It's been exactly six years since I lost my father.
Every year I think that I won't write about it again. Every year I think I will be far enough past it for his death not to affect me.
Every year I'm wrong.
I guess that’s not a bad thing. Even if it is in my grief, my dad's memory lives on. I didn't break down in tears Sunday morning. I didn't even cry at his funeral six years ago. That's not how I was raised.
However, recently I had the honor of interviewing a young man who lost his father on a Monday, attended his funeral on a Thursday and scored a touchdown on Friday night against a rival opponent.
When I asked how he was able to do it, Justin Hamilton said, "It was nothing he hadn't prepared me for."
That comment has echoed in my mind for more than a week.
After my father's funeral, I went back to Kansas and worked our newspaper's booth at a big town-wide homecoming event. I was able to hand out sodas and water and laugh and enjoy the night because my dad had prepared me for it. He had shown me that hard work and serving others were among the most important things in life.
He worked hard in his careers but he worked just as hard volunteering in church and in his community.
Could he have spent his mornings sleeping in? Sure. Instead he collected food from local grocery stores to hand out at the local soup kitchen.
Could he have said he was too busy to work collecting coats for kids or spending time at the clothes closet? Of course he could have. He still ran his own janitorial service up to a month before he died.
But he never missed a chance to serve others - whether that was his own family or people in his city who had fallen on hard times.
I thought a lot about that this week. As my father’s health failed, we knew his time was limited. Even though both of my sons had soccer games on Saturday, we made the four-hour drive to Chickasha even though our time with him would be limited. We arrived late in the afternoon. I stayed with my dad while the Oklahoma Sooners played against Kansas State. Dad didn’t understand everything by that point but he still laughed as I joked about how bad the Sooners’ offense was doing that night. After the game, dad was asleep, so I went back to my parents’ house and spent time with my mom and my family. It was my job to get up early and go feed dad breakfast Sunday morning since I was in town. I got up early and as I was tying my shoes before heading out the door, my brother called my cell phone.
I assumed big brother was just making sure I didn’t forget to do my job. After all, even when you are 41, you’re still the little brother.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t it. My father had passed away early that morning and the nurses called my brother to notify him.
It now became my job to tell my mother that her husband of 55 years had died. I’ve never done anything more difficult than sitting on the side of my mother’s bed and delivering the horrible news.
But it wasn’t anything my father hadn’t prepared me for.
He taught me to be a man and handle whatever life throws at me – even if that was his own death.
No one will name any streets after my dad and no buildings will bear his name.
He did all of the things no one else wants to do. He wasn’t a star. He worked hard behind the scenes.
He didn’t rub elbows with movers and shakers. He spent his time helping people who many would rather ignore.
He will be remembered for the difference he made when no one was watching. His legacy will be seen in me and my siblings and our children.
Whether you have 18 or 41 years with your father, if he prepared you for life, you have reason to be thankful.