Small boys become big men through the influence of big men who care about small boys.” ~ Author Unknown

When Michael died, we had a small, private service for him because he was an intensely private man who had love for a small, select group. At first the kids and I just wanted it to be for only us but a few people came to support us. I spoke at the service as did the kids. We did not want clergy or others to speak about someone they did not know. It was important that we all said our piece. They were heartfelt and heart wrenching memorials to a man who loved us and never hurt us or abandoned us. I was married to the man for 13 years and he never once made me cry. He stood up and became a father to my boys. He taught them what it was like to be a man. He loved his daughters. He loved his grandchildren.

When we stood up and said this was a great man, a family man, a man we adored, who adored us. Who did the right thing and provided for those he loved. He was unconditionally there for all of us, no matter what. We didn’t have to even ask most of the time and when one of us asked something that might seem a bit outrageous, if it was a “dad” thing, he did it. (This usually involved picking someone up somewhere and he drove hours many times for one of the kids so they wouldn’t have to take a long bus ride or something else. He drove kids to camps and events and many times did a round trip which took a day or so.)

I was talking to my best friend last night. When we talked about him, there was nothing we were leaving out. We weren’t glossing over anything. We weren’t hiding his “sins” or mistakes because there weren’t any. He did the very best he could do for those he loved. Every day. Without exception.

He was not codependently selfless. Michael knew who he was and if there was fishing time or NASCAR time, he let us know. “My race is on…” “I was going fishing…” or when we were riding he would say, “We were going out on the motorcycles…” and we all considered it. But he never failed to tape the race or postpone the fishing until the next day if someone really needed him to do something. We all tried to consider the things he asked for (a few nights out a month to eat, his fishing, his “races.”). We rarely tried to interfere with those things because it was what he cared about. Michael did have very exact needs and wants and we all knew what they were. Fishing, NASCAR, eating, Harley Davidson.

Period.

He rarely raised his voice to the kids (Michael my son, as a teenager, was pretty much the sole recipient because they were two peas in a pod and Michael tried to keep him on the straight and narrow). He maybe raised his voice 5 times in 13 years to me. He never called any of us a name. He always treated us with love and respect.

Most of all, he was there for us. He lived his life believing that a man, a true man, a real man, is there for his family. Not “going to be there.” Not “someday” being there. Not “maybe I should have been there.” But there. Always.

When Michael got sick there was nothing for him to apologize for to anyone. No one to make amends to. And I’m sure that if there were, he would have. But there wasn’t. He lived his life with no regrets. And when you live your life honorably, loving the people you’re supposed to love, especially your children, you have no regrets.

We had a small, private service for him. He was fiercely and loyally attached to just a handful of people. And we honored him and his life that was lived so well and so honorably.

When he passed, we all spoke of him in almost lofty, out of this world, certainly out of the norm, terms. We didn’t wax eloquently because he had died. We waxed eloquently because of who he was and how he lived.

I am honored to have known and to have been married to such a man. I am honored that he graced my children’s lives and taught my boys what it is to be a man. To be a real man is to be there for your children, to teach them, by example, how a life of honor is lived.

He also taught them, with his fishing, NASCAR, Harley, pool playing etc. that it’s possible to love your family, be there for your family, and still be true to yourself. He taught them to carve time out for themselves, for each other, and for the family as a whole. His example shines in each of my boys.

When I spoke of Michael at his memorial, amidst a breaking heart and shaking hand, I spoke the truth about him. The complete truth. Not the memorial version of the truth. He was who I said he was, who we said he was.

He lives in my heart and in the kids heart as a loving, honorable, joyful soul who fulfilled his obligations and acted responsibly and enjoyed the hell out of the time he set aside for himself.

And there can be no better testimony to a life than that. And if your closest family, especially your children, can speak the truth about you, the complete truth, and it be all positive and loving, then you have lived a life well lived.

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