Our experiences in life are shaped by many things: family, friends, school, things that we do, places we travel to and everything we encounter along the way. As we grow and learn we are malleable and many impressions, both small and large are left in the soft shell of our existence. We learn from seeing, from hearing and from doing. Often, the lessons that we learn in life aren’t apparent at the time however, they almost always surface at some time later when we need them most. These lessons help us to define our path in life and to navigate the course that we have chosen.
This week I lost a teacher, someone who taught me many lessons both in hand and in heart. This teacher taught me many things about life and about myself. As often happens with the best teachers, many of the lessons he taught me I did not know of at the time. Not until I drew upon them later did I understand how and why they were learned. From this teacher, I learned both the practical and the abstract. I learned a work ethic and the lesson that nothing was beyond my capabilities if I worked hard to obtain it. I did not know it at the time but in these lessons he taught me to use my mind, my hands and my heart in everything that I do.
My teacher had only an eighth grade education. However, he was skilled and wise well beyond those years. He did not practice as a craftsman or an artist but, many of the lessons he taught were the ones that shaped my abilities in these areas. I learned mostly by watching him and listening to him and sometimes helping with the things that he did. I learned to do by doing and that trying and failing is better than not trying at all. Beyond the practical, he taught me that kindness, compassion and sharing a helpful hand would always yield returns in the end. He was always there for others and he was always willing to share everything that he had to give.
I’ll always have an undying respect and admiration for my teacher. He taught me how to love, how to laugh, how to work and how to cry. From him I learned to be a better husband, a better father and a better friend. He taught me how to learn, how to teach and how to share. He gave me my passion, he gave me my skills and he gave me my humility.
This teacher also gave me my life – this teacher is my father. He has shaped me more than I may even understand. The lessons that he taught are innumerable and the gifts that he gave are immeasurable. Being with him during his last days and holding his hand I could not help but think of the times when the roles were reversed and he had held mine. Guiding me and teaching me from then until now.
The best teachers are not always who we think they are and the best lessens are sometimes the hardest to learn. I know that even in his passing he has taught me things that I may not yet understand and I am certain that those lessons will continue to be realized as I go on without him. I can only hope that I can pass on those lessons as well as he has done with with me.
I’ll miss you Dad.
My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.