Friday, April 13, 2012
Some people make New Year’s resolutions or set personal goals about trying to be practice kindness. But not my dad. He didn’t have to set a goal or even really think about being kind; it was so innate for him that he never considered acting otherwise, and he couldn’t understand why someone wouldn’t be kind to someone else.
It has always been apparent to me that my dad was grateful for everything he had; he had goals and dreams, to be sure, but he was the most contented person I ever knew. This trait held true for him in the best of times and in the worst of them, and having had the opportunity to gain that perspective from him has in large part made me the person I am and the person whom I strive to be.
During the memorial service for my dad and afterwards, the outpouring of love and respect for Dad that my family and I witnessed was our greatest source of comfort. It was as if the kindness he had bestowed upon so many came back to me and to the rest of my family, yet another gift from Dad to us that he didn’t even realize he was giving.
When Dad came home from the hospital on hospice, his swim team coach Ashley set up a schedule so that Dad’s teammates on the swim team and others who were so inclined could deliver meals to my parents’ house. At the memorial service, Ashley told me that Dad’s friends on the team still wanted to send the meals for Mom as a tribute to Dad. We were so touched by the generosity of the offer, and again we agreed that Dad probably never realized how many friends he had. One of the guys on the swim team called my parents’ house the day after Dad got home from the hospital and offered to help if we needed anything. The really remarkable thing about the call was that neither my mom nor my sisters or I knew him, but he told Mom on the phone that Dad was one of his best friends.
So many kind words were spoken about Dad at the memorial celebration, and lots of memorable stories were told involving him, some of which we heard that day for the first time.
On the day after the service, a man who had recently moved into the house next door to my parents saw me in the driveway and came over to ask about Dad. He had heard that Dad was sick but hadn’t gotten an update in a couple of weeks. Tears sprang to his eyes when I told him about Dad; he said that when he and his family had first moved in Dad came right over to welcome them to the neighborhood, and, when he learned that they were first-time homeowners, he gave them a hearty congratulations. “What he said to us that day made us feel proud and brave instead of anxious about buying our first house,” he told me, “and we will never forget it.”
A couple of weeks later, a man that my dad knew through work mailed a handwritten letter and a CD of photos to my mom; he said that Dad had impacted his career and his life in a way that he would always appreciate and remember. The photos he sent of Dad were wonderful; several of them told a story of their own and have since become some of my favorite pictures of my dad.
My mom, both of my sisters, and I also each received a handwritten letter in the mail from a man with whom my dad used to be good friends but with whom we hadn’t had much contact in many years. His words and even just the gesture of jotting down some fond memories about my dad were of great comfort to all of us; we really appreciated the time and love that went into such a thoughtful act.
The messages we received during the celebration of Dad’s life and in the days that followed were heartfelt, tender, and very touching, and they helped ease some of our pain; we were moved by the genuineness of the emotions we saw in everyone who had ever known my kindhearted father, and I hoped that Dad could see or somehow sense the outpouring of love, respect, and admiration that came from so many.