Aimee Copeland is a 24-year-old from Georgia who’s in the news because of a rare flesh-eating disease which she contracted after cutting her leg in a zip-lining accident earlier this month. Despite losing her leg, both hands and her other foot, she has shown tremendous courage. Her story was all over the Internet for a few days.
My heart also goes out to her father, who is posting regular updates on his Facebook page. Andy Copeland wrote about his reaction when his daughter received the news from doctors about the necessary amputations. He wrote, “I wasn’t crying because Aimee was going to lose her hands and foot, I was crying because in all my 53 years of existence, I have never seen such a strong display of courage. I was crying because I am a proud father of an incredibly courageous young lady.”
During this second week of honoring everyday heroes as we look forward to Father’s Day, I have to mention dads like Andy who demonstrate the true heart of fatherhood. They face challenges that most of us can barely imagine, and yet they persevere and serve their families with selflessness and unwavering dedication.
That description also fits Rolf, another inspiring example of a father who continues to lead his family in the face of uncertainty. Rolf and his wife have four children, and he has a father’s heart for all of them. The older three are healthy and thriving and keeping them busy. The fourth one, Rudy, is thriving in his own way, but has a rare heart condition that continues to threaten his life. He wasn’t supposed to live as long as he has, so Rolf truly doesn’t know what tomorrow will bring for his son.
Each day, caring for Rudy involves many extra procedures he and his wife have had to learn, with regular trips to various specialists mixed in. It’s physically draining, a financial burden … and then when things slow down, there are emotional struggles I can’t claim to understand.
I can only imagine how it must feel to be willing to do anything for your child, even give up your own life, but surrender to the fact that ultimately his or her fate is out of your control.
Dads, the heart of fathering really comes out when you’re facing something difficult like this.
So as we look forward to Father’s Day, I want to honor Rolf and many other dads who are in a similar situation. Maybe you have a child with cancer or some other chronic illness. Maybe your child has special needs or a disability that makes life very difficult. Maybe your child’s challenges are emotional, or you’re walking the long journey of loving a “prodigal” child through a string of destructive decisions. Or maybe you’re a non-custodial dad, and your heartache is a result of not being able to see the children you love so much because of a divorce and related legal matters.
Sometimes Championship Fathering comes with a sense of helplessness—and I suppose all dads face some degree of uncertainty. But no matter what your situation, I want to encourage you today. Follow the examples of Rolf and other dads who persevere through fathering trials, and keep doing all you can for your children.
The test of a great dad is not in your area of comfort; it’s how you function when your child isn’t doing well—when crises hit or other “stuff” happens. It may seem overwhelming at times, but don’t lose heart.
Fatherhood is a high calling, and you’re up to it! Your family needs you to be courageous no matter what might come your way.
Please be encouraged by these Action Points.
● Remember, dad, your modeling is huge. Through all the ups and downs, your kids are watching you. So, maintain your poise and carry yourself with dignity through the challenges. Lead your family in a way that helps them come together and rely on each other.
● Do you know a family facing incredible challenges because of illness, a disability, or some other issue? Brainstorm with your children about ways you can help them, even for an afternoon or a day.
● Whenever you encounter some tragedy in the news or anywhere else, talk about it with your children and look for something good—people who helped, or ways people were challenged to grow.
● I believe anything worth its salt is going to be difficult, so don’t be surprised when life brings some challenges. Raising faithful and responsible kids is worth the heartache.
● How have you grown stronger, or what insights have you gained because of hard things you’ve gone through as a father? Share those insights with another dad you know—in person, in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.
Carey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers who to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who loves, coaches, mentors, and inspires my children.