My dad’s battle with congestive heart failure the past 23 years opened my eyes to a gift.
Don’t misunderstand me. I wouldn’t wish what my dad has been through on anybody. Receiving three different heart pumps in six months has exhausted his body. His recovery is slow, but his will to live unmatched.
Three days after he received his first heart pump we were sitting together in the ICU and he said to me, “When I first was diagnosed 23 years ago I asked God to allow me to see you kids grow up. Now I’m asking Him for a bonus—to enjoy my grandkids.”
I don’t think my dad’s heart is as broken as doctors say it is.
My dad’s prayer reminds me of a story I came across by Brene Brown in her book Daring Greatly, about a man in his early sixties,
“I used to think the best way to go through life was to expect the worst,” he told her. “That way, if it happened, you were prepared.”
“Then I was in a car accident and my wife was killed. Needless to say, expecting the worst didn’t prepare me at all. And worse, I still grieve for all of those wonderful moments we shared that I didn’t fully enjoy.”[i]
My dad’s precarious health condition has taught me the value of a moment. The gift of a conversation shared. The gift of time spent together.
Jesus said, “Do not be anxious about your life…which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his life?”[ii]
And if I may, parents, “Which of you by being anxious can add more joy to the moments he shares with his kids?”
We’re not promised tomorrow, which is why moments matter. My dad is the master of making the most of moments.
I can count on one hand the number of wrestling matches he missed in the six years I wrestled through junior and senior high school. He was always in the stands.
I can remember the times we cleaned up Sunday afternoon lunches at my Me-maw’s. Flicking towels at one another doing the dishes, smashing a handful of whipped cream in my face, pinning a clothespin on my shirttail, or pasting a “Special $1.99” sticker from the chip bag on my back—my dad still has a knack for making the most of every moment we have together.
Living in a different state since 2002, we didn’t miss a single year of meeting one another in Philadelphia for our annual Father’s Day Phillies game. Our streak ended in 2014 when he had his heart pump surgery.
This year, we’ll miss it again. His physical heart won’t allow him to be there—which is quite okay—because my gift back to him for Father’s Day is found in more than a game—it’s found in passing on what’s he given me—the gift of joyful moments shared together.
Today, just like my dad, I’m learning to embrace the gift of the moment with my own kids.
When it’s Daddy-Landon time, chores disappear.
When it’s Daddy-Kennedy time, the phone goes away.
When it’s Daddy-Landon time, trains are my work.
When it’s Daddy-Kennedy time, giggles are my pay.
And though I don’t always do these perfectly, I’m working on it. For there’s no better way to be prepared for life’s challenges than knowing we’ve enjoyed the precious moments we get together.
To honor my dad this Father’s Day, I’m passing on to my family his heritage, the experience of “joyful moments.”
Because for Dads, seeing their legacy alive in your family—that’s the best Father’s Day gift, ever.
Let me hear from you. What one trait of your dad’s can you pass on to your kids in honor of him?