“It takes a special man to be called Daddy”
Written in memory of Joe Ward
(February 17, 1942 to August 30, 2008) by his daughter,
Amie Ward Cumming
Last year, on a quiet summer morning, my brother and I held our daddy’s hand as he gracefully and peacefully gave up a diligent fight with cancer. Just as he had gently welcomed us into the world years before, we bravely walked with him to the gate that would lead him to a perfect world where he could walk again and do all the things he loved so much.
Like most girls, my daddy was my hero, my role model, my nurturer, provider, and protector. In my eyes there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do. If you were fortunate enough to have known him, you know that he could fix anything. Growing up, I assumed all men could build a house, rebuild a car engine, fix an appliance, and even bake a cake. As I got older I realized that he was gifted in the “fixing” department.
When my marriage was in trouble, I turned to the one person I knew could help, and for the first time ever he wasn’t able to fix something that was broken. Rather than accept defeat, he stepped in to fill the void in my life and the lives of his grandchildren, Joseph and Lauren. Our safety, well-being, and happiness became his priority. He may not have been able to keep my family intact, but he was determined to ease the pain and not allow us to feel broken. So many days he carried the burden for us. No longer was he just a grandfather who loved, played with, and spoiled his grandchildren; he was now their source of strength and security. Papa, as he was lovingly called, had become their hero too.
He took his new role very seriously. If I needed him to help with the children, he was just a phone call away. He took them to doctors’ appointments, stayed with them when they were sick, sat through dance classes, and most of all became their greatest supporter. He never missed an awards ceremony, ballet performance, sporting event, or choir performance. Without ever saying a single word he taught my children the meaning of unconditional love.
My daddy wasn’t a “do as I say, not as I do” kind of person, but rather a “do as I do.” He taught by example. Joe Ward was a man of integrity. He was true to his word and dependable. He treated everyone equally and fairly. He took great pleasure in helping other people. From him I learned that doing the right thing and doing what you want are sometimes two different things. Regardless, we were taught that you always do the right thing. What would our world be like if more people did the right thing? Maybe the right thing is a difficult choice, but by doing the right thing you saved someone else a disappointment? Aren’t these the lessons we were taught? Since when did it become OK to put our own wants and desires ahead of doing the right thing?
In his 66 years, Joe Ward made an impression on everyone he encountered. He always greeted people with a handshake, his amazing smile, and sparkling blue eyes. He made everyone feel special. The hundreds of people who came to show their respects spoke volumes about the life he lived. He was a good man who loved his family, friends, and community.
Stop and ask yourself what you are teaching your children, not what you are telling them, but what are you showing them? What are they learning from your actions? To all the daddies, be your children’s hero. No one will ever love them more than you. Be sure they know how much they are loved and adored. Growing up is hard enough, don’t ever be the source of your children’s pain. Choose their well-being and happiness over your own. I believe people who live by that principle are blessed beyond reason. Do you really want to be on your death bed one day and regret a choice you made? I can honestly tell you that my daddy had no regrets for the life he lived.
No matter how young or old your children are, make a point today to tell them how much they are loved. One more thing, when your time comes, what will people say about you? It won’t matter how much money you have or how great a job you had. What will matter most, is how you treated people.
My daddy wasn’t perfect. He was just an ordinary man who lived an extraordinary life of choosing to do the right thing, even if it wasn’t the easy or fun choice. I know that he touched many lives during his lifetime and I choose to believe that many people followed his example. His favorite poem was “Success” by Ralph Waldo Emerson. He certainly succeeded in his life.
To laugh often and much;
to win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others;
to leave the world a bit better,
whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;
to know even one life has breathed easier
because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
Ralph Waldo Emerson