Last night one of the most influential people in my life passed away. It was my father; he was 93, and he was an absolutely incredible man — one of those once-in-a-century-type people. (Eugene Stevenson died Nov. 5 at La Salle Veterans Home)
To his last days, he still charmed those to whom he talked, even when his dementia clouded the memory of who they were from his mind.
I don’t want to bore you with my complete admiration of who he was. I do want to reveal some of his lessons to me. He taught me the most important lesson you should learn about commitment was not keeping it; this was absolute, but when and how to make it in the first place.
If one makes the right commitment, maintaining it is easy. Once you commit, you keep it no matter how high the cost. That is why making it is more important than keeping it. It is in the making that you set the stage for keeping.
He taught me that life was not meant to be fair or just, but there is still a joy to be found. Finding joy in life requires you to look past the pain and disappointment to see the learning and the progress. Falling and failing were part of the process and didn’t define who you are.
Work was a lifelong endeavor. Finding your passion was critical for sustaining this effort. Passion changed work into joy. It was something in which you took pride. You cannot sustain satisfaction in an endeavor without a passion for it.
I learned that the most crucial thing in life is love. He was not a man to hug or kiss or even say I love you. He was a man who showed itand lived it every day. Actions were the foundation of character, not words. For this man married to my mother for 72 years, I learned a love that was profound and indescribable. That love brings me great pain today. He was my rock and my castle on a hill; he was all thatI hoped to be. He made me proud to be his son.
He rode the rails as a migrant worker at 15. He lied about his age and went to war at 17. Without a high school diploma, he passed his college boards and soon graduated a civil engineer. Throughout college, he studied, worked full time as a bartender at night, and supported three kids and a wife — all of this he did with a sense of passion, purpose, and obligation.
He will be greatly missed by me.
Tomme Stevenson lives in Georgia