For Mother’s Day, I wrote a piece for a local magazine on lessons I learned from my mom. I was asked to write a similar article for Father’s Day. I’m so thankful for my dad, and for Grant’s dads! God has been good to us.
Below is the piece I wrote for the magazine. You can view the online version here.
A Father’s Legacy
Every father makes an impression on his children, but not every father leaves a legacy. Between the two of us, my husband and I have three dads who have left lasting legacies in our lives. While our dads are different in many ways, each possess character qualities that set them apart as remarkable men, which in turn, make them extraordinary fathers.
Integrity & Character
My husband, Grant, was two years old when his dad, Kelly, died in a Marine Corps plane crash. His parents were stationed in Beaufort at the time, and his dad flew F-4 fighter jets. It was just an ordinary day when Grant’s mom, Susan, kissed her husband good-bye when he left for work that morning. She didn’t know she was kissing Kelly good-bye for the last time. Later that day, during a routine exercise, two jets lost sight of each other in mid-air and collided. Two of the four pilots survived. But two of them, including Grant’s dad, lost their lives. One moment, my husband had a father, and the next moment, he did not. It would seem that Grant wouldn’t remember his dad very much since he was only a toddler when he died, but surprisingly, he has several fond memories of him. Grant remembers his dad chasing him around their house and arranging for the fire truck on Laurel Bay to visit for his two-year-old birthday party. Although Grant didn’t understand the details that took his dad’s life, he remembers crying day after day when he slowly came to realize that he didn’t have a daddy anymore. Even more than what Grant remembers about his dad, it’s what he’s been told about Kelly that has shaped Grant into the man and father that he is today. Grant’s mom shared with him the type of man Kelly was, and the kind of man Grant needed to grow up to be. One of the stories she shared with him about his dad helped guide Grant through his growing up years. One weekend, Kelly’s squadron had a mandatory function at a beach house. The pilots were told not to bring their wives because they would be receiving their call signs. When Kelly arrived home to Grant’s mom after the weekend was over, he was noticeably upset. Susan asked him what was wrong. Kelly went on to explain that the function turned wild, and strippers were brought to the party. Kelly told Susan that he couldn’t leave since it was a mandatory function, so he sat in a corner of the room all evening with his hand over his eyes. “Seriously… that’s what you did?” Susan asked, dumbfounded that he was able to do that in a crowded party faced with much temptation. “Yes,” Kelly replied. After Kelly’s death, someone gave Grant’s mom a photograph taken of Kelly during that function. While you can’t see much, Kelly is visible in the back of the room, his hand over his eyes. That photograph sat on Grant’s desk all throughout high school. And now it sits on his bedroom dresser in our home. It’s a reminder to him to stand for what is good and right and true no matter what, just like his dad did. Even though Kelly has been dead for over 25 years, he left a legacy that continues to impact not only my husband, but me as well.
Compassion & Love
When Grant’s dad died, a young Marine Officer who had known Kelly, was deeply grieved over Kelly’s tragic death. His heart immediately went out to Grant and Susan. He prayed that God would provide a new father for Grant and comfort Susan in the days ahead. What he didn’t know was that one day he would be the answer to his own prayer. Four years later, he married Grant’s mom. Grant’s new dad, Preston, loved Grant like his own son. Grant immediately started calling him “daddy” without hesitation. “I was just so happy to have a dad again,” Grant explains, recalling those years. Even though Preston loved Grant as his own flesh and blood, he encouraged Grant to keep his dad’s last name. Preston thought it was important for Grant to carry on Kelly’s name and legacy. He wanted to honor the sacred place Grant would always hold in his heart for his first dad. Preston wasn’t in competition for Grant’s love or affection. He had a genuine love and compassion for Grant and his mom. He wanted to honor all that had happened in the past as well as help shape Grant into the man he needed to be in the future. Preston exhibited the true heart of a father; one filled with a protective and sacrificial love. When Grant talks about all that his dad, Preston, did for him, his eyes fill with tears, “He did so much that he didn’t have to do.” When Preston married Susan, he wasn’t merely beginning a new family; he was marrying into one that had already begun. Stepping into a family that has already been established is not an easy task. Yet Preston was willing to continue the legacy that Kelly started, and in doing so, he is leaving one in Grant’s life that will never be forgotten.
Faithfulness & Endurance
I was four years old when my dad became a pastor. That’s what I’ve always known him to be. When I was little, I didn’t really understand all that went into his calling to pastoral ministry. Now that I’m an adult, it’s amazing to see how faithful my dad has been to preach the Bible week in and week out for so many years, even when it’s not popular. I’ve heard my dad say numerous times, “The Christian life is not a fifty yard dash, it’s a marathon.” My dad taught me that running well is not necessarily about how I start, but instead, how I finish. Even more than my dad’s faithfulness to ministry, his faithfulness as a husband and a father has impacted me the most. My dad has been faithful to my mom for the thirty-two years they have been married. Not only is he committed to her, I know that he loves her more than anyone else in this world. As a child, I never once had to worry about whether or not my parents would stay married. Their commitment to one another created stability that grounded me. Even as a little girl, I knew I wanted to marry a man who would love me as much as my dad loved my mom. When I became engaged to Grant, numerous people told me, “Wow, he reminds me of your dad!” At first, I said, “Really?” And then I recognized how right they were. My dad set a standard for the type of man I wanted to marry. Grant is like my dad in many ways, and that’s one of the reasons why I love him so much. My dad imparted a legacy of faithfulness that dramatically affects the way my life is today.
As this Father’s Day approaches, who are the men in your life who have been true fathers to you? Maybe your dad has passed away, but he has left a legacy in your life that you will never forget. Maybe your dad is someone who took you in and loved you as his own when he didn’t have to. Or maybe your dad is someone that has shown you by his life and words what it means to live a life of faithfulness. Our world needs men of integrity, men of compassion, and men of faithfulness. Any father can leave an impression on his children; but it takes someone special to leave a legacy.