Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Father's Day Tribute

It's been almost five years since my parents passed away. In the summer of 2007, my mom's cancer returned after 6 years in remission and cut her life short. My father passed away unexpectedly a few months later due to a multitude of health issues, including a failed liver. Medication, stress, and mental challenges I'll never fully understand destroyed one of the greatest men I'll ever know. He raised a family with four kids, did his best to live his dreams, and somehow kept the same wife in the process. Though he battled his demons, many of which were truly out of his control, he was the father everyone wished they had.

George Stokes was a man who could literally do anything. When he had a dream, he went after it. Saving nickels and dimes for years, pinching every penny, he flew to London and purchased his dream cara '65 Jaguar XKE. He owned a bicycle shop and used to ride hills for 45 minutes during his lunch breaks. He loved working on cars and did everything from full engine rebuilds to complete paint jobs. He was a database architect before there was such a thing and came in as a heavy-hitter contractor at large corporations you've heard of. He was self-employed for as long as I knew him, and he always made time for us, even if that meant sitting on his lap in the home office while he explained a database design.

He believed anything was possible and raised me to think the same. He loved sailing, so he bought a boat (which we later lived on) and took trips to Catalina, Mexico, and Anacapa which included scuba diving, lobster, albacore, and some of the best fish I've ever eaten.

He loved to surf and built one of the first computer scoring systems ever to be used outdoors (certainly the first used at a beach). He eventually became the president of the Association of Surfing Professionals and travelled the world twice a year for their board meetings.

It's because of my dad that I enjoyed the surf at Playa Grande today, the day before Father's Day. The surf was good and thanks to my brother's board and generosity, I caught some fun waves. It was my father who taught me to surf.

As I took my three year old son into the water on my shoulders and heard him shouting with joy, I couldn't help but think of how my father must have done the same with me. I remember surfing for the first time with him when I was five years old. I can remember him taking me out in surf well over his head and being scared for my life.  Every perfect wave I've caught, every beautiful sunset I've seen out there in the water... I owe them all to him.

My father was an amazing man. It saddens me to think my kids will never know him and many only knew his last ten (troubled) years. I love my dad and more importantly, I know he deeply loved me.

The Bible calls us to honor our parents, but that's difficult to do when they are no longer with us.

Exodus 20:12
"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you."

I hope he was honored today as I surfed and played with his grandson in the waves of Costa Rica. I hope he smiled that full-of-life smile he had and told anyone around him that would listen, "That's my boy and that's my grandson."

I have great peace when it comes to my parents no longer being on this earth with us. I believe the experiences of life shape our character in ways few other things can. My loss brought me closer to God and to life. It has enabled me to encourage others through similar times.

Romans 8:28
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."

Sitting here in this paradise with my family, I can't help but think of my parents and how much I would have enjoyed sharing this with them.

If you have the opportunity, hug your dad a little longer tomorrow. Cherish the time you have together because it's so easy to take it for granted. Time runs together as just normal moments in life... Until one day those moments are gone, and you realize just how special they were.

If holidays are painful because you're still hurting through  missing the ones you love, give me a call or drop me an email. I won't have any answers, but sometimes it's helpful just to talk to someone who's been there and is trying to understand.

Happy Father's Day.

(My parents would have loved the view tonight off the back deck)


Luke Stokes said...

Thanks so much, Susie. You are a great blessing to me.

Paul4everyoung 76 said...

That is a very well written tribute to aparently an amazing man, it really touched me because of losing my father this year in a car accident. Cherish the memories, then continue making new ones for your children.

Luke Stokes said...

Thank you Paul. When I heard part of your story on Sunday, I couldn't help but feel some of your pain. We're definitely creating new memories every day and enjoying every minute of it.

Marco said...

An amazing spirit, G. H. Stokes. I will never forget him.