Proverbs 23:22: “Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.”
Proverbs 23:24: “The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.”
It’s been a battle to allow myself to feel this way. On Sunday morning, August 9, 2015, I received the dreaded call from my Aunt Jackie. “Lil Donald, your dad passed this morning.” It was a call I had been expecting for months. One I knew would come from Jackie. Five years ago, I received a call from Aunt Jackie, my dad’s baby sister, asking me if I was sitting down. I thought it was a call. It was a call to confirm that my father’s liver had been given out after decades of drinking. But this was a unique call.
Shockingly, she told me that my father had checked himself into rehab. Admittedly, my first thought was, why now? Why, after all these years, did he finally decide to stop? It was later that I realized one reason was because of his grandchildren. He wanted to be with them and around for them. The following five years gave him an extra lease on life. Five years that I did not expect. We talked on the phone often; he visited me in Charlotte; I went to see him in Los Angeles. He got to meet all of his grandchildren. His rehabilitation did not extend his life for the many years that we hoped, but it extended the opportunity for us to reconcile, connect, and say I love you. Mending relationships before his time was a blessing to all of us. It made me realize that life is too short.
Ever since that phone call, I could sense a change in my perspective on life. I have to do everything I can to love and protect my wife and kids. As a father of four, I realize I have a lot at stake. Every day, every decision I make, there are high stakes. I have to consider my health, financial freedom, faithfulness to my wife, and connectedness to friends. Everything.
I realize the stats are against me.
As I near the age of 40, the number 40 stands out strongly.
- I am at risk simply because I am married. My lovely wife and I are holding on strong, by grace alone, but it’s shocking to learn that 40% of first-time marriages in America end in divorce, according to the APA.
- We have been married for 11 years, and according to the CDC, 43% of first marriages in the U.S. end within the first 15 years. We must keep holding on.
- My parents divorced when I was young, and studies state that children of divorced parents are 40% more likely to get a divorce than those that were not.
The stats are against me, but I rely on a few things for success. First, I rely on my faith, extended family support, my friends, and my faith some more when the going gets rough. When my father held my hand and prayed with me, it reminded me I needed to do this more often with my family. Second, only Christ sustains me and my marriage.
How is the relationship between you and your father? Do you both need to reconcile?
When was the last time you spent time together really sharing life?
I challenge us all to invest time with our fathers, as we’d like our children to invest time with us.
While Holding My Father’s Hand
I traveled to California
To bury my father
With him rest the memories
Sights and sounds of smiles and laughter
The hope for more opportunities
Our last time together, he held my hand
Tighter than I thought he could
Tubing travels from pouch to vein
Heavily he breathed while he slept
Quietly, I stared and prayed
While gathering thoughts,
Breathing the heavy air,
He opened his eyes
He called me near
The same voice
Though shaky and weak,
Spoke to my name
I returned to the gaze
Then, for the second time that I ever recall,
I heard my dad pray
While holding my hand.