Growing up, my stepdad Paul was a positive influence in my life. In August he passed away. A celebration of life event was held on October 4, but I wasn’t able to attend so I wrote the following message to share at the event.
Celebration of Life
I’m sorry I couldn’t be with you today for Paul’s Celebration of Life. Whenever I meet someone who knew Paul, I learn something new about Paul, and I grow to respect, appreciate, and love him more. So, I really wanted to be there today.
Paul was in my life at an important time during my pre-teen and teen years as I was growing into who I would be as an adult. Because we had a family business, with the dog kennel, Paul wasn’t just a parent who I’d see in passing. We worked together at the business after school and on the weekends, and he was there in the evenings at the dinner table. That’s a rare experience for a kid to have these days unless you’re Amish.
The lessons I learned about hard work and genuinely caring about people and their animal companions have stuck with me and continue to shape my own business that I began in my early 20s and still have today.
As a parent, Paul wasn’t one to lecture. The most important lessons he taught me weren’t spoken, but lived out, and those are the things that have stuck with me through my entire life. His daily examples of kindness and caring had an impact on me.
Paul was concerned that I be brought up right. I remember at the dinner table, if I was resting my elbows on the table Paul would gently correct me. Sometimes with just a thoughtful glance. He wanted to make sure I was becoming a young gentleman with proper manners. It was a little bit like being in finishing school, but I appreciated it. He instilled in me the little things that shape who I am today.
In my adult years, after going to college and starting a career, it was nice to continue to have Paul in my life whenever I’d go home to Maryland for a visit, and to keep in touch with the occasional phone call.
As is typical in families that are spread out, we’d often hear news second hand. I was thankful that my brother Sherman stayed in Maryland to be close and keep that connection and give us news of how everyone was doing.
I was awake in the early hours of the morning the day Paul passed away. When I heard the news, I wasn’t sure what to say or share with others. I posted a photo online from my last trip to Maryland with these words:
Looking back, we also look forward. Then we know what really matters. Sincerity. Laughter. Smiles. Kindness. Caring.
Today as we celebrate Paul’s life, I’m reminded of so many things to be grateful for.
Thank you, Paul, for everything.