Papa. It is what I have called you all my life. A term that at once refers to you with affection, and yet carries so much weight for me. It allows me to share a special bond with you. It allows me to be your daughter in a warm and tender way, and yet preserves the respect that I have for you, a value treasured by us, both.
Papa. Your smile is always there, comforting, gentle, an opener to every conversation. Now that I am older, I appreciate, so profoundly, how a smile, your smile, defused so many moments of tension, allowed the nub of the issue to be discussed with greater clarity, calmness. And now the lesson learnt, I am learning to greet the world with a smile, with openness, with a radiance that touches another soul and draws them into the warmth.
Papa. Your stillness as you listen, to the profound, to the mundane, to the superficial. Seeking to understand first, before making a move, before charting a path. Another lesson for me, that now truly resonates with me. That seems so obvious now. We are so many of us in this world, all of us important, all of us here for a reason. Yet often, we fail to grasp the message, to understand what the other person meant. I have watched you interact with so many, young, old, important, ordinary, obnoxious, respectful, the gamut of what the human experience has to offer. And through it all, because of your ability to listen, because of your ability to focus on the other, you navigate, seemingly effortlessly, through interactions that I find unbearable.
Papa. You have taught me to build, not to break down. I see you with my sons, and the emotion wells up in my heart. You speak encouragement. You speak appreciation. From the first time you met them, you have conveyed to them how important they are, what wondrous people they are. You recognise them as that, people who have a critical and positive role to play in life. Your interaction with them is always with a gentleness and dignity that, even for a child, leaves them with a sense that they are called to more.
Papa. You have been my greatest teacher. You have taught me through your deeds, by the way your own life has panned out. Set high standards and achieve them, but don’t let your success result in arrogance and conceit. In all you endeavour to do, do with excellence and a sense of service. To serve is to accept humility, to put yourself in another’s shoes, and therefore to appreciate the journey that the other has trodden.
I am blessed to have had a life touched and enriched by a soul like yours. I have been blessed to have one whose life I wanted to emulate, to aspire to. I have been blessed to see the best that an imperfect human condition has to offer. And the baton is now passed, and I too must also become an inspiration to another.