While I hope and pray it is many, many years before I stand over his casket at his funeral, I have a sense of peace knowing that while he is still here on this earth my dad knows how loved and cherished he is to us, his kids.
Today is Dad’s sixty-fourth birthday. I thought I’d share what we wrote almost four years ago. Happy Birthday, Dad.
Too often we let life go by without telling those closest to us just how wonderful they are. Today, we want you to know exactly how we feel about you. You are deeply loved.
Growing up in our home, Dad, we could always count on you getting off work early to attend the many sporting events we participated in. You showed us that what we were involved in was important to you, and you were our biggest fan. We could depend on you using vacation time for our annual camping trip, always with us – you family. We could also count on, after a long day of working hard, finding you relaxing just as hard – snoring in the recliner while you ‘watched’ the news. And we knew that there would be a morning hair ruffle and a kiss every night, because you were committed to home and family. We never questioned your love.
We fondly remember so many special things, Dad, those ‘particulars’ that are now forever imbedded in our memories. Like seeing you come home after a long, cold day of working outdoors with icicles hanging from your beard. We were proud of the hard work you did and still do today. Or the annual tubing adventure from the dam at Hamiln Lake to Lake Michigan. We sure had fun together. And how about the rides we took on your back, underwater! What a trip! You were willing to do special things with us, willing to take us fishing and small-game hunting, willing to let us work with you on ‘the Love truck’, willing to let us sit on your lap, even as big kids. Dad, we never questioned your love.
We owe you a thousand thank yous for teaching us to drive in the neighbor’s orchards and fields, and for keeping the family vehicles running. For always being ready to treat with candy or pop from the gas station for no reason at all, and for taking us out for birthday supper on the town. Thank you, Dad, for taking us to the lake for a sunset, bowling on Halloween, and out to the porch swing during a thunderstorm. Thank you for Sunday afternoon drives as a family, and for loving and accepting our spouses, just as you do each of us. And thank you for keeping your vows to Mom. We were never afraid that you would walk away from Mom or from us. We never had to question your love.
You example has taught us so much: to be hard workers, to be content with what we have, to live responsibly and to use common sense. Words to describe you, Dad, would be generous, tolerant, committed, and gentle, a provider and a protector. You never gave us reason to question your love.
Lest all these words seem too good to be true, rest assured that we do know that you weren’t always perfect, but you were perfectly wonderful. We never questioned your love for us. All that you did and how you lived your life made a difference to us. We are so thankful that God placed us in your heart and in your home. He knew what He was doing when He made you our Dad. From where we stand, we see your life as a great success!
With heart’s full of love, we give you this tribute.
Jennifer, Jacinda, Jeffrey and Jodi
God gave us memories so we could have roses in December. (author unknown)