Have you ever trekked the grounds of a cemetery wondering if any of these people are remembered by those living on this earth today, and if they are remembered, for what precisely are they remembered?
If you look closely at those gravestones you will notice that none of the chiseled words bear the titles of Engineer, Software Developer, Computer Programmer, Author, Newscaster, CEO, CFO, Mayor, Alderman, Entrepreneur, or Successful Investor, but rather, Father, Mother, Son, or Daughter. Your birth certificate has three names: your father’s, your mother’s, and yours. It bears your title, your identity: son. You came into this world as a son, but you will leave this world as a father. “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years. Yet, their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away” (Ps 90:10).
You have such a brief time to live on this earth. How will you consume it, or how will it consume you? For what will you be remembered? Will you be remembered for what you did, or will you be remembered for something more fundamental—for who you are? What will be your legacy? What will be the epitaph permanently chiseled into the surface of your seemingly permanent gravestone? In the end, it is your family, or those considered to be family, who will bury you, and it will be those people who will remember you. The question is not whether they will remember, you but how will they remember you?
Doing proceeds from being, and being is fundamental to doing. Fatherhood is not as much something you do, but who you are. Fatherhood is not an occupation but a vocation. Fatherhood is an identity and a destiny. It is who you are and who you will become—like the Father. You are not defined by what you “do for a living” as much as for whom you are living. You are not defined as much by your occupation as by your vocation. At work, you will always be replaceable, but at home you are irreplaceable. Your work is transitional and passing; your fatherhood and its effect is eternal.
St. Joseph was a tekton, which is a Greek word that can mean master carpenter, one who works expertly with varying substrates, an engineer of sorts. Though Joseph was a master craftsman, he is not remembered for any work of craftsmanship, but rather for his heroic, valiant, resolute fatherly example and his unparalleled protection of and fidelity to his wife, Mary. St. Joseph is not remembered for building things, but for crafting his domestic church, his family. St. Joseph, though hidden, and apparently unknown in his day, is lauded and revered today as the greatest and most noble father of all time. We don’t love people as much for what they do as for who they are. So it is with your wife and children: they will not love us for our dedication to our occupation, but for our fidelity to our vocation.
For what will your children remember you? For what you produce, or for your person? For provided revenues, or a relationship you provided for? Will they remember you as a great failure or a great father? The word “Father” will be etched in your gravestone. Will you be worthy of such an honorable and noble title?