At ground level

A column about LIFE

“Let my father’s honours live in me.”

A friend of mine lamented that it’s been five years since her father passed away and she still feels guilty because she had to return to the U.S. after a month’s visit with her sick father and then he died a few days later.

She said, “I packed my stuff to come back home stateside to attend the graduation of my two boys. I assured him the two would be in Manila for the whole summer. The good-byes were quick, since I anticipated I would be back again. Indeed I was – a week later – for his funeral. Until now I have not forgiven myself. The burden of guilt for not being there for him and for my family is eating me. I am the oldest, yet I was not here for them.”

Father’s Day is the one day we set aside to honor our father. Perhaps, in reflecting about our dads, we, whose fathers are no longer with us, carry some guilt and feel we could have done more, shown more affection toward them, shared more of our time and even our possessions …

I think it’s natural to feel this way, but I told her, this is a day when we should actually rejoice, for we are the lucky ones! We were blessed with such wonderful dads, who taught us so much, and they and their teachings remain in our hearts today. I was lucky enough to have had a father who truly loved me and showed it. His was such a selfless love. Not many people are blessed in this way.

My father died very suddenly 18 years ago. It’s like God plucked this special human being from this earth and just like that, he was gone from our lives. My only regret is that we never got a chance to say good-bye and to tell him one last time that we truly and deeply loved him.

Looking back, I now realize his was a beautiful death and God really was being kind and meant to spare our family much pain. Dad didn’t suffer at all. Yes, we hurt, we cried, boy, did we cry, but at least we didn’t have to see Dad suffer for months or years with an illness or disease, like some families have to bear. This way, we remember Dad happy, smiling, vibrant, teasing and joking. We had no regrets for Dad. He lived his life to the fullest, it had meaning, and he did what he wanted to do.

From Dad, we, his six children, learned to work well and work hard. “No matter what you become, even if you are a street sweeper, you need to be the best street sweeper there is,” he would tell us.

Dad built up our self-esteem, and from him we learned to be self-confident. Whether it was giving a speech in class or a talk at some function, or teaching a college course, he would tell us, “Trust in yourself. You know better than the people in the audience. That’s why you are the one up there, so share what you know.”

When we had an idea, he would encourage us to fly with it. “Go for it! You can do it,” he would say. That was Daddy, our number one cheerleader!

From Dad we learned to be kind to others, to be generous and share what we have. “You have to help the people around you because they have nothing and you have so much,” he would constantly tell us. Dad did all these, even if it meant paying less attention to his business. As marriage and youth counselors, he and Mom would make time to speak to parents and children in the schools about God, life, marriage or parenthood. Dad would give the little money he had to a hard-up employee, a classmate of ours who needed money to finish her schooling, a friend of ours who was just short on cash, or a big tip to a waiter.

Dad was kind; he was gentle. Even his spankings were more like pats. He could get angry though, and there were a couple of times when he took out his belt, but never did he strike any of us.

Dad could be consoling, and no matter what, we felt as long as he was around, we were safe. I remember one time in the third grade, so many rumors floated around at school about kidnappings and robberies. I just couldn’t sleep. Dad embraced me and said, “We have Brownie, hija (daughter)! He will never let anyone into our home. You hear him barking? He will bite anyone who comes inside our house. So go to sleep now and don’t worry. He will protect us all.”

From Dad we learned to have courage, no matter what confronted us, and to persevere. Whenever I would return to the States after a visit, his parting words to me would always be, “Be brave, hija, be brave!” I would always wonder why he would tell me to be brave. I’ve been through a lot in my life since then and, somehow, remembering his words has helped pull me through the most difficult trials.

Most of all, from Dad we learned to trust in the Lord and pray. “Pray, pray pray, hija. You are nothing without God,” he would say. And when things got tough, he would tell us, “God will provide.” And God always did.

Since Dad’s death, whenever my siblings and I would each reach a fork on the road, we would wonder what Daddy would have said to us at that time. I miss his advice, but somehow, I have always felt I knew what he would have said. He taught us well, my dad.

What I really miss is Dad’s warm embrace. Our last took place when I was leaving for the airport to return to the U.S., after Mom and Dad’s 40th wedding celebration in the Philippines. That was a few months before Dad died. Dad hugged me tight in the rain and said, “Take care, hija, be brave, and pray.”

My fifth grade English teacher sent this message to all her students this morning. It is so appropriate. On this day and every day, I pray:

My dad, as I remember him.

“Let my father’s honours live in me.”  – William Shakespeare

June 19, 2011 - Posted by | Children, Family, Life, Parenting, Religion | , ,

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