By now you might have already seen the viral obituary that a son published in Jacksonville, FL earlier this summer. “Lawrence H Pfaff Sr. was born in Belmont, NY, on April 16, 1941,” it reads. “He passed away on June 27, 2022, living a long life, much longer than he deserved.” The searing obituary goes on to describe a philanderer, a liar, a flake, a disgraced cop, a narcissist, an abusive drunk, and an absentee father.
If you’re reading this email–which is to say, actively trying to be a better parent–chances are none of those attributes are true about you. Or at least, one hopes not all of them are true at the same time. But there are two lines that may strike close to home, that serve as instructions to all of us.
The first: “His love was abundant when it came to himself, but for his children it was limited.” Naturally, we all have some selfish tendencies. But no parent can be self-absorbed. That is a luxury for single people. We all have pain, we all have needs, we all have hopes and dreams. You cannot deny or ignore these things. You also cannot put them first. You have already signed something else up for that spot: Your children.
The last line, though, echoes a critical distinction we have spoken about many times here. It is the epitaph of a truly failed parent: “Lawrence, Sr. can be remembered for being a father to many, and a dad to none.” None of us are perfect. None of us will get life or parenting exactly right. But we must–no excuses, none–do better than this man.
May he rest in peace he does not deserve. May his example warn us all, so that in death he may finally help someone other than himself.