Write This Down

This past weekend a significant life event occurred for me and my family. My dad passed away. I’ve written about him often here on this blog and in my books. I have incredible peace about this and let me tell you why.

Technically, Don Fleming is my stepfather. My biological father, John Browne was a Vietnam veteran who passed away from cancer in 1968 and I was four years old. My mother had been a widow for about eight years when Don came into our life. He and my mom connected right away, dated for a while, and then got married in 1976. It was a full-blown 1970’s gala where my dad, my brother and I all wore the obligatory polyester suits. (They were powder blue by the way. Rockin’ the fashion even then !!)

As soon as Don married my mom, we never called him “Dad” because we were pre-teen knuckleheads. However, he didn’t push back and handled it with grace as he did everything in life. As my brother and I got older, we realized how amazing he was and “Dad” replaced “Don” naturally. My father was an incredible role model of so many attributes that define my life now. I mentioned how he showed grace because he was a man of faith. He would never press this upon others, but he also was very self-assured of who he was. He also was the model husband. He was openly affectionate with my mom and would make sure to give her a kiss when he left for work and when he returned. He never missed a day – ever.

He always emphasized that my brother and I should be “couth” (a word that isn’t used anymore) when it came to respecting our mother and other adults. He expected us to do our share around the house, and he is responsible for our work ethic because of how he modeled it professionally and personally. My dad was never strict, but he was direct and intentional. He expected accountability from us which he always defined as following through on what we had committed to. He came to every. single. event my brother and I were involved in at school. He was supportive, proud, and kept us grounded to be thankful for any honor we received.

As we all grew older together and my brother and I went off to college, we saw my dad less and less because his goal was for us to get on our feet and provide for ourselves. In fact, the day I graduated from high school, Dad hugged me outside the school, told me he loved me and asked when I was leaving. True story. This transition happens to most families, so as life continued, we’d see each other less and less. As my brother and I started families of our own, those gaps naturally grew longer and longer.

Every time I’d visit Dad in Ada, at my house in Cincinnati or at family events all over the Midwest, he’d make sure to share his thoughts and opinions on life. He would grab your attention by saying, “Write this down . . .” Then he’d share a quote he had memorized, a quip or quick story and most assuredly a joke or two. He wanted me to remember these points because he knew they had an impact, reach and meaning. It became so common that I’d hear him pause, raise his hand and I’d jump in and say, “I know. ‘Write this down . . .”

I didn’t realize how ingrained this short phrase had become in my life, but even now, when I give a presentation at a conference I will find myself pausing, looking out to the audience, and say “Write this down . . .”

I am grateful for this man who came into my life 44 years ago. The man who married and loved my mother so incredibly deep and made me who I am today as a husband, father, friend, man of faith, and a professional. Without my Dad, I wouldn’t have had the model of grace, respect and humor that also make me who I am.

I know that as I write this, that not everyone has a great relationship with their parents and/or family. I do not take this for granted or feel that my example is greater than anyone else’s experience. I have learned from both my mother and father to be others-focused and value every person for who they are and where they come from. If I can ever be someone to confide in, converse with, weep with or laugh with, I am here for you. That is a fact and not an idle aspiration.

So, as I close I want to share something that Dad told me to write down. It’s from the poem Desiderata which was one of his absolute go to quotes.

47 thoughts on “Write This Down”

  1. ?
    I loved him, too. He watched over me as he did others. He was direct and funny and loved my children. He loved your Mother and always held her hand. I loved that. He was a man of faith most of all. I loved being in Bible studies with him. I will greatly miss him and am sorry for your loss. ❤️

  2. Fantastic tribute, Steve. It’s a great blessing to have a dad to shape from little things to the big stuff. Your love and learnings from him are visible. May his soul rest in peace. I am writing down the quote from the poem Desiderata. I am sending you and your loved ones prayer, strength, and comfort.

  3. The Desiderata was also one of my late father’s favourites. Sometimes the smallest things parents say can have the biggest and longest-term impacts.

    My father would always ensure that my two sisters and I always treated others in the same way that we would expect they treated us. He also taught us a love for books. Both things have served me well as a leader, as a publisher and most importantly as a father.

    To read together is one of the best things I’ve done with my own children, prompting sharing, discussion and laughter before bedtime (I did so until they were 13, 14 and 15, by which stage I tired long before they did at bedtime!)

    To write things down is also a lovely way not only to record and remember key points along life’s journey, but also to help share them with others.

    So go placidly…and write it down.

  4. Steve, this is so touching. I am incredibly sorry for your loss. He sounds like he was a wonderful man.

  5. Sounds like your father realized he had a purpose and that was for you to be in a place in your life to share his beliefs and intentional living with others so they can fulfill their purpose! I’m sorry he’s gone but thankful you were blessed to be called his son. ❤

  6. Perfectly, perfectly beautiful ❤️ It could not have been “written down” better ❤️

  7. Roomie,
    Such a fine tribute to your Dad!
    Prayers to your family and as you noted, “I’m always here for you my friend”!

  8. I love reading everything you write — you are a solid guy. I am truly sorry for your loss. It sounds like your dad was awesome!

  9. Steve, thanks for a great post and an encouraging story. I’m sorry for your loss.

  10. Steve – Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Sorry for your loss. It is obvious how much your Dad meant to you. What a fine tribute you have written — a life well-lived! Write this down – his spirit lives on in you and in all the lives you have touched and will touch, my friend. Peace to you and love and prayers to you and your family.

  11. What a loving and wise man! I remember “couth!” It meets a very important need when someone loves our remaining parent. And for sure he took you as his own without looking back. I’m so glad I read this post today. Thanks for taking the time to write it and having the heart to share it. I’m sorry for your loss and I’m happy to know that you are taking such richness from your memories. I know you can feel what Don/your Dad built into you.

  12. My sympathy to you and your family. Your writings are a wonderful celebration of his life and your relationship with him. Wonderful to have all of those memories . . . and all of those taken notes . . . to hold dear.

  13. Steve, I am sorry for your loss. As a recipient of your teachings through blogs, emails and books I’m grateful that he instilled a wonderful work ethic in your life.

  14. So sorry to hear this, Steve. Always tough to lose a parent. Your post, as usual, provides some “Write this down” for me.

  15. My condolences to you and your family Steve. I never had a father in my life, so I totally appreciate how you cherish, love and respect this man who became your father and his influence on the man you have become. From this tribute to him, I can totally see the blessings he brought to your life. This is a wonderful tribute and thank you for sharing.

  16. So sorry for your loss Steve. Thank you for sharing your touching tribute with all of us, your dad can be proud of who you are by the number of people you impact, support and touch on a daily basis.

  17. My sympathies are with you and your family. The quote you shared is beautiful. To quote my favorite piece at this time — “Do not stand at my grave and cry, I am not there, I did not die.” Those we love live on as we honor them by passing on all that they have taught us.

  18. Steve- How blessed you are to have had a Dad you can speak so highly of, and appreciate all the lessons in life he taught you. You are right- he raised you to be a great person. “Write this down”: A father is neither an anchor to hold us back, nor a sail to take us there, but a guiding light whose love shows us the way.

  19. Your words are so intentional and brave, Steve. I know I speak for many in saying that we lend you & your family our #virtual support during this time of reflection. Condolences. #bereavementsupport #family

  20. What a touching tribute to your Dad, Steve. Here’s to his one-man campaign to keep it “couth,” and all the other lessons he imparted.

  21. I am very sorry to hear about your loss. My sympathies go out to you and your family. Don sounds like an amazing human being who had life all figured out. It is nice to have people like that in life and I can now see that he passed that trait onto you. You have said “Write this down…” plenty of times in my experience. I can now see how much he meant to you.

    So thankful to read about Don in this and get to learn more about your roots. Although I cannot imagine what losing a father is like, I hope you continue to stay strong and carry on with Don’s spirit. I am glad you made peace with this but I imagine it is still a hard emotion to process.

    Take care my friend and if you ever need a shoulder to lean on know that I am here for you!

  22. So sorry for your loss! Thank you for all you do every day to positively influence HR!

  23. What a beautiful tribute! I’m sure his legacy will live on affecting many generations. Thanks for sharing. My condolences to you and your family. Virtual (((HUGS))) as well.

  24. I was just reading about him in your book. The way you spoke of him sounded endearing and sincerely out of pure love. My condolences for your immense loss.

  25. This is beautiful and just plain “you” to handle this with such grace. I’m sorry for your loss. All the best to you and your family. He sounds like a truly great man.

  26. This is beautiful and just plain “you” to handle this with such grace. I’m sorry for your loss. All the best to you and your family. He sounds like a truly great man. Thanks for posting this.

  27. What a wonderful role model you had in your Dad. Your story is similar to my husband whose biological father died when he was just 2 yrs old and his mother remarried to a wonderful man several years later. God bless your grieving time and of course, you will be back to your funny quotes and humor soon, but for now, just take time to grieve and reflect on how blessed you are to have had such an earthly father.

  28. I am so sorry for your loss, Steve. He will live on through you, so continue to share him with the world. You and your family are in my thoughts.

  29. What a beautiful tribute. I am thankful he was so invested in your life. I am sorry for your loss, but take hope you will see him again with Jesus later on and forever after.

  30. I’m so sorry for your loss! You honored him by writing this blog and sharing the impact he’s had on your life. Great tribute! My thoughts and prayers to you and your family.

  31. My deepest condolences and sympathies to you and your family. Reading your post reminds me of how important family and leadership in one’s family is and how it can impact one’s life. Your father certainly provided you with knowledge, guidance, and influence that shaped you and has had a tremendous impact. I will keep you and your family in my way thoughts during this challenging time.

  32. Prayers to you and your family, Steve. Thank you for sharing your Dad with us. What a gift he was, and I’m happy you have found peace in all of those cherished memories.

  33. Steve, Thanks for sharing. We should never take anyone for granted and learn from the lessons they may or may not know they are teaching all of us. Sorry for your loss.

  34. I’m so sorry for your loss Steve. Thinking of you and I’m so in awe of your ability to be open and eloquently share your experience with the world.

  35. I read every word and am now bawling. This explains why you are the incredible human that you are. You do your parents a great service, daily.

    May your father travel well and may time and all the lessons he shared, make his absence in this world a little less sad in this world. Candle lit for Don.

  36. Dear Steve, please accept my sincerest condolences on your Dad’s passing. His incredible legacy lives on in the character he helped shape in you, in the words that you have written and in the hearts of all who loved him. Continue to find comfort and joy in all the precious memories he left you. Write this down: Go placidly… ???

  37. I lost my father last year. It’s a difficult thing to deal with. My condolences to you.

    That poem is so powerful. It saved my life when I was a teenager. It told me the rules to life.

    Be kind to yourself. Best wishes.

  38. Thank you for sharing a bit of your life and your father with us. Just from your words, I can tell how big of an impact he had on you, his ability to shape others and impart powerful lessons onto them. I am so sorry for your loss, and I will be keeping you and your family in my thoughts. I have written down this poem you have shared because it is an important reminder to seek peace and not be afraid of silence.

  39. Steve, so much inspiration here from you and your Dad. Sending hugs and prayers to you and your family. Your story is very touching and it is easy to see why you are at peace. He definitely led the way.

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