Today, would have been my father’s 49th Birthday. 84 days ago, my father died from a herniated bowel, that caused septic shock and filled his body with toxins. My father’s death holds quite a larger and looming hole in my mind and heart, as I am sure it does for many. But for me, the binds that make this Son miss his Father are more than maybe most have. For my relationship with my father does not begin necessarily at my birth in my mind, it really began on June 24th, 2009 when I walked away from a terrifying accident with no visible injuries. On that day, I encountered a future on the path I was on, that paralyzed my heart and to this young man, required me to contemplate how I lived my life. On that day, the first person I called was my father, he was the one who picked me up from the accident, who took me home from it, he was the one who listened to my awakened and frightened mind, and bore on himself all the pressures from this incident emotionally for me.
As 2009 became 2010, I started having issues in school and in my self-esteem, mostly induced by my mind’s shaking up that had occurred from the accident. I had gone from being a mostly scientific mind, to a mind filled with words, hopes, and dreams, and intolerance for lab work. As someone who was a prospective Biochemistry major, the accident killed any hope of graduating on-time and in Chemistry at all. But even at my worst moments, and when I was stumbling in the dark, confused as to my purpose in life, my father was there to listen and hear me out. He placed himself between my mother and I, when at my worst, I was lashing out at everyone. I wasn’t bitter or angry, I was just trying to make sense of reality, but I was doing it a manner that was self-destructive. But my Father persevered through my worst moments, and held me despite my words and harshness.
By 2012, I had accepted the path I was on. I was uncomfortable with politics, I was in denial that I could be of any worth to God or country. But my dad was consistently encouraging me and talking with me. He kept the pressure on me when my own mind tried to fail me. So when in 2012, he suffered a heart scare that made mom and I contemplate his passing, I sought to make up for all the love he had shown me. I wasn’t the best son, and I was afraid of being in that hospital in case he passed, but I did my best to make sure he never thought I was worried. And when I contemplated staying home that year to take care of him, he told me to go back to college. Even at his worst moment, he was pressuring me to continue on this journey I needed to be on. I think everyone who truly knew my father, they would see this attribute in him, that of being the selfless encourager.
So when my father last year suffered a stroke, for the first time in my life, I was no longer the one depending on my father for words and ideas. My father was suddenly turning to me for politics, religion, and emotional release. This bond had transcended father and son because of medical issues, and now I was being tested to see if I could bear my father’s burden for him. In many ways and times, I heard my father out and did for him what he once did for me: I would tell him to keep his friends who frustrated him, to keep his rivals who opposed and insulted him, to keep his enemies who attacked and criticized him. As a son, I never thought once about what was happening, I realized that my father and I had switched roles, but I never thought it wrong. I was simply giving him what he had done for 6 years for me. It was harrowing at times because I knew in many ways it was the STROKE talking, not him. But for this young man, knowing that a singular condition could so vastly and harshly change a man was terrifying. I started seeing my own journey from my car accident in the steps my father was taking. I made deliberate efforts, along with mom, to give my dad his mind the STROKE tried to deny him. And we were winning in some ways, and the culmination of that was building to my first TV experience.
Dad firmly believed I was learning how to explain politics and religion in ways that were reliable, understandable, and clear. He was at times fighting my words and ideas, but he was fully in belief that my political mind was what God had intended all along, and that the journey of humility that the car accident gave me was necessary for my mind to be flexible, durable, and reliably conservative. So when I look back at 84 days ago and realize that I went from being on TV talking politics to talking to my unconscious, never-to-wake father, I don’t think anything could describe my life quite like a movie could. I am not in denial of my reality, but how could I not feel it so surreal. I had the local peak of my life, and then I was at the lowest point in my life.
I have broken bones, buried family and friends, I have lost pets and been in accidents that terrified me, but nothing quite is as awful to me as December 12th. So now, on March 5th, I stare in my room, looking at my white walls of my apartment, and wonder what exactly I am still suppose to think? How exactly am I EVER suppose to feel any silver lining can come from this? I can justify that my dad died the “best” death he could, but HE STILL DIED. I CAN NEVER FEEL JOY FROM THAT. I do not weep for his soul, he was a righteous man. BUT HE STILL HAS LEFT THIS WORLD, from where shall I seek wisdom as a young man, and from where shall I pull respect when I need a self-esteem boost? HOW AS A MAN SHALL I WALK WHEN THE MAN WHO LITERALLY PULLED ME UP IN THIS WORLD IS GONE?
Clearly it cannot end here, that is ABSOLUTELY not what Donald McKinney would have tolerated…
While I may lack the maturity of my father, and the courage of my father, the dauntless, ever-present faith of my father, I have one quality that made my father constantly proud. I have my determination, I have never given up on my God, given up on my ideas, my journeys, even in college, I continued to try and take Chemistry courses, and science classes despite no longer being a Chemistry Major. I HATE TO DIE LIKE THIS, SO I WON’T and I know Donald McKinney, my father, would be proud of that. That is why even in my darkest hour, in my own life, in my family’s life, in my country’s life, in this world’s life, I cannot give up. I cannot be worn down and depressed. If I start to believe that something is impossible, that means I am giving up. If there is one thing that I am most proud of my dad doing for me in raising me, besides scolding me when I was wrong and raising me up when I was right, it would be the fact he constantly told me, “Give them what they ask of you, what they want, BUT never give them yourself, your ideals, never give them what you are. Always hold that, they can take your grades, and your words, but they cannot take you.” My father constantly taught me patience, to my frustration and later, my necessity.
My dad was belligerent to many, but I am far worst. Many will say I have diplomacy and kindness my father lacked, I will point out that my father was much more tolerant man than I. My father may have been savage at times, but he believed firmly in the principles of New Rome, of America that is. My father firmly believed in giving me every opportunity he could give me, but letting me struggle to succeed at that opportunity on my own. My father supported me in Boy Scouts, but I earned my Eagle. My dad supported my college endeavors, but it was I who convinced the Institute of World Politics to gamble on me, despite poor grades. My father was there to walk with me at graduation, to meet my professors, and meet my friends, but it was I who was proud to showcase the man who made me literally everything I am. Not just physically or mentally, but emotionally and spiritually my father made sure I was never able to have my faith shaken, to be brought down by the truths of this world, not because of blind belief, but because of reasoning he gave me, of the logic he taught me that was central to existence, and the tolerance he lived with each of his Christian and non-Christian friends.
If there is a gift I could give my father, it would be to show him daily that his son hasn’t failed yet. That the country he loved is still remaining, and the church he gave so much for continues to shine a light in this dark world.
I hope everyday this remains true. Some days, politics makes it hard, sometimes we have terrifying politicians and candidates who absolutely ruin good order and civility. But my father would not buy an excuse to change who we are simply because of one man or monster. Some days this country does REALLY stupid things, because we have REALLY stupid people in charge. Some days people in the church irritate us, or frustrate us, but in all these things, I persevere like my father did because none of those things are enough to cause me stumble. There are all inevitably little things, in a little world, in a little bit of time, involving a little amount of people, and will fade away. What matters is that each day you breathe, you lived a life you loved and sleep that night knowing you lived it to the fullest.
Dad was never a man to let the little details of life keep him down. Even at his most angry or sad, he could not remain so for long because the joy God had given him was so great, it shrank all his concerns and worries into nothing. Whether it was my job search, or finances, or the election, Dad was determined to appreciate the life God had given him. Even if his last few months were frustrating and hard on him, he didn’t complain like he could and like some would and do. He smiled at us, He loved us, and He passed on, affecting each of us who knew him.
I decided in March 2011, after talking with my dad on his birthday, to change my Major to Political Science. For most of my time in political studies, I have and did seek my father to look at what I did and be proud. And for the rest of my life, I will seek to have my father, in rest and in peace, be able to look at what I do and be proud of what I have become. I rely on everyone around me to hold me to the burden that my father held me to: To live humbly, to walk closely with YOUR God; to love kindly and open all your fellow man; to treat respectfully and honestly all humanity. My father loved this movie and this speech, and I think it fully holds everything my dad stood for.
We will not go quietly into that good night, we will not vanish without a fight, we are going to live on, we are going to survive. It’s not just what Dad would want, it’s what he would have done, and it’s what we should and need to do. My soul was on fire long before December 12th, thanks to my father. But from that Horrid day on, my soul burns a little brighter and little hotter, to compensate for the dimming that occurred from not the perfect man, but the best man in the world passing away. There’s a few songs here, songs that dad I both appreciated, that I feel convey what words are not always able to convey about my father. Whether it is his raw politics or his open mind, his kind soul and his loving heart, music says what words I am unable or properly can say.