Whether you watched the entire coverage of the funeral of our 41st President, George H.W.Bush or not, you likely caught the clip of his son, our 43rd President, breaking down as he eulogized him. After masterfully chronicling the 94 years of his father’s life, President Bush’s son broke down saying the words, “… the best father a son or daughter could have.”
I can think of no finer tribute.
War hero, accomplished golfer, President, a man of character—all these tributes truthfully stated, it was the blessing of fatherhood that brought the eulogy to a close with broken words.
President Bush was not remembered as a perfect man. He made his mistakes. He had his shortcomings. These were duly noted. Each President sitting before him on the front row shares that reality. Through the pain of his loss, the younger President set these sins aside to remember what shines through them all.
The best father not only makes mistakes, he seeks to insure that his children realize those mistakes don’t fit with the actions he wants them to follow. An apology gets any child’s attention and makes a lasting impression.
Life’s negative experiences blend with the positive ones in an amazing way. The good times and high points take us higher than the low points take us downward. Friendship, loyalty, character and kindness last longer than sharp words or bitter memories. In fact, they help redefine the real direction of a father’s life by showing the contrast between the sharp words and the loving expressions. A child’s overall memory chooses the best and leaves the rest.
The best father knows that 18 years isn’t long enough to make an impression or create a child’s character. After growing up, the children are still watching, still noticing and hopefully still admiring. Adult lessons are almost as important as the formative lessons were. How to manage money, how to deal with disappointment and loss, how to retain lifelong friendships. Some of President Bush’s most impressive memories were created after he was 80 years old.
Our children can remember the best of us because we choose to keep on improving. We don’t allow a single event and especially a single mistake to define us. The only single mistake that can take away our child’s good memories is quitting. The wound of abandonment is inescapable. It can only be overcome by repentance.
As we draw near the end of another year, please reconsider the legacy you are leaving as a father. Turn your heart toward your children. Be willing to demonstrate how growth and improvement take a lifetime. Be willing to point out your own mistakes and ask for forgiveness. May your children echo the sentiment of 41’s son as he remembered his father as “the best father a son or daughter could have.”