This past week has had me doing a lot of reflection on my dad. Between his birthday on Monday and a family funeral today, it has me recognizing his absence more intensely, and longing to even just hear his voice on the phone. At the same time, however, my thoughts have been drawn towards his legacy, the heart of which has only begun to emerge over the course of the past two years.
The morning of my father’s accident, we ate bran flakes for breakfast, talking about how extraordinarily large the individual flakes were. It may seem silly, but talking about these meaningless topics is one of the things I miss most. He brought fun to bran flakes. That’s who he was: Dad was the epitome of fun in the ordinary, which somehow made even the most mundane of things extraordinary. And while he would never consider himself to be anything special, maybe it was just bringing the “extra” to the ordinary that made life with him so incredible: extra life, extra love, extra laughter, extra goofy, extra Jesus. With so much extra going on, nothing could be quite ordinary again.
At my Dad’s Memorial Service, thousands of people waited in line for several hours just to share what he meant to them. Person after person said things like, “He believed in me,” or “He prayed for me,” or my personal favorite (from numerous men, believe it or not), “He was the only man I ever let kiss me.”
The simplicity of it is what is perhaps the most shocking. My dad never held a political office. He never wrote a book. He never composed songs or had his eloquent speeches recorded as brilliant, oratorical genius. His legacy consists of the uncomplicated beauty of the ordinary: a smile, a word, a prayer, a hug.
I guess when you consistently live that in every arena of your life . . . at work, at the grocery store, in villages in Africa, or around your family’s dinner table . . . it all adds up to a tangible representation of Jesus in people’s lives. It’s something that the world hungers for so much, that thousands of people will wait hours in line just to tell you about it.
And that’s maybe the most encouraging part to me of all. During a season in life when so much of my day-to-day is wrapped up in the mundane . . .
When my performance reviews are communicated with hugs or tantrums . . .
When I have shifted from planning major outreaches to hundreds of kids to planning dinner for three kids who probably won’t like it anyway . . .
When I’ve put away business suits and realize that I’m still wearing my pajamas. Again . . .
When I fall onto the couch at the end of the day exhausted to the core and I recognize that maybe the most significant part of my day was finally figuring out how to assemble the entire Ikea train set (which honestly was incredibly satisfying) . . .
It’s easy to step back and look at the cumulative duties and components of my day and wonder, “Where has my life gone?” or “Am I really making any kind of difference?” I think of my dad, however, and recognize that no one would be more surprised than he about the impact that his life had on those around him. And while I would never dare to equate my life and legacy with either of my parents, I am so grateful to each of them for their diligence, excellence, and “extra” in the ordinary, something that changed my life forever, and the lives of thousands more around the world.
So when I’m in the throes of wiping noses and bottoms, cutting up hot dogs, taking trips to Target, and playing Princess, I’m trying hard to remember that every hug, every smile at a cashier, every prayer, every word of correction, every conversation waiting with a fellow parent at the end of the school day . . . when combined with the grace of God, they can be miraculously transformed into something meaningful, extraordinary even. And that’s one legacy of which I’m proud to be a part.