This Father’s Day, I am visiting my 97-year-old dad. He is hard of hearing, in a wheelchair, and still clear in his mind. Despite the setbacks of aging, his mood is remarkably upbeat. He rarely complains and knows that when he dies he will be with the Lord and joining all those who have gone before him.
Knowing my father is closer to Heaven than Earth seems harder on me than on him. The thought of losing him brings tears. Even with the hope of seeing him again, physical loss of parents is palpable.
Every year, I think, “Could this be my last Father’s Day with my dad? My mom has already left us and he is next.” When moments of that reality hit, sadness wells inside of me. I know he has lived a long life and that I am fortunate to still have him around, but parent loss is still loss. The sound of a parent’s voice is no more when they leave us.
This year, like every year, appreciate your dad. Don’t get caught up in what he did or did not do for you. Rather find a way to honor him. This is our biblical mandate. One of the best ways to do this is simply to listen to his life story. What made him the man he is today? What life lessons can you learn from him? Knowing your dad’s story brings empathy and understanding.
Acknowledge your dad in your own achievements. How did he contribute? In my case, college was not optional. He didn’t have the chance to go to college and truly believed his children all needed to go. We all did and are grateful for his push to education.
Your dad may not have done everything right. Some of you may even feel failed by your dad. But this one day a year, be merciful and full of grace. Give him honor and model this for your children. Find a positive memory and focus on it. Choose the path of grace.
And perhaps the biggest gift some of you can give is the gift of forgiveness. Don’t wait for him to acknowledge his wrongdoing, choose to forgive. It will give you freedom. Then, engage him in something pleasant or fun in order to create a good memory. Get him to laugh, relax, or enjoy his grandkids. I’ve never had a patient tell me that they were sorry they dropped the rope of tension and forgave their dad. On the contrary, they report a lifting of a weight. Forgiveness is powerful.
Maybe your dad is elderly like mine and can’t give back much at this stage in his life. This means we step up and give back to them. Love on him, tell him you appreciate him, pray for him, forgive and extend grace. The promise is that as we honor our father and mother as God commands us to do, it will go well with us.
This Father’s Day, be a model of grace. Live in the blessing of honoring your dad.
Dr. Linda Mintle is a licensed marriage and family therapist, a licensed clinical social worker and national expert on relationships and the psychology of food, weight and body image. With 30 years of clinical experience working with couples, families and individuals, she brings her common sense approach to people who want to live in positive mental health.