All which I thought I knew about my father was altered in the final days of his life. I believed, correctly so, that he was a strong, powerful man, both physically and in stature; but; I was also exposed to his profound spirituality.
In my contemptuous, youthful days, I succumbed to the teen aged notion that I was going to live forever and that God did not exist. It was easy and convenient for me to shed the faith I had instilled in me from the time I was born. I called myself an atheist. There's a haughtiness to that belief system which is attached to the inherent and natural anger experienced by those who are pushing eighteen. Perhaps this is sparked by a fear of being nudged out of the nest into the real world, and by the anxiety which accompanies making a life for oneself which creates inner turmoil. My dismissal of God from my life also came at the same time I rebelled against my father.
He raised six of us, three boys and three girls, and he tended to our sick mother. Often he would take on another job to provide for us, making sure we had the bare essentials to get through life and to keep a roof over our heads, and regretfully, I could not appreciate his efforts.
Advice came in the form of bromides and life lessons, often learned from his own mistakes, which I fended off will the skill of a fencing champ. His instruction also came in the form of actions. He led by example, and often I lagged behind not paying much attention. Only now as a middle aged man raising my own family can I understand and appreciate his philosophies of dealing with difficult bosses, unreasonable deadlines, and the vagaries of keeping pace with and eventually surpassing ones peers. I only wish I had been a better student.
With that said, I've gleaned much from his final hours, ones in which he suffered greatly. He faced his death with dignity. His bravery came from his strong belief in God and his unwavering conviction. His only regret was leaving his family behind, of not being a father and a grandfather anymore.
It's not easy to become a role model. Folks often claim to be one and are not up to the task. Yet, my dad was a teacher, provider, husband, caretaker, father, grandfather, friend, and a servant of the Lord for his entire life. He enlightened his family until his last breath. Dad taught me that faith is not foolish, that love exits beyond life, and that death is not the end.
My father has left us, he's given his last bit of counsel, but I remain his son. Hopefully, with the same grace and dignity he possessed, I can guide my own children through their lives while drawing from the deep well of sensibility and insight my father imparted to me. God willing, I may also rediscover my faith which I retain a faint memory of from when I was a boy. Dad has shown me the way.
-Michael J. Kannengieser