Leaving vs. Living A Legacy

A couple of weeks ago I performed the funeral for the husband of one of our Rising Above volunteers and family friend. As I sat at the kitchen table and talked to his wife and children, I asked them all to describe the man. Every single one of them mentioned how safe, protected, and secure he had made them feel. He was so engaged and involved with his family. He had coached all of them in t-ball. He had  coached his own children, their cousins, and even the family grandchildren in t-ball. He had been coaching for generations. I think I was the only one at the service who did not play ball for the man.

In fact, he was on the ball field when he had his fatal heart attack that killed him. Surrounded by family, he was doing what he loved to do.

In a lot of ways it reminded me of my own dad. I know that many of you may of had rough childhoods, and some of you grew up without a father. So I imagine Father's Day can be tough. I am deeply sorry and I get that. But I had an awesome Dad who was always engaged in my life. And like the man I described earlier, my dad coached me in baseball and basketball as a kid. And we spent so much time together in the backyard or especially in the gym or driveway shooting hoops. As I've mentioned earlier, my favorite memories were loading up on Saturdays to go to University of Tennessee football games. (That was before they dropped out of competitive football.)

I wanted to be good at basketball because he had been so good at basketball. And I wanted to be like him. He worked multiple jobs to supplement his high school teacher and coaching salary, yet he was fully involved in my life.

He gave me my work ethic, my values, and taught me responsibility. And since we live in the same town, he still comes by my office once a week to catch up and see if there is anything I need.

When I left the six-digit income world of corporate America and sold our house, our vehicles, and most everything we had because I had a dream of starting a special needs ministry, he supported me and said "if that's what you want to do, go make it happen."

I turned 45 a couple of months ago. I'm at that age where a man starts thinking for the first time about what kind of legacy he is going to leave. "What will my legacy be?"

I realized that like my dad and the man I mentioned earlier, I don't want to leave a legacy. I want to live my legacy now. I want my family and friends to know me by the legacy my life is creating and experiencing right now. I want my legacy to be living in their lives right now while I'm still on this earth.

A living legacy so to speak.

It's no secret how many of our special needs children are being raised by single female caregivers. Studies show the divorce rate to be over 80% for special needs parents. It's no secret how we are losing the dads. It's no secret how so few of the dads dads who do stick around are actively engaged and involved in the lives of their special needs children.

So dads, let's commit to living our legacies out in the lives of children right now! Let's work at living a legacy, not just leaving one. It's never to let to start. Make today the day you become more involved, more engaged, more active in  finding ways to give of your time, your creativity, and your energy to your special needs child.

Some of you are still dealing with the grief, the anger, or the denial of what has been given to you. Some of you are still searching for someone to blame, or a way to "fix' what has happened. Some of you are just bewildered, confused, and in a fog.

You didn't plan for this, you would not have chosen this path in life, and you may not have been ready for this. But here you are, and you have a choice to make.

When I first came to terms with my son's diagnosis, I screamed and cried out to God. I shook my fist at him and expressed my anger and disappointment in very hostile words.

After several weeks of this, when I finally got still and quiet, God spoke gently to my heart and said, "I've given you a blessing. What you do with it is up to you."

Many years later I now see that I have truly been given such a tremendous blessing, and I would not go back to try to change anything now. I am one blessed father.

Guys, as one special needs father talking to another, you've been given a blessing. What you do with it is up to you. Go live a legacy in your child's life now.