The Greatest Way to Honor Your Parents

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What do you do, to honor the people that raised you?

It could be said that each day is a reflection of your parent’s legacy. Both the good, and the bad. The actions that you take often serve as a reminder of how you grew up.

You embrace it. Or you reject it. Ultimately, you create your own path.

For me, honoring my parents has been something that I have often considered.  Especially in the last few months.

In January, my mother passed away, after a two-year battle with a rare form of cancer. I feel her loss every day (whether I want to or not). Like that angel on your shoulder, I think of her as I go about the business of life.

I wonder: do I honor her memory?

Does my life reflect on who she was, and who she helped me to be?

And, are we who we are because of how we were brought up – – or in spite of it?

It hasn’t been especially easily for my dad, my sister and my brother, but we manage through.

The Westfall Family

L to R: My brother, sister, dad and me

I grew up in a happy home, raised in the Midwest, and relatively free from the slings and arrows that can sometimes characterize family life.

But something happened to me recently that made me really appreciate my parents, even more. Something…unexpected.

My dad reached out to me. He let me know that he was going to receive a lifetime achievement award from his university. In fact, it was the university’s highest honor, recognizing former student athletes (my dad kicked and punted, and was a backup quarterback, in the Big 10 in the early sixties). A lifelong volunteer, and past president of several key alumni organizations, his school was honoring him for his accomplishments both on and off the field.

I was filled with pride for my dad, on more than one level.

I know that recognition for a job well done can often be elusive.
Even non-existent.

But today was different. My dad was being recognized; the honor was well-deserved.

And then, the really amazing thing happened:

He asked for my help.

So, this guy – who taught me how to shave, how to drive, and (even) how to talk to girls – felt that I could help him. How?

He had to deliver an acceptance speech.

He needed my help.

We worked together on this project. I listened. I gathered his thoughts, and added a few of my own.

And, I helped him to tell his story – a story that honored the memory of my mother, and reflected a humble pride of accomplishment. For me, I was able to turn what I do for a living into something more than a profession. This speech was special. This event mattered more than any pitch or presentation, because it honored someone who has meant so much to me.

To honor your parents is to help them. We all do what we can, every day, to remember those who have gone on before. Sometimes help means hospitals, and hard choices. But for me, giving your personal talents is the greatest gift of all.

A gift that honors those who have given us so much.

Because, for all of us: the time comes when the people that fed us, clothed us, and walked us to school will need our help.

The past makes us all who we are. I’m just glad that I had the opportunity to create a little present, with my dad, at a very special time.

And, to watch the entire room come to its feet when he finished his speech – well, that wasn’t too bad either.

Read Phil Westfall’s Clevenger Award Speech here.

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