Each year in June, it happens. Father’s Day approaches, and my sisters, brothers and I start connecting, messaging, and talking about our father. His name was Ismail Ali. He was kind, gracious, humble, honest, hardworking and a very dedicated family man who above all else taught me that family always comes first.
But each year, we all agree how hard it is to describe him and all the positive contributions he has made, not only to us, but to so many people’s lives. In June, without fail, we also get messages from so many friends and family members telling us how our father helped them pull through difficult times and dark moments.
How do you honor someone who is so special and has done so much for others when they are not here anymore? What do we do with the wonderful memories of his legacy? There’s just so much to be said about him I don’t know where to begin.
There is something to be said about a man who was always very gracious.
Life was not so easy for my father. He raised us in Baghdad, Iraq, at a time when it was ruled by a brutal dictator. But that didn’t stop him from giving everything to his family of nine children.
There’s something to be said about a man who had lung cancer, yet never complained about pain.
In 1992 my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. It quickly metastasized to his bones, which can be extremely painful. Yet, if you knew my father during these years, you would not know how much pain he was in because he never talked about it. He was a prideful man, and he accepted his cancer as another obstacle in life. He approached it with the same patience and strength as he did any other problem. He definitely did not have access to the Vicodin or Percocets, that we as a society default to these days. I really don’t think his pain tolerance was out of this world, but instead, his love for us was, and he simply did not want to burden us with his pain.
There’s something to be said about a man who was illiterate, who made sure his nine children graduated college and encouraged them to pursue postgraduate degrees.
My father was never given the opportunity to go to school. But his lack of traditional education, only made way for him to teach himself the skills needed to support our large family. He was adamant about us getting our education, and he stopped at nothing to make it happen. I think the testament to his willingness to learn, inspired my eight brothers and sisters to achieve higher and higher education. We did this not only for ourselves, but also out of love and respect for our father.
There is something to be said about a man who had to support himself and his mother.
Since he was 12 year old, my father took care of his mother, while they struggled to make ends meet in Kurdistan. He had to travel miles each way to work for pennies, traversing the bare mountains of Kurdistan. I remember him telling us stories about the ruthless cold winter nights and the unbearable hot days of summer. His dedication to supporting his mother at all costs, shows how selfless and loyal he was. His life never got easier, but he never stopped putting in the work to make ends meet. Ultimately, I know that his hardship created strength, and he taught that strength to us.
There is something to be said about a man who is a great grandfather.
Not only did my father raise nine children, but he was also there to help raise so many of his grandchildren. None of us recalls ever seeing him angry, even though we know that we gave him a fair share of trouble. But no matter what we did, he was always so happy and proud. When my six brothers would literally trash the house, being teenage boys and my mother would complain to him about their behavior, he would gently say something like this to her, “what do we need a house for if it’s not for them to have fun and trash it in the process?” Now that I’m a parent myself, I find that an impossibility to achieve, yet think of his strength when my teenagers are driving me crazy.
All of these fond memories bring happiness, but also get me choked up. Like I do every Father’s Day, I am making sure that I hug my boys extra tight and ask them to hug their dad extra tight. I know that one day, these comforting hugs that my sons have with their dad, will be terribly missed.
There is something to be said about fathers.
What is something that stands out about your father? Share with me here as a comment, or in a tweet.