My journey began twelve years ago with the death of a man.
Some would say that he was a good man, charitable and just. Others a man of mystery, reclusive with the exception of his closest friends. He was a hard-working individual, a man of many hidden talents, but in the end just another human life cast into the void of memory.
That man was my father.
I was sixteen at the time. The world seemed vast and beautiful especially when innocent and naive. Upon seeing it for the first time with eyes of anger and despair, it seemed terrible and bleak. It was a place filled often with regret and self-loathing. But like the changing of seasons, that world came without warning; it was my childhood that ended, but my journey would begin.
For some, the term “journey” defines the accumulation of a vast multitude of experiences; there are hardships, triumphs, victories, defeats – each one merely adding to the eventual growth and maturity of a person. The combination of such moments define history and legacy. The extent of both must withstand the test of time itself.
I no longer remember the tone of his voice nor the appearance of his face. I do not remember the anger or the despair that I felt then, no more than I recall the personality of who he was to me other than an important role and figure.
Do I regret the state of such disrepair in his memory? Yes, I regret it terribly. But in the years that followed, even as I grew older and became familiarized with the world around me, so too did his shadow fade with it. I am my own person now and before my life is over there is still much more to be done. Perhaps one day I might outgrow that shadow itself.
I will not waste my time in contemplation over whether or not one person’s approval will alter the course of who I am as a person. Nor will I waste it in prolonged periods of regret, followed by self-loathing and guilt. Those things will accomplish nothing after all.
Have I since not achieved even more than that in a short period of time? I have learned in place of such emotions a deeper sense of compassion and forgiveness. These are the lessons written in the scars I have both outside and within. I wear my scars as a badge of pride and as testament to who I am as a person.
I honor the dead by living. No more, no less – good or bad, I have shaped my life with the knowing responsibility of an adult, a flag bearer, and a free man. I have much to learn and although each day is a struggle: I have not given up. I do not think it would be more rewarding than to know that I have fought to make the world a better place, filled with love and friendship and compassion, and for that my honor is assured.
It has been years since then and now. Sometimes I still look back at that time and contemplate the course of my journey. Today I look back for the first time in a long time without regret. I have discovered happiness in my life, no matter how temporary, and with it a purpose more meaningful than any other. I know what it means to fight for it and am all the more prepared to do just that.
I face the future now with the optimism of someone that has simply learned to move on. I face it with a sense of hope and a confidence that seemed once impossible. The road ahead is filled with uncertainty. All the more reason to watch from time to time (unless it’s a private moment, of course).
Today I remember my journey.
Today I remember my father.
Rest in peace.
Until we meet again,
Your prodigal son forever.