This is the first Father’s Day that I will spend without my father.
Arthur Edward Kandler III died about a month ago. His passing was not a surprise. He lived in our basement apartment for the past eight years. COVID lockdowns relegated him to seclusion. We helplessly watched as his inability to leave his apartment, play cards at the senior center, or socialize with his limited number of friends, slowly took its toll. His final weeks were painful to watch, and as difficult as it was, I was actually praying for God to take him.
What better way to celebrate Father’s Day, then to honor the gift that was the life of my dad.
I miss my father, but I miss my friend even more. Dad did an amazing job — decades ago — of transitioning from father to friend. I’m not sure when it happened. We didn’t talk about it. I didn’t realize it when it occurred. But it happened. Dad stopped looking for opportunities to give unsolicited advice, or question my questionable decisions. Somewhere along the way he transitioned to asking me for a story, or my perspective on an issue, and was generally interested in simply sharing life together. We talked about mutual interests, debated sports, played fantasy football, or just threw our heads back and laughed at the crazy world around us. Most often, we just sat together in silence and just enjoyed each other’s company.
As tremendously sad as it is to deal with his loss, I am overcome by different emotion.
I am humbled and grateful for the man who showed me how to be a father. Grateful for the man who showed me how to love, honor, and respect Erika. And grateful for the man who modeled a life of virtue.
I’m heartbroken on too many occasions to hear of men navigating the aftermath of broken relationships with their fathers. Even worse, to see a man’s broken relationship with God because of their relationship with their earthly father.
I didn’t have any of those issues and, thankfully, I came to realize that while dad was still with us and was able to thank him many times. Dad modeled an amazing, loving marriage to Betty for nearly 60 years. He was funny, hard-working, and always likable. He wasn’t terribly talkative, but when he did speak, I knew to listen. He didn’t play that advice card too often.
A defining moment for me may have been the most impactful, unsolicited and unambiguous advice he gave me. Maybe he gave me more, but never have I been more grateful for his boldness to get in my face.
I was a young man in my late twenties. Like most single men at 28, I was full of piss and vinegar, sure of myself, and energetic. I had recently met Erika and we had been dating for a few months. Out of the blue, dad pulled me aside one day. He was literally poking me in the chest when he said, “Son? I’m not sure what you’re thinkin’, but I’m not sure you’re thinkin.’ if you let this young lady get away, you are an idiot. Don’t be a moron.”
Bold statement, dad. It got my attention because, like I said, he didn’t play the ‘advice card’ all that often and the intentionality of his tone stopped me in my tracks. It was the advice that I needed and I started viewing Erika in a different light. Not because my father told me too, but because well… I was being a moron and I didn’t see what was in front of me. And dad knew it.
It was a defining moment and I’m super grateful.
Over the past year, dad was in and out of the hospital with variety of different procedures. The evening before one of those procedures, I was in Shreveport LA. Dad texted me because he wanted to talk. Again, not something that was the norm. When I called, he was concerned that he would not survive the procedure. He was increasingly weak, and that reality was not lost on him. He wanted to say his goodbye. Something I didn’t expect and handle well. He started by thanking me. I couldn’t believe it. He was thanking me?
He thanked me for being a son that he could be proud of. For honoring Erika and modeling a solid marriage for his grandchildren. For raising his grandchildren with strong values. And for opening our home to him. He just wanted me to know how proud he was to be my father.
I was a mess and desperately tried to explain that I was the one who was proud to be his son. Grateful to him for showing me how to be a solid husband, father and friend. It was an exchange I will never forget and words that make me overwhelmed with gratitude.
Dads… your children, especially your sons, need to know that you are proud of them. Tell them.
Dads… At some point, your children will be men and women. They will require less of us as fathers and more of us as deeply bound friends.
I count my father’s life as one of the greatest gifts from God that I could ever have imagined.
Thanks dad. You are deeply loved and gravely missed.
Kurt Kandler is the founder and Executive Director of The 410 Bridge. He is passionate not only about breaking the cycle of poverty in communities where The 410 Bridge works, but but also for changing the paradigm of mission for the Western church and how it engages the poor.