I’m at the age where increasing numbers of friends are saying their forever goodbyes to loved ones. I can honestly say that more often than not I struggle to know how to best come alongside them in their grief.
Last month, one of my long-time friends lost her dad to cancer. Her heart ached as she watched her once-strong father suffer, making his passing particularly bittersweet. Then three weeks ago I attended a memorial service for a well-loved 42-year old friend of mine, a mom with three sons, whose unexpected death left a large community in shock. She had actually been bowling only hours earlier with her family, then passed away in the night. We’re all still reeling as we try to wrap our minds and hearts around the fact that she’s really gone. Additionally, I have two other girlfriends who are painfully walking alongside their mothers right now as each of them prepares to make her entrance to heaven sometime soon. Clearly, this end-of-life theme is extremely poignant and raw for me right now.
There’s nothing like the end of someone’s life to challenge everyone who knew that person to do some serious soul searching about what lasts and what really matters.
Do you ever wonder what your kids will say about you after you’re gone?
I think this is a good question to ponder. Because the truth is that the way you answer this question will significantly impact the way you live today…and each day after.
I’ve been conducting my own empirical research over the past year. And though you might think this a bit morbid, I’ll share it nonetheless. I’ve been going to card sections in various stores---from drug stores to grocery stores to Hallmark to Dollar Tree---just to see which cards are available to give to someone after the death of a father. Here’s what I’ve discovered in this process: virtually every store has a wide range of cards for the loss of one’s mother, but most of them had only one--or maybe two--options for the loss of a father. I was both surprised and saddened by this. But when the pattern repeated itself, I figured there must be a reason. The only sense I can make of it is that it must be about supply and demand. I can’t help but wonder if there’s not as much of a demand for cards that console children who have lost their dads.
This brings to mind a story you may have read about of a Catholic nun who, at the request of a prison inmate, bought a Mother’s Day card for him to send to his mom. Word got around the prison, and after being inundated with requests, the nun contacted Hallmark who then made a large donation of boxed cards so the other inmates could also send cards to their moms for Mother’s Day. So as to anticipate the rush for Father’s Day the following month, she contacted Hallmark again asking for a donation. To her surprise, not even one inmate asked for a free card to honor his father. Perhaps we’ll never know the reason why the story played out this way, but my guess is that their mamas had consistently made more heart deposits than their dads had.
Oh, how I long to see that reality change. This is what fuels my passion to assist, equip, and empower fathers to turn their hearts toward their children, especially their daughters.
You know this already, but I’ll say it again: We all leave a legacy. One way or another, we leave an imprint that lasts beyond our days on earth.
Thus, I invite you to ask yourself a tough question, one that will allow you to be brutally honest with yourself while sitting in the reality that you will leave a legacy…for good or bad.
What do you want your legacy to look like?
You get to decide, in large part, what the answer to that question will be by the choices you make today.
You will literally change the course of history through your active engagement with your daughter (and son) at a heart level. She will carry you with her long after you leave this earth. She will replay audio recordings inside her head of conversations the two of you had. She will watch videos in her mind’s eye where you interacted with each other. She will look at tangible items you bought her, made for her, or wrote to her that will serve as forever reminders of you.
Your legacy will live on inside her in direct proportion to your heart investment in her.
Every year in The Abba Project I invite dads to complete this sentence during our very first meeting:
At the end of my life, if my daughter had only
to say about me, I’d want it to be...
I encourage them to be specific so that their goal is measurable while adding, “If you state that you want your daughter to know you loved her, write a specific way that your love will be expressed to her so you can know that you did it.”
Year after year I am blown away at the incredible warmth and depth that arises from the hearts of fathers in The Abba Project who each want their daughters to truly know how much they are loved by them. Listen to a few of the responses from dads in the group this year who responded honestly by sharing the ONE THING they want their daughters to say about them after they’re gone:
- That I was always there.
- That I loved her just the way she is.
- That I understand her.
- That my dad was the source of the courage and confidence I needed to take chances.
- That my dad was there when I needed him.
- That he was the best dad I could have asked for.
- I want each one of my girls to say, 'I was his favorite.’
How about you? How are you completing this sentence?
Decide today what it is, specifically, that you want your daughter (and son) to remember about you when you’re not here anymore to remind them of their value to you. I encourage you to keep this page open right now and not to walk away until you’ve answered.
Dad, there’s no better time than the present to respond so that you can put your heart’s desire into action today. Here’s the sentence again:
At the end of my life, if my daughter (or son) had only ONE THING to say about me, I’d want it to be...
(As always, if you want to share your answer with me, I’d love to hear. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org).