I was recently at a church meeting where they were introducing a candidate for a pastoral staff position. As part of the event, a moderator was interviewing the candidate and his wife, and asked each of them, “If you could have coffee with one person, living or dead, who would it be? And you can’t say Jesus!”
Now, the question was not new to me. I’ve heard this asked in different settings, but it had been a while. This time my unspoken answer was different.
“Definitely would be Dad,” I thought to myself.
I lost my Father early this year. No matter how much you think about that day coming, or observe the experiences of your friends who may go through that part of life before you do, you just can’t truly prepare yourself for it.
For me, the simple fact is that I didn’t know what things I would miss about Dad. I didn’t figure it out immediately, either.
In the immediate aftermath of Dad’s passing, there was a flurry of activity. There was a service to plan, extended family who had come from out of town to visit with – there really just wasn’t time to sit and contemplate what had happened, to think about how life had changed. The months after provided the time for contemplation, though.
As a young boy, my recollection of him is that he was steady. He could be pretty reserved. He wasn’t going to be the parent that you heard screaming from the stands at the little league baseball game. No matter how I played (yeah, that was generally really badly) he was going to be the same, neither too high nor too low. And he could be pretty quick to find the shortcomings in things I did, not in a harsh way, but he had an eye for the small details when looking at many things.
Something happened as he and I got older, though, especially after he retired. In conversations with him, he was much quicker to find the good in things. And in his characteristically reserved way, he became a cheerleader for me as I made my way through the “real world,” expressing his pleasure with me, with the growth of my family.
The change almost escaped my notice. For a time this year, its absence did, too. But one day this spring, it hit me, hard. I realized what I’d lost, and worse, what I’d failed to appreciate about him, and now I don’t have the chance to thank him for all the times he genuinely encouraged me in his own way during our regular phone calls.
Which brings me to the title of this post. If you’re going home to be with family for Christmas, or family is coming to you, be deliberate about paying attention to your family members’ traits and behavior. What things have you never appreciated and affirmed in a relative’s personality? Who has made the effort to be an encourager to you and others in the family? Who quietly serves the rest, doing far more than “their share” of the work of a family meal?
You just never know when you’re going to lose the opportunity to express your gratitude to someone. If you’re getting to spend it with those you love, love them well this Christmas. Be present, be attentive, and you can be a real blessing to someone else, whether they notice in the moment or not.