This past Saturday, 1/19/13, we celebrated the life of my dad.
It was truly an amazing service. There were a thousand faces that came to say goodbye to him at his wake, and then a packed church on Saturday. What an incredible guy! I had said Dad always knew someone everywhere he went, but I was wrong. Dad had a FRIEND everywhere he went.
I know there will be a lot of moments that will arise this month, year and throughout my life that will allow me to reflect on my dad. On how much I miss him, or how wise and loyal he was, or on how much he loved his family, my kids, my brother, my husband and me, and especially my mom.
But at this moment, I am struck with such awe and admiration for the type of friend my dad was to so many.
I’ll never forget that night in the hospital where we had learned the earthly fight for my dad was over and it was time to let him go. One by one, people who had come to the hospital like they’d done since his accident, were rocked to learn the news. When Mike, one of dad’s dear friends saw me and hugged me, he grabbed my shoulders, looked me in the eyes and said, “Your dad was an incredible friend!”
Whether as dad or coach, I thought I knew all there was to know about my dad. I got to witness and feel his dedication and pride in his family on a daily basis. I even got to be with him for 5 years on the track team, seeing him in his profession in the midst of his passion for teaching and coaching. But through it all, that was still just a piece of him- a large piece, but still just a piece.
Dad loved to golf. He even recently bragged that he’d golfed for 22 straight months (in Iowa!). Dad was always on the golf course. It was just the way it was growing up. If my brother and I couldn’t find him when we awoke, we knew exactly where he was. I can honestly say, I never understood it. Golf bores me, I don’t get it, and I surely don’t have the patience to learn how to do it for myself. But I really don’t think it was so much the game of golf that brought my dad to the course day after day, year after year. Rather, it was the people my dad got to play the game with!
Even more, dad’s athletes were his friends. He’d call, visit, golf, tailgate, and even work with them, years sometimes decades after they wore the Cardinal and Gold for him on the track. I know he cherished their friendship, more than their accolades!
Perhaps his best friends were his brother, my Uncle Tom, and Scotty, my brother. He always said the two of them were so much alike. Creative and imaginative, always coming up with new and inventive ideas. Dad was so proud of them, he even had special ringtones just for them. Not just his brother, or his son, but they were Dad’s FRIENDS.
One of the most powerful moments for me, was to see dad escorted out of the church and lifted by all his friends- friends from so many parts of his life. My whole life, dad was the one who lifted me and carried me. He was my dad and that was his job. But these were his friends. Grown men who loved my dad. I realized at that moment, that dad really was an incredible Man of God; a brother. A friend.
I will never again underestimate that word, Friend, as Dad has completely redefined it for me.
A friend makes an effort without making it obvious. A friend will hold you accountable. A friend will acknowledge your accomplishments before his own. A friend will never try to be someone he is not, or make you into someone you are not. A friend is selfless, reliable, and loyal. A friend will be there for you no matter the circumstance, the hour, or the sacrifice. That is who my dad was, an Unbelievable Friend.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. I Corinthians 13: 1-7
No wonder there were thousands who came to celebrate Dad, because Dad truly LOVED so many. I am so proud of him, and will forever miss my Friend!