My father passed away eight years ago at age ninety, after having earned the sacred title of father, as outlined in The Family: A Proclamation to the World. The Proclamation states that father is to faithfully discharge his obligation to his wife and children by presiding in his home, by providing his family with the necessities of life, and by protecting them-all in love and righteousness.
As lofty as that sounds, no earthly father is perfect and being a father isn’t easy. Ungratefully, there are some children who are more than willing to point out deficiencies in their fathers’ fathering, when the truth is, if you have a father, one who deserves that title, you are one of the privileged.
We have in recorded history how Jesus Christ referred to His Father. Perhaps the sweetest is when Jesus was in the bitter process of Atonement: “And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and… said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me” (Mark 14:35-36).
I thought “Abba, Father” meant something like “Please, Father” or perhaps “Dear Father,” but then I read: “To miss the significance of the word Abba at this point in the story of Gethsemane is to miss the true relationship that existed between Jesus and his Father. The word Abba is an Aramaic word meaning “Papa” or “Daddy.” It is a form of address signifying the close, intimate, loving, and special bond that develops between some fathers and their children” (Andrew C. Skinner, Gethsemane, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2002, 60).
If you are planning a present for your father this Father’s Day, perhaps the best gift is to write a letter of gratitude, thanking him for being a father and/or daddy, as your situation merits. The following is an example of such a letter. I drew on my experiences with my father, from experiences with the father of my children, and from other fathers I admire. I begin with the intimate and loving phrase-
I haven’t called you Daddy for many years, but as it is Father’s Day this month, it seems fitting because of the feelings I have for you, tender feelings I could not have articulated in my younger years. Now as a wife and mother, I see how your example helped prepare me for my future.
I know marriage takes work and can be very hard. I am grateful you allowed us children to see that you and mom didn’t always agree. I remember times you went for long walks or talked well into the night behind closed doors, hashing out your feelings and concerns. I saw both of you frustrated, and sometimes even angry, but I also saw you work through problems until you came to a sustainable approach.
I watch divorced families and the consequences of mothers rearing children by themselves. I’ve seen the negative effect on children who feel, underneath it all, they somehow caused the separation. I’ve watched them do the divorce dance-mom during the week and dad every other weekend. One day when I was ten, a friend asked me, “How do I choose whether to live with my dad or my mom when I love them both so much?” Thank you for making your marriage work, so I never had to make that decision.
I am grateful you treated mom with kindness and insisted we show respect to her and for her. I’m grateful for the security I felt because of the love I saw in your eyes when you spoke of her.
As church leaders talk about the evils of lust, pornography, and other addictive behaviors, I am sure there were times you were tempted. In your work at the office, no doubt, there were women, perhaps even men, who made inappropriate advances towards you. I can only assume you have been confronted by sites on the Internet that are meant to entrap. Thank you for staying true to the values you were teaching us.
I am sure I never thanked you for going to work day after day, year after year. I just took for granted the fact of food in the refrigerator, clothes in the closet, shelter overhead, lessons to take, birthday parties, presents under the tree, and outings and vacations. I don’t think I ever acknowledged your sacrifice and hard work. I remember times I acted selfishly and begged for things we couldn’t afford. Now I realize the budget was tight and my pleadings and expectations added stress to your stresses. Thank you for providing for me.
I don’t know how you did this, but somehow I felt I could approach you with problems. I remember trying out for something in high school two years in a row and not making it. I remember you said how sorry you were and that you felt my disappointment. You let me talk and cry. Soon after you introduced me to a lifetime hobby that I now realize you put in my life as a substitute, giving me an activity in which I could be successful. I also remember telling you about my first broken heart after breaking up with my “true love.” In all of these teenage traumas, thank you for giving me a soft place to land.
I remember times you were involved in my education, like the science-fair project that required more from you than from me. I knew you expected me to do my best in my studies. I knew there was never a good enough excuse to miss school unless I was minutes away from dying. By the fact that you always had a book you were reading on your nightstand, I now like to read. I saw what you did when I asked a question to which you didn’t know the answer. I learned I could find the answer to everything in the encyclopedia, and when it was invented, on the computer.
I remember the times I asked your permission to go somewhere and you said “No.” I remember feeling you were so unreasonable, so old-fashioned, so stubborn. A couple of times in these circumstances I recall going to Mom and asking her if I could go. I remember her saying: “Have you asked your father?” When I confessed I had, she gave me a look that said, “Dad and I are in this together. A no’ from him is an automatic no’ from me. Don’t try this trick again.” I remember you stayed firm no matter how long or how loudly I protested. Thank you for protecting me.
Thanks for teaching me about God that He is my Father in Heaven, that I can receive His help through prayer, that prayer is a conversation. Thanks for the many prayers you said for me, and I appreciate that you not only found answers in the encyclopedia but also in the scriptures. Thanks for being willing to help our family, friends, and neighbors, from which I learned one of the best ways to serve God is by loving and serving my fellow beings.
Thanks for teaching me correct principles. Thanks for allowing me to suffer the consequences of immature and poor choices. Thanks for exemplifying resilience, that courage is what you do on the third and fourth tries.
Thanks for being patient and sometimes even impatient when my behavior was inappropriate. And when it came time, thanks for releasing me from the nest, having given me wings to fly.
Thank you for your continued sustaining influence, for not resigning from being my daddy because I am married and out of the house. Thanks for loving each member of my family as you love me. Your example is a rich inheritance.
I love you. Happy Father’s Day.