An Ordinary Hero

Today would be my father’s 95th birthday. Instead it is the tenth anniversary of his death. A day of mixed emotions.

It somehow seemed fitting that he died on his birthday. It gave a feeling of completion to his life. Given that his father died at age 56, my dad had never expected to reach 65, let alone 85. Ten years has flown by, yet it seems like only yesterday I last saw him smile.

A few years ago I was talking with a friend about parenting. I don’t remember the entire discussion, or what prompted it, but I do remember his saying that for every child their father is their hero. I hadn’t thought of that before.

As a child I doubt I would have described my dad as my hero. As a pre-teen, heroes were sports figures. As a teen they were musicians. My dad was just an everyday guy with a job – and it seemed to me most other dads were cooler.

It was only as an adult I began to realize just how exceptional a man he was. Many of the things I have done as a father I learned from my own dad. He didn’t try to make me in his image, but did try and provide opportunity for me to discover just who I am. He wasn’t always perfect – but he tried his best.

My father taught me the concept of service. Not in words, but through his actions. He taught me to respect the elderly, to show hospitality to anyone who needed it and to volunteer for causes you believe in. Putting others first came naturally to him. His generosity knew no bounds. (Yes, I know that is a cliché, but it is nonetheless true.)

He also taught me about faith, about integrating Christian belief with real-world action – and the difficulties a Christian faces at times being in the world but not of it. Once again, it was not words but actions that were the example.

Both my parents were avid readers. If there is such a thing as a reading gene, they passed it on. I still have many of the books from his collection on my bookshelves. I keep promising myself that some day I will read them. I don’t know if I ever will, but at this point I am not ready to get rid of them and lose that connection to my father.

When you are young you think your parents will live forever. They’ve always been there, and you can’t imagine a world world without them.

As you get older you realize that we are all mortal, and that means parents too. For most of us the day comes when we are orphaned. We’re never ready for that. We want time to stand still.

The past ten years have been good ones, but I miss my dad. I miss his stories, his enjoyment of life. I would love to know what he thinks of Canada’s current Prime Minister (he was no fan of his father, who was also prime minister). So many things we can’t discuss because he is not here.

Looking back, I realize there were times when I didn’t spend as much time with my dad as I could have. Life gets busy. There are only 24 hours to the day, and there are always priorities. It has taken me a long time to learn that people should be at the top of the list – and still I sometimes forget.

if you are able, call your parents today and tell them you love them. Life is fragile, and we don’t know how much time we have left with each other. Tell your dad he’s your hero.

Don’t wait until you no longer have the chance.



  1. Love your tribute and your insights. The nature of “ordinary” fascinates me, since most of us live most of our lives one day at a time, taking one step at at time. Well said. Here is a short post on the theme:

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