This article originally appeared in Herself360, an online magazine supporting woman through stories.
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I remember like it was yesterday, the day dad cut off his beard. The only father I ever knew for sixteen years always had a long white beard, yet all of a sudden I could see his face. I barely recognized the man and I told him he looked ridiculous! I don’t believe that was the response he was looking for, though. My parents were in the process of separating and looking back with the gift of time and perspective, I think he may have been trying to look younger. It worked, but I also didn’t recognize him!
Convince With Your Presence
Growing up, dad was one of my biggest supporters. If there was ever anything I wanted to do or needed, dad made it happen, and that was certainly the case every Saturday as a child when we’d spend all day, open to close, at the local magic shop. He knew I had a passion for magic and he happily drove me to the hangout for all the local magicians and he’d spend the whole day there with me.
Today, what most strikes me most about this is that my father—who surely had plenty of other things he could have been doing with his weekends—willingly and joyfully spent all day with me at that club. Reflecting on this now I see it as a valuable lesson in how to show others that you care: You show up and convince with your presence. When you love someone, take interest in their passions and take pleasure in their joys. As far as our personalities, dad and I were worlds apart, but he took a special interest in what mattered to me and he was always present to show his support. I will always be grateful for this and work to pass on this same legacy.
A Big Heart
This July dad will have already been gone for six years, but I still think of him often and the lessons that he taught me. Most significantly are the stories I remember about him, stories that demonstrate how he truly knew how to love deeply. He had such a big heart.
Joy For What Really Matters
A few years ago, mom told me that dad was at first disappointed when he found out that she was pregnant with me. They already had a child—my older brother, Justin—and I think perhaps he was nervous about how they were going to take care of another one. This deeply upset my mother, but then, on the day I was born, mom told me that he brought her a dozen roses and thanked her for making him a father again.
What I love about this story is it reveals the true nature of the human heart. Yes, our minds will worry about the practical matters of the world, but in the face of what makes us truly human, when we recognize what sincerely matters, our hearts open up to express genuine joy and delight, regardless of how impractical these things may seem.
Live and Let Live
One of my favorite stories is of the day dad went deer hunting. He got everything prepared: He had his camouflage, a stand set high up in the trees, and a gun fully loaded and ready to go. He sat up in that tree for hours, waiting for a deer to come by, when finally he spotted one! This was the moment he was waiting for!
He raised up the gun to take aim, steadied the sight on the deer, put his finger on the trigger, and began to pull, but then suddenly stopped short. He put the gun down and paused.
Suddenly he brought the gun up again and set aim, ready to fire, but he once again put the gun down.
He couldn’t do it. He just couldn’t do it. The deer was right there, just living its life, and there was my dad, sitting up in a tree living his life. And because of my dad’s big heart the deer wandered away to continue living. To this day I can’t think of this story without welling up. It truly reveals my father’s big heart. I look at this as a lesson to live and let live. Live true to yourself and do no harm to others so they can do the same.
My father truly lived a life filled with love, care, and passion. Perhaps what I learned most from his example was to accept, embrace and love yourself. He made no apologies for who he was, and this was perhaps because he knew he could be nothing else. And I think there’s a lot of truth to this. Sure, we can all learn and develop as we grow through life, but as we do, we will all do well to remember who we are at our core, remembering what truly matters most, what makes us most human, and how we express that unique humanity while we’re here.
Today, I do my best to embrace this lesson, honoring my father’s legacy by embracing my true unique self, convincing with my presence as I live and love deeply in all that I do. Thank you, dad.
Jonas Cain is an educator, facilitator, and coach, working to engage, empower, and encourage leaders and the people they serve to experience joy.