3 Lessons My Dad Taught Me While He Was Alive

I'm trying to find the words to express my dad. He went home on hospice last Saturday April 11th due to kidney failure as a result of many things but mostly due to Diabetes. Mary and I drove to AZ this week to see him. We made it in time to share what was one of his last lucid and aware moments.

We sat near his bed as he slept. He was in and out of consciousness and receiving a regular dose of morphine every 4 hours. His time on this earth came to an end yesterday. It's hard to face up to the fact that life on this earth is finite when it comes to someone you love. I was not prepared for the overwhelming flood of emotions that I have felt this week. I never thought I would weep out loud pumping gas or walking through Home Depot but I have.

As I think back on his life there are many things I am thankful for but the one thing that stands out was his presence. He was always fully present whenever I was with him. When I say always I mean always. He never checked his cell phone when I was with him and as I think about it I don't think he ever brought it with him front the office when we would meet and have lunch near the red brick building where he worked.

When he would come watch our kids play soccer or basketball he would be fully present in the moment all the time. When I was growing up he was at every baseball game I played. He once flew home from Africa to watch me play in an all star game. He traveled with me to Japan when I made the USA all star team. He traveled to all 5 cities when our team went on a run and made it to the Colt league World Series, every game, he was there.

When watching the games the only thing he ever had in his hand was a video camera the size of a Volkswagen and a pack of lifesavers. The lifesavers where available to me when I made an error in the field or was 0 for 2 weeks at the plate. He would never say a word, just offer me a lifesaver. He was both for me and with me.

The life lessons I learned from him were modeled in the way he lived life. Here are the top three of many.

1. Never Give Up

While struggling in high school he gave me a framed poster that had a poem on it entitled Never Give Up. It hung on my wall through college as a reminder to never give up, no matter what. He beat cancer, battled through a stroke, fought diabetes and kidney failure. He never gave up.

2. Be Present

It’s simply who he was. He was fully present in the moment. The world could have exploded around him but if it was during lunch and I was across the table, the world would have to wait.

3. You’re never as good as you think and never as bad as you thought

While playing a baseball game in the State of Washington on our way to the Colt League World Series a local photographer got a great picture of me and put in on the front cover of the local paper. The headline was, “Winning Run Scores as Jutila Boots Ball.” We lost because I made a mistake, an error. He bought the paper and gave it to me the next day. He told me to never believe your own press. You are never as good as you think and never as bad as you thought. Failure and mistakes were simply stair steps to success for him and he passed that along to me.

Today be fully present with your kids. Turn off the cell phone and look in their eyes. Tell them you love them because when you do you are making a difference.

My dad was the best. He never took life to seriously. He was aware of others. He gave of himself and he made a difference in my life. My prayer is that I pass on to my kids what he passed on to me. I will miss him.

The photo above is of my dad and I on the day I married my childhood sweetheart, Mary. July 26th, 1991.