I learned a great deal by watching my dad over the years. He always sought to be an example for me and my brother. Here are the things that mattered most to him:
Faith is essential. Our family attended church on Sunday. Dad’s mom was a strong Christian and played piano for her church back in Colorado. Dad was active in church leadership. He served as a deacon and elder, and later (my high school years) organized and helped raise for land and the construction of an educational complex for the church.
Family is a priority. My dad (and Mom) included us in everything. If my parents went out to dinner or a movie, they took me and my brother along. Both seemed to feel that their time with us would be short enough without missing out on anything. Dad had two weeks of vacation a year, and he and Mom always planned a family vacation that would show me and my brother another part of our great country. We went to the Pacific Northwest, Southwest, even drove all the way across country to see Washington, D.C. (He had to save up five weeks of vacation time over several years to manage that.) We also took week-end trips. We dug clams at Dillon Beach and fished and collected sea shells at Pigeon Point.
Serve your country. Dad was proud to be an American. He joined the Army during WWII and served as a medic in the third wave of D-Day. I don’t think he ever got over it. He gave up his dreams of being a doctor and went into police work, later becoming coroner of Alameda County. He always voted. He believed it wasn’t just a right, but a responsibility to be taken very seriously.
Get goals and work hard toward achieving them. Dad worked hard every day at his job in order to provide for his family. He could have found other work he enjoyed more, but remained in police work because he believed strongly in public service and looking out for your neighbors. He came home tired, but studied books on architecture and construction so he could learn how to build our home. He did this, literally, from the foundations up. It took him twelve years to complete the entire project, but he did it.
Dinner time is sacred. Our family gathered around the table for dinner. Someone always prayed before we dug into the meal. We never rushed through dinner. We talked about everything, from what happened during our day to what was happening in the world. Sometimes we carried on debates and interrupted one another. We enjoyed those times together.
Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and His Promises. Dad had his first heart attack when he was forty, and made preparations for his death soon after. He wanted each of us to know everything would go forward even without him. And losing him was always a possibility. He underwent three open-heart surgeries. We always thought he would die of a heart attack, and then he was diagnosed with liver cancer. A month before he died, he asked me and my brother to come north so we could all plan his funeral. One might think that was a solemn time, but it was one of the best times with my dad. He didn’t fear the future. He spoke of his faith in Jesus and heaven. We pulled out old albums and family trunks, talked, cried and laughed together. Nothing was left unsaid. We knew we were loved, and Dad knew how much we loved him. His primary concern was Mom. One of the last things he said to me was “Be sure you get your mom to Hawaii.” It had always been her dream to go. I kept my promise to him. Dad died in his own bed, Mom sitting behind him, holding him as he took his last breath.
He’s been gone twenty-two years, and I still miss him.