I remember Fathers’ Day 2006. The minister at my church asked If I would do a three minute talk in all three services (5,000 people) about what it meant to be a man. I agreed to do it, and when I looked to see the topic of his sermon that day, it was titled “Men Behaving Badly.” I began to wonder, why did he choose me?
As I reflected back over the years I realized that for a good portion of my life, I was a man behaving badly. I wasn’t behaving badly in an obscene way, mind you, but rather out of ignorance and lack of a “real man” to teach me. You see, I didn’t really have a role model, because when I was 13 years old my dad passed away from a heart attack and left me, my mom, and seven siblings behind to figure things out.
Now, I am not telling you this to feel sorry for me, but rather to bring hope that no matter where you come from or what type of background you have, you can change and learn what it takes to move towards authentic manhood.
About 20 years after my dad’s death, I received a copy of a letter my mom had received during that summer in 1968 when my dad died. This letter was written by a friend and business associate of my dad. I learned more about my father from this letter than all the other people and stories combined. And, although I didn’t fully realize it when I first read the letter, over time I came to view this letter as part of a road map that would help guide me through life and teach me what it meant to be a man. I would like to share this letter with you.
Dear Linda, Jimmy, Cheryl, Susan, Steve, Ricky, John and David,
As you know by now, your father has many, many friends. He has been taken from all these friends but especially from each of you. There’s no replacement for this loss. Now you have only the courage God can give. I would hope each of you will be able, over time, to face the fact of your loss without bitterness, be able to accept life, be able to cherish all the fine memories your dad leaves with all of us.
Each of you needs to do his part to behave in a manner that would bring pride to your father if he were still with us and to bring pride to your mother whose loss is at least as great as yours, and who needs your help at every turn. Most of all, you should know that to those outside your family, your father was more than a friend, more than a businessman, more than a member of a local organization. He was a very special person. He was ahead of his years in anticipating the needs of his community and taking action to meet those needs. He was a counselor and a friend to those who came to him with trouble.
He had personal magic, the kind that gave a lift to those he met each day and made him a person who was refreshing to be with. As you get older you will become aware that his life, in the sight of both God and man, was one of fine accomplishment that his contributions were greater than those who were granted many extra years, that the community in which you live is a much better one because of him. I loved him, too.
Archie Bowes, Jr.