(A letter I wrote today to a friend about her dad who recently passed away.)
I remember being with you and your dad and eating those horrible Sen Sens he liked so much. I remember being in my skis on the mountain not wanting to move an inch, but after quite a bit of instruction from your dad and an amazing amount of patience from him I learned to ski. I went on quite a few vacations with your family during that time period and it created some great memories.
Everyone loved your dad. It always amazed me how long it would take for us to leave town on those vacations because while running last minute errands he would bump into so many people he knew and he would talk for a moment with each one. I thought it was because he was an important person in the community and I didn't learn until later that it was much more than that.
When I was younger I started making poor choices. Even after I'd changed I still had to live with the consequences of those choices. Trying to be a productive member of society again is difficult and I had to accept that some people I had known my entire life would no longer have anything to do with me. I couldn't get a job or even volunteer to work with kids, the elderly, disabled individuals, or any of the vulnerable people in our society even though my past didn't involve any person to person crimes. It's easy to become depressed. Some people give up and go back to that wrong way of life because at least there they feel accepted. I've been tempted many times to go back too but sometimes I found hope in unexpected places that kept me on the right path. This leads me back to your dad.
I would be out somewhere or uncomfortable at some community event and there he would be. He would see me and wave. He would be smiling and happy to see me. He would talk to me for as long as he could before moving on but his effort to notice and talk with me made me feel like I was still important.
I know it wasn't just me your dad had that effect on. It was everyone. I believe he was important in the community because he knew what a community actually is. A community is not just high achieving families living in upscale parts of town raising their high achieving kids. He knew it's the people above and below the poverty line. He knew it's the ones who own vacation homes and the ones who have no home. He knew it's the star athletes and the kids getting bullied. He knew it's the people that model great health and the ones affected by illness. He knew it's the ones who go onto college as well as the ones sitting in jail. He treated everyone as equally important and everyone with value. He contributed even more by leading by example and influencing people to be kind and help others.
I remember when we would be playing at my house and your dad would show up to get you. Not wanting the fun to end I would stall your dad. I'd see him talking with my dad and offer to go get them a beer so they would keep talking giving us more time to play. It usually worked. I wish I could do it again. I wish I could distract or stall him so he would stay a bit longer and not have to leave quite yet.