Today my father would have been 83. He lost sight in one eye in Korea. He never complained and never explained. He was a man who taught me the meaning of being a serving leader. He taught me so many life lessons I could fill blogs from here to eternity with his pithy observations.
He asked me just two days before died what was the one lesson I learned from him in our 40 plus years together. I told him it was the story he shared with me when I turned 13. It was the foundation of my life then, and is still the foundation today. He told me that there are things that we can never explain in our belief system. Things he saw when he met the Dalai Lama many years before that just didn’t match up with his Christian upbringing. He decided what he saw could only be explained as something that was unexplainable but fascinating just the same. While in hospice I was given the autobiography of the Dalai Lama. I shared several parts of it with my father. He found an odd comfort in the fact that the Dalai Lama with all his accumulated wisdom could not easily understand what moved Christians to respond in time of need without knowing about his people.
When I spent the day with the Dalai Lama he shared the story with all in attendance about the Christian men and woman who travelled the world to help his people by feeding and taking care of them while dealing with the Chinese. He also talked about what an incredible teacher Christ must have been to have people still do these things in his name today, after 2000 years. My father was one of those people charged with helping to get the Dalai Lama’s people out of Tibet. The Dalai Lama had a lasting impact on first my father and then my life. A lasting legacy of serving leadership.
When asked to share what his life legacy should be my father told me first, it was me. I was named for his love of travel so I guess that kills two birds with one stone! Second, it was this poem that he shared with me and his closest friends before he died. I read it every year on May 1 to remind me of the lasting legacy he left me. A special friend, Reverend Don Parker read it to me on the anniversary of my father’s death. Here’s the poem my father shared to describe his life, by James Henry Leigh Hunt.
Abou Ben Adhem
Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said
“What writest thou?”—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered “The names of those who love the Lord.”
“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still, and said “I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”
The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.
Happy birthday, Pops.