I want to tell you about a man I once knew, who I’ll call Frank.
Frank was the quintessential mountain man. He mostly kept to himself, and was generally suspicious of other people. But as he warmed up to me, I found him to be a kind and generous man, quick with a joke and a smile. He was in his 60’s, but the sparkle behind his eyes made him seem much more lively and spry than his age would suggest. He called me “baby doll,” which always felt exactly like the term of endearment it was meant to be. I found him to be an all-around good guy.
Frank had not been successful in marriage, but he had several adult children with whom he remained close. He loved to spoil them, and there was nothing that good ol’ Dad wouldn’t take care of.
But one day, one of Frank’s sons decided to bring a fraudulent lawsuit against a company, claiming he had an accident for which they were responsible. Without any prior discussion, he involved his father in the case, saying Frank had witnessed the phony accident. By the time Frank found out what was happening, he was inextricably stuck in the case and could not avoid testifying.
When Frank got on the stand, he told the truth. He couldn’t help it – that’s just who he was. He knew that his honesty would likely cost him his son, but it was a chance he had to take. Frank was simply compelled to do the right thing.
A few months later, Frank’s daughter unexpectedly died. He was completely heartbroken. Of all his children, she was the one who simply loved him, never expecting anything but for him to love her in return. At her funeral, I discovered just how devastating Frank’s loss really was.
As the family filed down the center aisle into the chapel, I couldn’t spot Frank. After everyone was seated, I finally noticed him slip in inconspicuously through a side door and take a seat several rows back from the rest of the family. My eyes welled with tears as I realized what had happened.
Frank’s son had turned the entire family against him, except for his daughter who was now gone. He had lost everyone he ever loved, and there was no one to share his grief. He sat in his pew with head bowed and shoulders slumped, and the eyes that once held that mischievous sparkle were flat and empty. He was a broken man.
Frank’s story affects me deeply. This was a man who stood at a crossroads and took the difficult path, though he had everything to lose. I know that if he had lied he wouldn’t have been able to face himself in the mirror, but I wonder if it would have been worth it to keep his family. I wonder if the price he paid for integrity was just too high.
I lost track of Frank shortly after the death of his daughter, but I think about him often. I hold out hope that he has reconciled with his family, and that he won’t have to spend his last days alone. And I pray that if I’m ever in his shoes, I’ll have the courage to follow in his footsteps.