My dad, Tom Heiny, wrote many letters to the editor. Dad died May 5, and now I write one in honor of him.
My dad was my first hero. He could do anything. He took me aside when I was very young and set me on a course of reaching for the best in life. That teaching never deserted me no matter what I faced. Dad stressed character and modeled a method of fairness that I thought was extraordinary. It so impressed me that I carried it into all my personal and professional dealings as a foundational model.
Mom often said Dad only saw the best in people, even to his own disadvantage at times. That was true. Yet to us it spoke of hope and willingness to always look again and carry little regret that you did not give someone a chance.
In these last few years Dad aged with a lot of courage. He faced significant health challenges and limitations. And through it all, almost dying, and nursing home stays, he never failed to tell the world how wonderful Mom is and he never failed to say thank you for the smallest courtesy or assistance. What a graceful way to live in a most challenging time.
Dad cared tremendously about the direction of the country and in the last few years wrote a book called Thoughts to Live By and numerous letters to the editor. He always believed the success of any venture was based on a foundation of personal integrity and character.
Throughout his life, I watched Dad go through many trials, disappointments and successes. There were not always good times. Yet he never stopped reaching for God, and God never stopped taking his hand. I am sure if Dad were writing this letter upon reflection, he would write: Care for one another. There is so much more to life than what too many of us settle for. Never lose your character, your faith, your truth, your ability to laugh, your ability to love. Life never stops being worth it. Keep your hand in God’s and you will never lose your way.
The last few months I saw peace, love, humor and the angel’s presence in Dad’s eyes. And though I could see that he was getting tired, I could also see that he knew where he was going. The best of who I am is because of what Dad taught me. I could ask for no better father.
I also write this letter with a message. Our times together pass all too quickly. Never take your loved ones for granted. Their gifts and blessings in your life are truly irreplaceable. We can pursue many roads, but in the end it is the quality and content of our relationships with one another that matter most.