A Legacy Remembered

April 15, 2015

On April 2, 2015, my father-in-law died. He was one of those people who would remind you of what was important. We attended his funeral this past weekend. The following is what I shared at his service.

I’m not known for my short Christmas letters, so try not to think about the beer that you need after the service, and focus on the message that I want to share.

Dad left a legacy for his children and his grandchildren, and for many whom he didn’t father. This legacy is what I want to tell you about today.

Dad was a king, a warrior, a teacher and a friend.

Dad was a king in charge of his home. He made sure things were done his way. He often teased others that if wives didn’t do as he said, they just needed slapped around. But he knew by experience with his wife, who would win if he did.

Dad stressed the importance of family. His motto: “We’re family, we’ll be there for you.” was lived out in his life. It extended to la toda familia. How many of us here today can remember times when he helped to make sure that we had enough?

In spite of the family ties that held him, he was a warrior for his wife. He protected his wife against those who would abuse her mercy and kindness. He was not bashful when a family member needed to be told, “It’s time for you to leave.”

He was committed to his wife. He taught his family that this was his wife, and demanded that they treat her with respect.

She knew that she was first in his life. Even when she may have cringed in the market when he would call from a different aisle, “Hell, do we need this?” (Her name is Helen, ‘Hel’ was his nickname for her.)

He taught his family to enjoy her meal. Our boys follow his footsteps and enjoy eating then show appreciation to the host for the meal, even if it is just me. He showed us how. He protected his wife.

Dad worked hard. He provided for his family. Not only as a milk man but also as a railroad man. Nothing stopped him from getting up early and going to work. Not only did he work hard, but he taught his sons to work hard. Who else made their boys polish the washer and dryer? His reason would be “Do you think that your mother wants to wash your clothes in a dirty washer?”

When raking the yard, he would wait until the yard was almost finished, then he would shake the tree knocking down more leaves “to finish the job.” If any son was slacking on the job, he’d ask, “Is this how you wipe your butt?”

His maxims continue to be told to our boys. The visual lessons help cement them into their minds, like when they are watering the grass he could ask, “Did you just pee on it?”

His work ethic carried into Little League. Dad loved to teach. He desired every child and parent to understand the rules and play to their ability. He wasn’t there for the glory, he was there for the kids. He became that teacher who stood by them until they got it. He went to bat for them to keep it ‘for the kids.’

He didn’t play favorites even with his own boys, either. Training to be catcher, Joey had to stand with his hands behind his back and have everyone throw balls at him, to learn to trust his equipment’s protection. He learned.

His legacy continued with our boys. Papa spent time playing catch. I don’t think he ever stopped talking as he did. He would instruct, demonstrate, and watch. Instruct, demonstrate, and watch. The boys would return from play with excitement that showed they had mastered the skill.

Not only was Dad a king of his house, a warrior for his queen, and a teacher to his kids but he was a friend.

He could talk to anyone, even if he couldn’t remember their name. He wasn’t bashful about telling his thoughts, nor saying something ‘stupid,’ although we all laughed at him later. When he was for you—you had strength, you could do anything, you could be anything you wanted to be.

Toward the last several years, Dad still maintained his desire to be the king. You could see him taking charge of all the dishes and re-organizing Mom’s kitchen, much to her exasperation. He did it out of concern for her. Even when he knew he couldn’t remember what day it was or where he put the pan that she was looking for, you could tell that his heart was seeking to protect her, to provide for her, to love her.

He continued to be a warrior of what was his. His protection extended even to bananas, as he kept our boys from eating any.

Do any of you may remember the toy cars that he hid from any boy seeking to play with them?

Even while his memory was failing, he still sought to teach. He told stories of his younger days when a boy. If you were caught in one of his story-telling times, you would grab a seat and a drink and listen to the end for his lesson.

Dad was a king to his home, providing for his own.

Dad was a warrior to his queen and stood his ground against others who would wear her down.

Dad was a teacher who shared his wisdom until you got it and could claim it as your own.

Dad was a friend who believed in you.

Dad may have lost his wits toward the end, but he kept his heart.

His heart was given to his wife, his family and his God.

He believed that Jesus had saved him. He humbly acknowledged his wrong and claimed Christ as his Savior. His faith grew through stumbling steps as he learned to allow God control. A hard thing for a man who knows control is essential and wants to keep it to himself.

Dad was king, warrior, teacher and friend. His legacy lives on in the lessons he’s taught to his family.

Dad always told his boys, “I’m not your friend, I’m your dad.” He earned their respect.

Dad died just before we celebrated Easter. But because of Christ’s resurrection from the dead and accepting Christ as Saviour, we have the promise of heaven. Heaven seems a little closer as we know that Dad will meet us when we get there. He won’t be the king, nor warrior, nor teacher, but he will be our friend. I can’t wait.

What legacy will you leave?

What a beautiful tribute to your father-in-law. I just saw Joey on Fri. for a checkup and I'm sorry I didn't know about his dad's passing. What a very special man he obviously was. I'm sure he will be sorely missed.

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Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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