I had two moms growing up. One before she got sick, and then one after. The years of strokes and mini-strokes, aneurysms, brain surgeries and seizure medication took a toll.
I loved them both but wish I had more time with the first. Three years ago this week, my mother died. Her cancer had a quickness and ferocity that left me wondering if it was an act of vengeance or mercy.
In her last days and hours, all six of her kids stayed at the nursing home, and one of us was by her side nearly continuously. I went in to visit with her many times, holding her hand, praying for a pain-free and peaceful transition from this life to the next and talking to her about random stuff as she quietly rested.
The morning of her passing, I woke up and offered to go pick up breakfast for the family. After taking all the orders, I got in the car and as I pulled out of the nursing home parking lot, my phone rang. My oldest sister said, “She’s gone, Bubba.”
Mom finally let go at a rare moment when none of her kids were in the room.
I thought this fitting, as she had devoted her life to her kids.
It was a relief, really. I had seen my mom’s struggle, sicknesses and sadness.
In the introduction of this post, I shared a small glimpse into her sicknesses, but her sadness and our struggle started before I was born.
When my mother was fresh out of high school, she married a man I never met, but who nonetheless had a tremendous impact on my life. In her 20s she was widowed with three kids and one on the way after her first husband was killed in a tragic coal-mining accident. His sudden departure sent
ripples tsunamis through my family for years to come.
Within a short time after his death my mother married that man’s best friend, and they had a girl together. That marriage fell apart, and within a few more years she married my dad and they had me.
To sum it up, I have three older brothers and two sisters on what I call, “Mom’s side of the family.” On “Dad’s side of the family,” add two more older brothers, a younger sister and two step-siblings, rounding out just my immediate family at six brothers and four sisters from four different dads. (Confused yet?)
I believe my mother knew the importance of us having a father figure; for most of her life it seemed she tried to find us a replacement dad. Even though uncles, father-in-laws, coaches, pastors and older brothers tried filling the void, every one of my siblings has had to or is still trying to overcome the “dad deficit.”
Growing up I didn’t realize the leadership vacuum in our home. I didn’t really know any different. When I looked around at other families in our small community I saw fatherless homes. This leaves me thinking about what choices, what mistakes, what memories did we make or miss?
For at least one of my siblings there are no memories of his dad. A few have some memories. Many have few positive memories. For one, there is just a little time left for restoration.
I am thankful for my older brother who taught me how to catch baseballs and fish, who showed me how to ride a bike and find a good wife. Other brothers taught me about music, cars and girls.
It was only after I gave my life to Jesus and started faithfully attending church did I begin to see solid examples of fatherhood. One of my best friends, Richie, is blessed with a godly, funny, wise and loving father. I am thankful for their example and Rick’s intentional prayers and discipleship. Others, like Scott Wagner, Jimmy Lewis and Ted, Gary and Bill retaught me about real earthly fatherhood.
While this week reminds me of Mom’s passing, it’s difficult to not reflect on the dad deficit as well. I ask for your prayers for my family, especially for my sisters. But most of all, if you are a parent I ask that you take a serious look at the legacy you are leaving to your children.
Dads, you have incredible power over the self-esteem of your daughters and egos of your sons. You can break them for life if you mishandle the most precious gift you’ve been given.
Let’s be authentic men who are authentic dads.
For helpful articles from experts, be sure to read the links on my Beta posts.