Grieving is a process that is as individual as the people it affects. There are predictable stages, of course — but the experience of losing someone dear to you is truly a personal journey.

Recently I've said goodbye to my dear dad. It’s hard to believe it was only a couple of months ago: I’ve processed a lot since his death. I’ve felt so many different emotions. I see more clearly that the passing of years and the living of life come as a gift to us all. The important thing is not so much that we begin well, or even how well we navigate the twists and turns of life. The important thing is that we end well — that those who come behind us find some light on their path because we have lived. We bring nothing into this world and we take nothing with us when we go. But we each leave something behind in a legacy to follow.

Uncovering my Dad’s legacy

I intentionally set out to uncover the treasures that have been deposited into my life through my Dad. I wanted to discover just what Dad left me, as I walk on now without him. I’ve mined four nuggets of wisdom from the legacy my Dad left. I want to make these treasures part of my daily life.

1. HUMOR

Dad loved a good joke, and it was often a corny one! He was quick-witted and could make anyone laugh, immediately putting people at ease. Humor was important to Dad, and many moments were lightened by his sense of humor. Even the home care workers would remark how his sense of humor was intact even though he was paralyzed from the waist down for months.

I remember one worker coming in and asking, “So what do you know tonight, Sir?” Dad quickly replied, “Well, I know more and more about less and less and pretty soon I’ll know everything about nothing.”

As I walk on, I take with me the wisdom of looking on the lighter side of life. I see the beauty in seeking to bring a smile to the face of another and the importance of laughing more often, even when life is hard.

2. COURAGE

Dad always took his illnesses in stride; he rarely talked about his health, never complained about it, and he just did what he had to do and carried on. His courage as he faced his treatments amazed our family over and over. I hope to take that same courage into the challenges of my own life as I journey on. Courage includes finding joy in the simple things, even in the face of adversity.

3. FAMILY MAN

Dad worked hard. He provided well. They say the greatest thing a man can do for his children is to love their mother — and Dad modeled that well. He and Mom enjoyed 63 years of marriage. We are grateful to God for enabling Mom to keep Dad home until his last breath.

I grew up seeing Dad love and honor his wife. Even in those last weeks, when Mom would walk into his room, he’d say, “Isn’t she beautiful!” He truly treasured her. So I take with me that wisdom of treasuring those you love and letting them know it.

As children and grandchildren we are deeply grateful for the heritage of love that Mom and Dad have given us. We want to keep that long line of love growing even longer in a world that is quickly loosing sight of that kind of faithfulness.

4. FAITH

Dad leaves us a heritage of faith. Dad believed in God and accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior. He was never very verbal about his faith. He didn’t lead Bible studies or pray eloquent prayers, yet his faith was there and he showed it through his generous heart toward missionaries and his many willing acts of service to others. He quietly served for 50 years as the offering counter at church. He was always there to plaster a hole in the church wall or put on a fresh coat of paint.

Faith made a difference in our home as we were growing up, and it makes a difference in my life today because of Dad and Mom’s example. In the last few months before he died, we would often draw a Bible verse from their verse box at bedtime and read it together. Then we would say a night-time prayer. One night, Dad’s simple but profound prayer was this: “Lord, thank You for all the good things You allow in our lives.” His gratitude to God, even as he lay there motionless in his bed, spoke volumes to us.

Keeping these treasures from Dad close at heart will help me as I journey on.
I’ve learned to:

Always remember to keep my sense of humor. Live courageously, even in the face of challenge. Treasure those I love and let them know it. Have faith in God.

If you have lost someone you love, take the time to mine out a nugget or two of wisdom your loved one has left for you. Carry these truths close to your heart, along with the memories. I have found it a helpful way to face the loss, find the treasure, and find healing. I pray it may help you too as you face your loss. God bless you in this time of grief.


Photo Credit: Chad Madden