The following is a letter I read at my son's graduation for part of the commencement speech. Many requested it so here it is. My hope is that parents and their graduates alike will be able to identify with its sentiments.
A Father’s Letter . . .
Where to begin? All the years come suddenly to this moment and I am proud, I am thankful, I am emotional, I am nostalgic. And there is in me the dawning realization that every step you take from this day forward will be pregnant with the possibility that your path could take you further away from me than I am comfortable with.
For the better part of two decades, I have engrossed myself in your life. Much of my effort has been simply to keep you alive and healthy. I have sung songs, and played games, and answered questions, but more than that, I have loved you at depths that even now you are not able to understand and won’t be until you have a child of your own. Though at times I have tried to express and explain that love to you, I realize that, for now, I’ll have to be content with knowing its depths on my own. Part of a parent’s lot I suppose.
Early on I saw that from time to time you went through changes as you grew and matured and I realized that, if I were to continue to be close to you, I would have to adjust to the changes. As your interests changed, I adjusted mine so that I could continue to relate to you.
Starting out, I had clear goals. I always hoped that by the time you reached adulthood you would still love me as you did when you were just a little one. While that has been my hope, and still is, I have many times had to choose fatherhood over friendship in order to pursue another goal I had which was to give you direction and leadership. Sometimes choosing that road was hard and it left me feeling lonely, but my commitment was firm. And if given the opportunity to do it all again I would do it without hesitation.
The teenage years have been particularly unique in their challenges. Life goes along undisturbed, communication with your child is clear and good, and then it happens: adolescence! It’s a lot like losing radio contact. There is communication, then static, then the connection seems lost. But pretty soon, connection gets established again as long you try which we both did.
For a long time now, you have demonstrated a growing desire to be independent. At first, I took that personally. Then I realized, with help, that your need for independence is the normal response of a child who has been nurtured, taught, respected, and appreciated. In the end, I have to admit that what I want is for you to be able to go out on your own and be OK.
There were countless lessons I tried to teach you that I hope have stayed with you. They were all important, but some of them rise to the top and are worth repeating in this letter.
Like the fact that it is mathematically impossible for anyone to be right all the time and that sometimes, you have to say you’re sorry; that if you are going to stay close to those you love, you have to work at it; and that you should live everyday as though it were your last. I taught you that while we trust in God for the future, we have no promise of tomorrow, so you have to live today as though there were no tomorrow. Take time to look around and appreciate the blessings in your life today, especially the people. I taught you that THESE ARE the good old days! They certainly have been for me.
I also taught you about Jesus. That He is the only way to heaven, that He is coming back soon, and that He loves you and cares about you. That He expects us to live right and that He has given us the power to do so, not in order to earn salvation (which we cannot do) but in order to live up to what He has done for us (which, admittedly, we can’t do either but we should try). I taught you to call on Him, and that, no matter the situation, prayer will work. That advice will always serve you well.
I tried my best to instill in you a confidence that there is nothing you can’t do if you try. I have believed in you your whole life and I believe in you now! I taught you that you can do anything through Christ and that nothing is too hard for the Lord, but that most of all it was important to find out what HE WANTS YOU TO DO!
You should know that I still feel the sting of failures I made while you were growing up: Misspoken words, times when I was too busy or impatient. Times when I was slow to understand what you needed or just misunderstood things altogether. Thank you for loving me anyway. Just as I learned from my father’s mistakes, you have learned from mine and your children will learn from yours. That’s how it works.
It is my indescribable pleasure to be your father. But, for now, I am beginning to let you go. Not entirely; never entirely. As long as I am alive I will do everything I can to be here for you and be a blessing to you, just as I always have. My door will always be open to you. Wherever I am, you will always be welcome. And as long as I am on this earth I will be here for you. And if you ever look up and I am gone, just know that I am with Him. So, walk in faith and we will be together again. But for now I am here and for now it is time for you to spread your wings and begin to fly. No too far at first, but over time farther and farther, ever so certainly, until you find your place in this world.
With more love than I know how to express,