This weekend we attended the memorial service for the dad of my friend Steve. Steve is a pastor friend of mine, and also the father of two children with special needs himself.
Steve was sharing some of his favorite stories about his dad throughout the service. His love, respect, and admiration for his late father were so evident as he eulogized his dad with tears streaming down his face and his voice soft and tender.
At the end of his moving remarks though, he said something that made me look up and take note.
Steve said his father didn’t leave a lavish estate, a big inheritance, or a nice car. The legacy he left, that mattered the most to Steve, was that his father had been proud of him. He said knowing how great a man his dad was, and knowing that his dad was proud of him as his son, was something to be treasured and would never be forgotten.
There is something inside of a man that always wants his dad to be proud of him. It’s with us from the moment we are born; we want our dad to be proud of the man we become, and to know how much they value us as their sons.
A few months ago during a particularly rough and testing season for us as a special needs family, I took a quick walk on the dark side and threw myself a pity party. I questioned my calling, my purpose, and whether I was making a difference.
My dad, who is not an expressive man at all with his emotions, sent me a card telling me how proud he was that I had chosen this path for my life, and he could not be more pleased that I was his son.
I sat in my office and openly wept that afternoon. I still keep the card in my right hand desk drawer.
I get asked all the times by parents of children with special needs how to get dads more involved and engaged. Here’s an easy way Dads.
Dads, your words contain the power of life and death.
Every night I tell my son how proud I am that he is my son. I tell him God chose me for him, and him for me. I tell him he will never have to do anything in his life to make me more proud of him or love him more. I love him simply because he is my son.
Parents, you have got to be speaking words of life over your kids every day. Your kids will believe whatever you say about them. Your child will become whatever he or she believes. And what they believe about themselves will be determined by what you speak over them. So make a point, every day, to speak positively and affirm your child.
At 16 my son is non-verbal. Barring a miracle, he won’t be able to stand up at my funeral and tell the world how proud I was of him.
But rest assured…he knows it.
And that’s all that matters.
We can talk about it in heaven some day.