A father's legacy

In my clergy column for the month of May, I gave a tribute to my mother, Ruth Friedlund, celebrating her life and legacy, reflecting upon her perseverance in spite of tragic life circumstances.

Although Father's Day weekend is already in our rear-view-mirror, I feel compelled to take the opportunity to now honor my father, Rev. Maurice Friedlund, or "Preach," as most everyone called him.

This column will be a bit different; however, as I will offer a tribute by way of a personal letter to my father. The letter starts as follows:

Dear Dad, you were a lot of things to our family of eight. I'm thankful and humbled to have been your son and enjoyed the privilege of watching your life up-close.

You were not perfect, and I'm sure you would do some things differently, as all of us would. However, as I have grown older and reflect back upon almost 56 years of life, several things I appreciate about you are crystal clear to me now.

So, I thought I would write them down for my children and grandchildren to read, and those whose eyes may end up glancing at this column.

There are lessons here for those of us who are still laboring to be effective fathers, and I know you would want me to encourage all of them. Here are a few character traits that influenced me most.

Dad, you were present and available. Simply put, you were there. We could talk. My most memorable conversations were sitting in a deer stand with you.

And, even though you were a busy pastor, you were interruptible. It meant a lot to me to know that no matter what you were doing, I could reach for you and you could be found. I know now how important it is for a father to be engaged and emotionally present for his children.

Dad, you carried a special weight for the family. Not only did you carry the weight of being a pastor, but you willingly carried the responsibility of being provider, protector and priest over our household.

You walked with our family through the valley of the shadow of death as you lost not one, but two of your children. Your steadfast faith helped us kids to see the hope found in God's Word; that in Christ, death has no victory; death has no sting. (1 Cor. 15:55)

You voluntarily embraced poverty to some degree, yet you and Mom are some of the most generous people I've ever known. Most of the weight you carried I did not know about or understand until I was a father myself. Thank you! That's the way it should be.

Dad, you helped to shape our identities. You constantly reminded us that we were loved. You were proud of us, cheering us on in our athletic, academic or vocational pursuits.

That gave us confidence and allowed us to take risks, which resulted in each of your children becoming leaders in their field of employment. You taught us to value our family heritage and identity by telling us stories of our ancestors from Sweden.

You also reminded us that we had a father in heaven who loves us and gave his only son for us. You had both compassion and courage to tell us, and others, about the sacrificial love of Jesus.

Dad, you disciplined us for our good. The boundaries were clear. The compassion was obvious.

Interestingly enough, the one rule I remember was this; "Do not lie to me. I know you're not perfect. You can tell me whatever trouble it is you've gotten into. We can talk. I'll help you through it, but do not lie to me." There is so much wisdom in that principle.

Truth and love were mixed together in your recipe for parenting. I grew up knowing it was safe to approach you, even if my behavior had embarrassed you. As I grew older, my respect for you lead me to choose a life that would honor you, and please God.

Dad, you kept your promises to Mom. I always knew you loved my mother. I knew you would never leave. Your wedding vows were more than words.

Your example paved the way for your children to understand the precious gift that marriage is meant to be. In being faithful to mom in so many ways, you have blessed your grandchildren and now your great-grandchildren. You are missed. You are still loved. Your legacy lives on.

Though Father's Day is a month passed us, take a moment to give praise to God for the privilege of being a father. Or, take the initiative to reach out to your father and thank him for his contribution to your life. Make the most of these moments.n

Rev. John Friedlund serves Grace E.C. Church in Ninevah and replies can be sent to johnfriedlund@gmail.com.