Many years ago, I was awoken by the incessant ringing of my wife’s mobile phone. It was 12.30 am, so we knew something was wrong. The message was frightening. Steve Stylianou, a good friend and father of three, had collapsed with a suspected heart attack and was rushed to hospital. The request was simple – just pray!
We mumbled our prayers as you do when you have been woken from a deep sleep and you are in a state of shock. Within half an hour the phone rang again with the news we had been praying against. Steve was gone.
The paramedics had been unable to revive him. We tossed and turned as we tried to go back to sleep. In the morning it seemed that it must have all been a bad dream. But it was true, too true, and the truth sometimes hurts.
We broke the news to our children, who were very close to Steve’s children. Over the next couple of days, we each made our way over to visit the family. The house was packed full of people for days on end.
It was so very sad, but good to be there as we all cried together. Tears have a healing power of their own and it is important not to hold them back. Tears seemed the only way to express the grief at the loss of their dad and my friend.
As we hugged, I started to think about the grief that comes with the loss of a father, and the collective grief of our fatherless society. Those of us who have grown up fatherless may not grieve when our dad dies, but grief comes early, and is expressed in a myriad of ways: drug and alcohol abuse, criminal activity, sexual confusion, self-harm and even suicide are just a few signs of the grief that is engulfing our society.
The grief that comes with the loss of a good father is very deep, but in some ways, it brings a healing to the soul — but is still painful nevertheless.
Steve Stylianou was a man of few words, but he meant every word he said. Steve’s word was his bond. A champion athlete, even at 57, so his death came as a great shock to us all. He loved his wife and he loved his family. Steve was a man amongst men.
How do I know? Not only was Steve a great friend, he also completed our Good to Great Fatherhood Course. Only the good dads attempt it, and only the best complete it. However, the best way to find out what a man was really like is to go to his funeral. A man’s children always tell the truth.
Seven hundred and fifty-five people turned up to Steve’s funeral. It was standing room only. Steve’s three children, his wife and his five siblings each spoke about him.
Steve’s daughter read this letter her father had written to her, inspired by the letter-writing component of the Good to Great Fathering Course. There was not a dry eye in the church as she read it to the standing-room-only crowd, and for good reason.
My mouth does not say enough of what is in my heart, so I am writing this to you.
It is not easy. I have had this on my heart for a while. So here it is.
As a Father I have seen you grow from a baby into a woman. The years go so fast, and it seems like you will be leaving the nest on another journey in life soon. I want to say I love you and your brothers and mum so much.
I have seen your trials and victories; you are like me, you do things the hard way, but I think God uses that to instill perseverance in us. I say sorry for not being the support in your relationships over the years.
You need to know Mum is my support, listen to her pearls. Sometimes you think you have got it as a father, but it can change the next day. But I realise fatherhood is not a short race but a long one, so I will be there for you till the end of the race.
You wrote once about things you don’t know about me, you wrote, “I know what you do Dad, but I know little about who you are.” Basically, what you see is what you get. I don’t think I am too complicated. Stick me under a mango tree or near a duck pond. I enjoy the simple things in life.
You wanted to know what my favourite colour was. It’s red. When I first met your mother, she had a red flower in her hair. God must have set that up…
Fulfilment in life does not come through money, relationships etc. It comes in the Godhead. May God bless you abundantly in all the things you do in life
Your loving Dad,
Steve’s youngest son had the following to say about his Dad:
My dad was many different things to many different people. A mate, a teammate, a friend, a mentor, a brother, a husband, but I had the privilege of calling him my Dad.
Dad was a simple man. He didn’t make things harder than what they where and definitely didn’t over-complicate things. He was a man who knew how to get the job done and do it well. Dad was a man of his word, if he said he was going to be or do something or be somewhere, you could guarantee he would be good for it…
He wasn’t one of those guys in the limelight or the centre of attention, he just went about his life in a quiet way. However, I believe the legacy that he will leave behind will impact many people and ultimately eternity…
My relationship with Dad and his life has inspired me to live mine better. I am not going to try to mimic Dad’s life and be him, but instead use his life as inspiration and become the man God wants me to be. I know that’s what Dad would want for me.
Live your life so that your children won’t have to lie about you at your funeral.
Write a letter to your children, while you are still alive. Your life and your words will live beyond the next generation.
Yours for the Next Generation,