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Honoring Our Fathers’ Legacies

By Diana Raab June 04, 2023 Family

My father died in 1991. I was 47 years old, and I continue to feel him with me each and every day. It is difficult to lose someone we love. In her poem, “One Art,” Elizabeth Bishop says, “So many things seem filled with the intent to be lost.”

It’s even harder for us baby boomers, who feel as if we are becoming the ones with the guiding light for younger generations. For me, the transition to being the family elder seems to have happened rather quickly. As a result, I view it as a good time to examine my parents’ legacies.

Thinking About My Father

Looking back at my father’s life, I see the transformation of a man who survived the Holocaust and emigrated to the United States and how his life was forever changed. I note how, regardless of the trials and tribulations of war, he managed to always be a positive-thinking man who looked at the glass as half full.

He was always thankful for his life, especially because he lost most of his family in the Dachau camp. I am honored to carry his life force inside of me, along with his people-pleaser personality.

Though some might believe that we should honor loved ones every day, it’s nice to have a special day, like Father’s Day, put aside to celebrate and highlight the influence of fathers and fatherly role models in our lives.

I’ve always found that during special holiday celebrations it’s a good practice to turn to writing about those who we have lost. A few years ago, I wrote the following poem and dedicated it to my father. It’s a reflection of who he was and the parts of him which continue to live inside of me:

To Dad

You had this radiant smile

and handshake to fracture a bone

a giving heart

void of bad intention,

even risking tossing the shirt

off your back to the beggar on the street.

As a child I sat on the borders of

Rockefeller Center as you taught

Paul Newman to skate every Sunday

morning in the place where they called

you ‘Mr. Mark’ because they couldn’t

pronounce your long European last name.

We’d return home for steak and

whipped potatoes and then

vanilla pudding, your favorite meal

before your bedtime snack of

pumpernickel bread with a smear

of cream cheese.

In the morning I eyed you sitting

in the corner diner

as your flattered waitresses

making them giggle with your charm,

as they poured you steamy coffee in

the same seat each day, the same

place I saw grandma for the very last time.

Now more than two decades since your passing,

I miss you more than ever and relish

each moment in which your

spirit encircles me. I still talk to you

each day — you — the only person who

loved me unconditionally.

I shall be forever warmed by you.

Forever in My Heart

For many years after my father’s passing, I sent flowers to his gravesite, thanking him for being such an amazing father and powerful force in my life. As a writer, I also wrote and continue to write him letters or poems telling him how much I miss him and what everyone in our family is doing. I believe this to be a healing ritual, one that I also share with the participants in my writing workshops.

I believe that if you love someone who has passed away, it’s important to honor them in a way which would make them proud and/or happy. On days that remind you of them, it is a nice gesture to do things which they would like to do or see. My dad was very kind, passionate, and generous. He also loved a good home-cooked meal, so to honor him on Father’s Day or his birthday, I serve his favorite meal – like I mention in my poem: meatloaf, mashed potatoes and vanilla pudding.

Being a storyteller is one way to keep the family legacy alive, and that’s why writers have such poignant roles in society. The idea of writing a letter to a loved one shows gratitude and recognition and can be important both for the sender and the recipient.

Even if you are not a writer, consider ways you may honor your father or any other male role model in your life this month, whether or not they are still living. Most importantly, try to keep in touch with your inner voice and feelings. Sending blessings, and I hope you are enjoying your journey in this magical universe.

To read more of my inspirational essays, please visit my website.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you thought about your father’s legacy? If you are/were estranged from your father, has another male figure influenced your life positively? What will you always remember about this person? How will you honor them this month?

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This essay resonated with me. I’m a writer, but not a writer of poetry. Even so, your essay inspired me to write a poem for my father who passed away the day before Father’s Day seven years ago. I loved your thought about honoring our loved ones who have passed by doing the things they loved to do. I found this all very healing. Thank you.


I so enjoyed your article! I love and miss my father as well. Sometimes I still cry even after decades of his death. So many things that I wish I had said. After reading this I plan to write a letter to him on father’s day saying all that I wish I had said. Thank you for such a tender message.

The Author

Diana Raab, PhD, is memoirist, blogger, speaker, and award-winning author of 10 books, and numerous articles. She often writes and speaks on writing for healing and transformation. Her latest books are Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Program for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life and Writing for Bliss: A Companion Journal. Explore her books and Conversation Cards for Meaningful Storytelling.

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