A man becomes a man by imitation of his father. There are other influences in a boy’s life, but none greater, or of more lasting consequence, than his dad. A father makes many choices in his life—the woman he marries, the career he pursues, the skills he fosters. But I remain convinced no decision matters more than what kind of man he will be to his children. They are his legacy. And if in the twilight years of a man’s life, he can look back and say, not that he has been a perfect father, but that he has been all the father he can be, then he will have lived a life worth living. Dad, for over four decades of your seventy-two years, you have been a father to me. I have no other, nor have I ever desired another. Like any man, I am full of weakness and strength, good and bad, but the strength residing in me, and the good I possess, I attribute to you. You shared stories from your own life, and the lives of others, from which I learned what to avoid, and what to embrace. The silent witness of your deeds has spoken volumes, and taught me more, than any university degree. Though I could never detail all the gifts of character I have learned from you, these three stand out, above all others, as the legacy you have bestowed.
From you, Dad, I learned that a man is truly a man when, as Ecclesiastes says, whatever his hand finds to do, he does it with all his might (9:10). At every job I’ve had, from a roofer to a pastor to a driver, people have remarked on how hard I work. No one has ever called me lazy, nor will they, for I am your son. I am not a workaholic, but when I labor, I labor from the heart—with diligence, energy, commitment to the best job I can do. Work is, in a sense, a sacred task, given by God. And in working hard we give glory to the One who, even before sin entered the world, gave Adam work to do in Eden.
From you, Dad, I learned that a man keeps going forward, even when he may want to give up. I have gone through some painfully dark times in my life—and life being what it is, will probably go through more—but I have never stopped pressing forward to what lies ahead. Perhaps we are both simply stubborn, and refuse to quit for that reason, but I believe it is something more, something deeper, and better. It is hope. You have never given up on me, never gave me a reason to doubt that I would make it through my darkness, no matter what. And that hope has kindled more hope, and lasting hope, within me.
From you, Dad, I learned that our God is a good, loving Father. From childhood I have known the Holy Scriptures, as Paul did (2 Timothy 3:15), for you took me to Sunday School, sat beside me in church, prayed at every meal, and witnessed in countless ways that God is good. My faith may not be able to move mountains, but it moves me forward through valleys of the shadow of death, moves me to love others, and moves me again and again into the arms of the Savior whose love, and sacrifice, I first learned from you.
A true, loving father is a gift every child desperately needs. I have had, and still have that, in you. And I pray that I may be the same for Luke and Auriana. That, like you, I too may live a life truly worth living.
My father, Carson Bird, and yours truly, 1970, in Jal, NM.