I Believe The Best Things in Life Can Come From Giving Up
(I wrote this in January 2012, remembering my Daddy. Today I share it with you in remembrance and celebration of a man who truly set a beautiful example of how to live. Happy Father’s Day, Daddy, thanks for everything)
My Daddy took his last breath eight weeks ago, just moments after Mama gave thanks for the gift of him in our lives and let him go. I was thinking about him and how he never gave up, no matter how hard it was, this fight against cancer, and I realized just how wrong I was. Daddy did give up.
Throughout this battle he gave up his quiet and his privacy, both things he treasured, so that Mama could have the help she needed in caring for him and for herself. When the cancer crossed up the wires between his competent brain and his body, my Daddy, who found great joy in working with his hands, gave up quietly and without complaint his creating and building and writing. He gave up pushing his grandchildren in the swings he made and kicking around a soccer ball and playing cars on the floor, and he adapted by letting his grandson drive the Matchbox cars around and around the bedrails on his hospital bed, again and again. He gave up planting and tending to his garden and graciously accepted and appreciated the gifts his sister and brother-in-law shared from theirs.
Looking back, Daddy made it a habit of “giving up.” He gave up the prejudices that his generation and culture were programmed to have, and he saw instead character and values and the heart of a person. He gave up the luxury of having time to himself and raised a family, giving love in the form of time and attention and discipline, to help us grow up right. He gave up the dream of a red ragtop Mustang and drove a station wagon instead. He gave up teaching school to move us back home, to a better place for us to grow up. Over the years Daddy gave up much of his hard-earned money to make a better life for those in need, quietly and faithfully, even when he didn’t have much himself. And when we needed him most, Daddy gave up his set schedule at work, rearranged, and picked up my oldest daughter from school every Tuesday afternoon. When his mother was so sick, he gave up his nights and stayed with her when she needed him to, so that she could stay in her home. When my great aunt’s memory started slipping, Daddy gave up free time, just to sit and listen to her stories, sometimes the same ones over and over.
And when his own diagnosis came through over two years ago, after many tests and many untreatable symptoms, Daddy gave up writing a script of where his life would go. He gave up and let it be. And he led us all through those hard days with laughter, by sharing stories, with dignity through tests and treatments and more tests and all that pain, and then finally with the quiet that came with his own heart remembering.
My Daddy led a full, rich life—simple by most standards, but rich with love and stories and grace and love. I hope that one day when I tell one of my children, the grandchildren he loved so much, to give up, that they will know that I know how hard that is to do, and that they will then do as their “Cap” did over and over, with grace and dignity and a humble heart.