When I was born, everything changed. My mom would live the first of my 20 years, and the last of hers, in sickness. And my dad would raise me, doing everything she couldn’t.
Some years after my mother’s death, my dear aunt sent to me a letter written by my father days after my birth. She wrote: “Dear Dawn, I hope you find this letter encouraging as to how brave and wonderful your father was in taking care of you and your mother … even under such distress. You should be proud of your father.”
In her book, “By the Light of My Father’s Smile,” Alice Walker wrote these words without ever having met my dad. She described him perfectly:
When life descends into the pit
I must become my own candle
Willingly burning myself
To light up the darkness around me
I know my dad could have focused on what his situation denied him. He could have focused on himself and what he wanted or believed he deserved. He may have felt that he had given enough, and now it was his turn. But somehow, he still chose to give me only the best of him.
I can’t say if he was happier as a result, but honestly, that didn’t seem to be the point. Instead, the point was to love in spite of it all. With all that he had lost, he still gave so much to me.
Never did I feel the deprivation and darkness that he must have felt. For me, it was an experience of being a promise fulfilled. What a gift for a father to give, particularly to his daughter.
With that gift, he taught me how to love. My dad always told me that no matter where I end up, I must leave it better than I find it. There is such faith in that. There is a knowledge that not only do I have a purpose, but I have a responsibility to fulfill that purpose. No matter what. I never have to ask why or what for. The answer to the question is always right before me, in that moment. Every gift is received in order to give.
From my father’s gift, not only did I learn that I wanted to shine, but he taught me how to shine and how to attract into my life those who help me to do just that. He taught me that in order to find what I want; I must first be what I am looking for. Only then will I recognize it in others.
It’s so obvious to me that each of us is born to be exactly who we were meant to be. However, the challenge is recognizing that we are each so very precious. It is as we love and are loved that we discover all that is possible in each of us. Some, like me, are lucky enough to know love early on. For others, that knowledge comes much later.
Whenever it occurs, we will grow to learn that our primary role is to light the way, as Marianne Williamson puts it, so that all of those “around us can see more clearly what is possible for them and possible for all of us.”
Obviously, no dad is perfect. But there are those fathers who recognize the darkness not only as an obligation but also an opportunity to shine their light for those around them. In sharing this light, a father provides the same opportunity to shine for those behind him, beside him and before him.
Shine on, DaddyO!