Lifetime Gifts Some Absent Fathers Leave Behind
There are no photographs of my father, but in my mind he stands tall, light brown and handsome. He is an image of love and authority. He died when I was still too young to remember him, but thanks to my family members, they made me aware of the lifetime gifts he left me.
Father's Image Is a Gift to the Child
We all know families in which the father’s presence hardly makes a difference. He is absent often or always; and if he ever comes, he does not connect emotionally. Eventually, it’s what the children think about him (based on what they hear family members say about him) that makes them decide whether or not they can be proud to call him father.
Every child deserves to hear something positive about the father, even if he is serving a life sentence in prison. If the children were taught to forgive their fathers and to love and respect them for whatever measure of good there was in them, they would be free to accept that, in some way, he contributed to their lives.
Life, pride, family support, character qualities and faith are some of the lifetime gifts which many fathers leave for the children.
The gift of life is the prerequisite for receiving all other gifts and it cannot happen without a father. After thanks to God, it is thanks to the mother and father whether or not they are responsible parents. The gift of life should inspire gratitude for as long as it lasts.
My father died in a motor vehicle accident in his early twenties. As an adult, I was privileged to meet the pastor who presided at my father’s funeral. The pastor seemed happy to meet his friend’s baby all grown up, and at first, he told me only positive things about the deceased.
Later on, the pastor shared something negative, but by that time, my family members had already influenced my pride in having him for a father. My compassion and forgiveness overpowered any negative feeling which might have surfaced had they not already taught me to love and respect him.
It is important for the children to learn some positives about their father, regardless of the reason for his absence. Making them proud of their father enhances their own self-worth. Knowledge of their father's imperfection can simply be evidence of his humanity, not a reason to erase their pride in having him as a father. That pride can produce lifetime benefits.
(3) Family Support
My father's siblings supplemented my mother’s efforts to meet my needs. I looked forward to spending time with them. My cousins satisfied my need for siblings. When my aunts migrated to foreign countries, I received countless packages. They sent me foreign currency all through my high school years.
On her eightieth birthday, his only remaining sister invited me to cruise the Caribbean with her, her children and grandchildren. Talk about a sense of family, of love, of belonging! I always had that.
Even after the father leaves, the children can enjoy a sense of family, especially if his relatives view their support as an inherited gift for the children.
(4) Character Qualities
“Let me see if you’re as smart as your father,” the village postman used to tell me, and I’d have to come up with a joke. I think he laughed not because I was funny, but because he was thinking of my father.
My father left a reputation of being funny. He eluded his mother's spanking (back in the day when it was an acceptable form of discipline) by making her laugh. Still, on many occasions family members would respond to my humorous dry wit with, "Just like your father." The thought of my father being a comic, makes me think that I have the gift to be one too, when I choose.
Other fathers may leave a legacy of other positive qualities: always cheerful, always always singing, the leader, always generous or sympathetic. There must be at least one good quality that someone remembers about him. If the child shows any tendency of imitating his father, he will appreciate the gift from his character source whenever someone says, "You remind me of your father." Even if the child does not seem to imitate that quality, tell the story and let the child know it's in his DNA.
(5) Legacy of Faith
My father’s loyalty to his religious conviction is mentioned in the book written to commemorate his church’s fiftieth anniversary. He refused to work on the Bible Sabbath after he learned that God expected him to spend the day in worship. My father had made an impact on his peers and fellow workers when his faith was tested in his youth.
His loyalty to the faith he embraced is his legacy to me. He left me some direction for my spirituality. So on Father’s Day when the congregation sings:“Faith of Our Fathers living still,” I sing with pride about the faith of my father, and thank him for passing this gift to me.
If a father leaves a legacy of faith, even if it is not the faith the storyteller prefers, still let the child know that the father subscribed to a supernatural power which was important to him. If the father embraced faith, the child can be more easily encouraged to follow in his steps.
(If the father did not leave a legacy of faith, teach stories of divine protection, provision and deliverance which is available even in the father's absence.)
Family members can effectively influence the children’s attitude by telling positive stories about the father. To tear him down is to feed them hostility and tear down their self-worth. To teach love and respect for him is to teach love and respect for themselves - and for the life he helped to give them.
© 2011 Dora Weithers