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He wakes each morning before dawn leaving the house for a long day’s labor but not before he kisses his wife and kids goodbye. He works and he works hard. He does this for his family. He does this to provide. He does this to set an unspoken example that a man must act with responsibility.

He’s tired but he is kind to his family regardless of his fatigue. He sits at the dinner table in wonder of what he has created, full of humble gratitude for the blessing of his clan. Every night he prays for his kids. He hopes that their lives are filled with bounty and grace and the love of the Lord. He feels his own life has been blessed beyond measure but he can’t help but want more for his children. His love is this strong. His love is abiding and steadfast.

Now in the twilight of his years, his kids are grown, scattered here and there. They have families of their own. He knows and understands that they are busy living their lives. He does not feel slighted by their absence, instead he beams with pride because he knows his prayers have been answered. His kids are thriving beyond his wildest dreams. He knows his work is done. He can rest.

Another man makes different choices. He too rises for work early but he does not kiss his wife and kids goodbye and instead of coming home for dinner, he doesn’t come back at all. He leaves his family. He feels suffocated in their presence. He married too young and drinks too much.

This man is not kind to his family. He puts whisky and women before his obligations and eventually those obligations, primarily his children because he is divorced now, melt away. He is free or he tells himself that he is, despite the constant sore ache deep within his heart.

He travels the world for work and spends his money as fast as he makes it, living the party life. He does not check on his children, let alone pray for their well being. This man has made choices that are irrevocable. His life is adventurous but he is damaged, and at the core of his being he knows he has failed in a spectacular way. He cannot rest for when he tries, he finds himself consumed by the depths of self loathing that no man should suffer. All his best efforts to dodge the pain only end up feeding his unspoken sorrow.

Despite his failings, his children have grown and they too thrive in their own odd ways. He has not ruined them because they have learned, without any help from him or maybe perhaps because of him, the power of forgiveness. They forgive him and sadly have learned to expect nothing from him. It is they who have actually freed him, giving him a gift beyond measure…a gift he can’t help but squander.

Two fathers…one leaves a legacy and the other a tragedy.