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You Must Believe in What You Do: The Long and Winding Road to the Deepest Success

Updated on October 6, 2012

My Dad

James R. Griffin
James R. Griffin
Self Portrait by James R. Griffin
Self Portrait by James R. Griffin

A Legacy of Love

I was just looking at the "cheap" little alarm clock that was one of the very few, yet highly treasured little mementos from my dad's things. It was something my mom obviously considered trivial enough to give, and because it belonged to my father, it's very precious to me. It is actually something she gave to my son, who loved his Grandpa Griffin very much. She said that it was for my son to "Remember the time that he'd spent with his Grandpa Griffin."

That time was cut short by those without eyes to see or hearts to feel what their actions would manifest. I forgive them. There's nothing else to do. Yet I miss my dad's physical presence, his laughter, and his sweetness that shone like a beacon to me, under all the things some saw as his mental challenges.

Mental challenges. Diagnosed or not, we all have them. I have to wonder if those trying to control my dad's life in his final weeks, didn't have a lot more mental issues than he ever did. But that is their destiny to deal with. My dad's spirit is free from any control they sought to wield. And my spirit is free too, through forgiveness and a profound connection with my dad's spirit.

My dad died under very strange circumstances. It's not necessary to take you through the drama and pain of that. I relive it in my heart daily.

What IS important is what I have learned and continue learning from his life, his love, and his spirit that seems to have a lot yet to teach me.

We Are Forever

Loving Tribute to my dad - with his own design concept of Griffin/Paintbrush from the days he was a sign-painter
Loving Tribute to my dad - with his own design concept of Griffin/Paintbrush from the days he was a sign-painter

No One Can Steal Your Talent

I wrote another article recently, and I still stand by it, as a tongue-in-cheek way to laugh at the bumpy road to success. That article utilizes the word "Failure" in its title. I was feeling at the time, that in order to break through my fears about putting things out there and having them ignored or unfairly (or fairly) criticized, I had to embrace "failure" as part of my journey on "the long and winding road to success."

A huge influence in how I see my own accomplishments is how I see my dad's life's accomplishments.

Is a life still worthy of celebration when you die alone after the ones you have trusted most have tricked you out of your life's work? What if you didn't make a good living with your life's work? What if you died with your work being stolen from you? Is it still worth it to have done what you most deeply believed in?

My dad's portrait of another life cut short...

The Crow: By James R. Griffin
The Crow: By James R. Griffin

Dad's tribute to those who had things stolen from them...

Where the Eagle Soars: James R. Griffin
Where the Eagle Soars: James R. Griffin

A "very successful" life that was cut short...

"Glamorous"  by James R. Griffin
"Glamorous" by James R. Griffin

The song and story Dad inspired in me...

An Evolutionary Journey...Stop and Smell the Little Successes Along the Way!

This stuff we call life is just a school book, if you will. And yet I adore books, as many do, holding them dear. My dad could tell stories with his art. Isn't this lifetime of yours mostly about telling your story?

How do you tell your story? What is your favorite, most satisfying way to share your heart? What is your most fulfilling passion? Therein lies your deepest success. I'm just learning this myself. Oh I've heard it all before. So have you. But each one of us has to hear it with our own heart, maybe a movie you see, maybe a song you hear, maybe a poem you read sets your heart soaring.

The other night I was helping my 14-year-old son with homework. You know him from the beginning of this story, as he is the proud owner of that precious clock. I heard his laughter, and had to laugh myself. That is a rare thing during homework. You know what he said to me? I think for the first time ever, "Mom, this doesn't seem like homework!"

SUCCESS beamed from each ventricle of my heart!

He was having FUN doing homework. I was never more joyful in my life! My son was making flashcards and a funny story out of his vocabulary word assignment for English class. An otherwise dull task was turned into a hysterical night of parent-child bonding, because I was thinking about my dad's love for cartooning, and how my son had inherited that love, and this combination brought out the humor in both my son and I. And Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo! The magic happened.

Love cannot be stolen from you...

"Faith in You" by  James R. Griffin
"Faith in You" by James R. Griffin
Chapin Christian Church
Chapin Christian Church | Source
Dad and I: Dinner at Grandma's house
Dad and I: Dinner at Grandma's house | Source
I Remember the Time: Dad and I
I Remember the Time: Dad and I | Source
Wedding Hug, Dad and I
Wedding Hug, Dad and I | Source

I get it, Dad...

8:29 am. That's very fitting Dad. The message hit home for me as I was looking at the red digital numbers on your priceless cheap clock that silently glowed "8:29." August 29, 2011 we had a special Memorial Service for you in your hometown, inside your childhood church. Your dearest boyhood friends came to pay their respects, Dad. Their love for you was evident in their misted eyes as I spoke of my love for you.

That very morning, I had awoken to realize that we couldn't use the music CD I had made for your service, but maybe I could use my iPod! I searched my iPod and found the playlist with the Elvis songs.You guided me through a panic of trying to figure out the church's sound system in the last minutes before your service was to begin.

I couldn't send you off without your favorite Elvis Gospel music, Dad. I silently asked you for help, and you helped me. You were always such an expert with audio equipment. Your collection of records and top-notch stereo systems could attest to that. I knew I was in good hands, but it was still a scary ride for me, Dad, wondering if there would be any music for your service!

Was it an accident that within the church sound room, cramped and crowded with boxes of silk flowers to be used for other events, there was, leaning against the wall, a tall aluminum foil covered magic wand with a big plastic star on top?

We got your Elvis music going through the little church's archaic sound system. My iPod playlist entitled "23 songs" had the needed Elvis songs and my song "Standing By Your Side" within it. "Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo, Dad!"

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo.

"I'll get by as long as I have you."

And no one can take what you gave to me. You told me in one of your most precious letters, that you would will me your love. That's everything, Dad. That is all that truly matters.

Look how I got copies of your art from the website Mom set up? I can still share them, even if I am never able to see many of your originals again. And you did give your portrait to me of "Faith in You," the one you did of my album cover. Thank you, Dad. I can still share your work with people here, Dad. It isn't wasted. It isn't stolen. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo, Dad. The magic wand of love can overcome ALL obstacles.

Your work, like my work, like anyone who deeply believes in their work, will live on forever - will bring our children joy, will impact someone in ways that we will never even know. You're a SUCCESS, Dad. And I am not about to let anyone forget that.

You did what you most deeply believed in. That can't be wrong. And I learn from your example every day. I will teach it to my children, and anyone else who will listen.

Photo used by Dad to do a portrait of my daughter Jasmine and I.
Photo used by Dad to do a portrait of my daughter Jasmine and I. | Source
Jasmine & Grandpa
Jasmine & Grandpa | Source
Dad playing with Robbie the Robot with his grandson, Chandler - Aunt Mary's visit
Dad playing with Robbie the Robot with his grandson, Chandler - Aunt Mary's visit | Source

My favorite work of heart...

Dad, you win. Your spirit never dies. It lives in me. You are victorious. Your love and laughter lives in your grandchildren. Your love for cartooning and bringing laughter from people's hearts lives in your grandson. Your love of music lives in your granddaughter. Your love of art lives in several of your grandchildren and your children.

Your success continues to go on. You are successful because love is unending. You've planted a seed that just keeps growing and multiplying. In that way, you have changed the world. You've changed my world - for the better.

And you want to know the best thing about it, Dad? You teach others to do this.

Be true to yourself, my dear friends. Be true to your inner-most joy.

Whatever it may be - growing a vegetable or flower garden - painting your passion, by throwing colors at the wall - baking the best cake in the world, teaching your grandchildren how to start a coin collection, or just the beautiful masterpiece that is your smile, share it with someone.

I know this to be true, even though I am just falling down and getting up over and over on this long and winding road with you. It may not be made of yellow bricks for all of us. You decide what your road is to be paved with. You decide when you need to turn a different corner in order to stay true to yourself. If you're not laughing much, that's a good sign that you need to change direction.

Just remember to follow your art...and success will be your legacy. Your children and grandchildren will thank you.


"When You Wish Upon a Star" MJ version followed by Heaven Leigh

I will always be Loving You, Dad

"Lonesome Cowboy" by James R. Griffin
"Lonesome Cowboy" by James R. Griffin

A beautiful rendition of "Loving You."


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    • heavenleigh707 profile imageAUTHOR

      Heaven L Burkes 

      5 years ago from The Invincible Heart of Neverland

      Dear Chris, Thank you so much for commenting. That means so much to me. Such a young age to lose your Dad.

      I think it's wonderful that you love and respect your Dad so much, and recognize that he knew what was truly important in life. :) Sometimes I would just like to move to "Mayberry." ;) Blessings to you as well!

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Hartford, CT

      Heavenleigh, So much of this was so familiar to me. My father was a great man who never owned much, never made a lot of money, but who poured himself into the work he did and into the lives of those around him. I lost my Dad twenty-five years ago, when he was only fifty-nine years old. You had a great Dad too, I can sense the love in your writing.

      Bless you Heavenleigh.

    • heavenleigh707 profile imageAUTHOR

      Heaven L Burkes 

      6 years ago from The Invincible Heart of Neverland

      Thank you so much, kind hearted Epigramman. :) I'm so pleased that you had such a wonderful relationship with your parents. It truly is an irreplaceable blessing.

      I am always happy when people read my stuff - and get to see his work! So thank you doubly!

      I think I told you before that when leaving messages for me, my dad would always remember to give me the time that he'd called. ;) Love that little reminder of him in your time stamps! Love and Light!

    • epigramman profile image


      6 years ago

      This is quite a story my friend and very inspiring to someone who also had two best friends in his life - my mum and dad - and it's better to have had love than no love at all and in many ways they made me the man I am today - creative in many ways and sensitive in other ways too.

      No doubt you have written this most amazing and moving tribute with pride in every word and so much love and devotion in your noble and pure heart. A true labor of love.

      sending you warm wishes and good energy from lake erie time ontario canada 1:20pm

    • heavenleigh707 profile imageAUTHOR

      Heaven L Burkes 

      6 years ago from The Invincible Heart of Neverland

      Me too, Me too! :) xo

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      Heaven, belly laughs are right up there with 'my cheeks hurt!' laughs. I'll take laugh lines over botox any day!

    • heavenleigh707 profile imageAUTHOR

      Heaven L Burkes 

      6 years ago from The Invincible Heart of Neverland

      Thank you, dear Bravewarrior! Yes! We are all blazing our trails...for ourselves and future generations. I will continue to give my dad's art at each opportunity.

      Next up is a short story fantasy book - and I will use one of his portraits in there. I promised him once that I would do a CD of Marilyn's songs and put his drawing of her on the cover. Still holding that intention. ;)

      Interesting, the way you said my mom is keeping his art alive. I hope so! I guess King Solomon would understand. ;)

      Love, hugs, much success and big belly laughs to you! :) Don't you love those? When someone catches you off guard and you just laugh like crazy.

      I love you more! :)

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      Heaven, this is absolutely beautiful. I know how much your dad means to you and how present he still is in your life. I'm pleased you are sharing your conversation with him with us. Does that make sense?

      Your words 'be true to yourself' hit home with me. That is my mantra. It's how I stay in touch with myself and redirect if need be. But, as my sweet friend, you know that.

      I've told you before, your dad was an amazing artist! It's sad to know his talent has not been brought to the public. He saw the soul of all he drew, including himself. At least you have what your mom was able to keep alive.

      I love the video you produced. You showed us a side of MJ not many know. Your voice in the background brought it to life.

      I hope you're finding peace, my friend. This is a good start. You know I love you, Heaven!

    • heavenleigh707 profile imageAUTHOR

      Heaven L Burkes 

      6 years ago from The Invincible Heart of Neverland

      Thank you so much, Mike. I truly love my dad's spirit - and just hope to learn whatever it is I came here to learn. :)

    • mckbirdbks profile image


      6 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Your Dad was a true artist his talent is exceptional. You carry his soul, you can hear it in your words.

    • heavenleigh707 profile imageAUTHOR

      Heaven L Burkes 

      6 years ago from The Invincible Heart of Neverland

      Thank you so very much, Huckelbury. That means a lot to me. Blessings and much success to you - the deepest and the lasting kind!

      I've always thought that when lots of money is in the hands of loving people - the world can indeed be changed! And money won't be seen as a "bad" thing when it is used for GOOD. :) That's my goal.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I'm breathless after reading this beautiful tribute to your father and his bequests of artistic creativity and strength to you, and through you to his grandchildren. It doesn't matter under what circumstances you lost him or who was responsible, he lives on in the talent you express in your visual, musical, and written works. He would be proud and happy and would agree with the necessity of making one's way along that long and winding road. A lovely piece, this. Thank you.

    • heavenleigh707 profile imageAUTHOR

      Heaven L Burkes 

      6 years ago from The Invincible Heart of Neverland

      ShiningIrishEyes, you've got me crying too. Thank you for your very sweet words. You do understand so well. Your guardian angels are so close to you too - and it is wonderful that you feel this.

      Thank you so much for stopping by. Much love and the deepest and most fulfilling kind of Success to you always! :)

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      6 years ago from Upstate, New York

      In loving remembrance of a kind soul who exists within a mere reach of the hand: James Robert Griffin.

      I thank you for sharing this touching love story between a daughter and her dear Dad. There are tears in my eyes, but they are happy ones. I am comforted for you having read your loving and close relationship still endures. After all, he is only a breaths distance from where you are.

      You are such a courageous woman with a soul full of light. Isn't it wonderful knowing your Dad's light is a part of that as well.

      Sending blessings to you and yours my dear.

    • heavenleigh707 profile imageAUTHOR

      Heaven L Burkes 

      6 years ago from The Invincible Heart of Neverland

      Dear BillyBuc, you are surely a fantastic tribute to your dad. From you, I can see that he must have been a wonderful friend, father and mentor to you. Thank you for carrying on his legacy of love.

      So many appreciate your words, wisdom and loving energy, sent to make the world a better place for sure.

      I was crying much of the time I was writing it, but so happy to start internalizing my dad's messages to me. I figured I oughta share 'em.

      Thanks so much for your comments and inspirational writing here on HubPages. More and more success to you, my friend and mentor.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Wow! I had tears in my eyes reading this. You and I had similar fathers... I lost mine forty years ago and his words are still with me today....and his legacy of love. Wonderful hub my friend; thank you for sharing some great lessons and words of wisdom.


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