Integrity-Having a code of strong moral values and principles, and being incorruptible in your adherence to that code.
My father was an incredible man. Even as I write this, my eyes are tearing up, but my mouth and my heart are smiling. They’re smiling because I know the powerful and lasting positive impact he made and continues to make on my family. I feel it in myself. I see it reflected in my daughters as I try my best to raise and nurture them with the same love, understanding and devotion that I was shown. My dad was a man of integrity, and in a world where it sometimes seems like people lack character, leadership, devotion, and strength, my dad was all those things. To me, he was larger than life. I think he’ll always feel that way to me.
Mike Zayka was a quiet and humble man, but his devotion to his family and purpose made a loud statement to anyone who knew him. He believed in hard work. He was also the embodiment of the American dream, having worked hard his entire life not only to provide for his family, but to create a wonderful and fulfilling life, and ensure that his kids had more opportunities than he did. Being the son of a very large, very poor Ukrainian immigrant family, he realized that he could build this stability for himself and his family through hard work and determination. He was kind, patient, and absolutely selfless.
To me, integrity is about having a strong moral code, and being able to consistently adhere to it, especially when tested. God knows my father did not have an easy life, and my sister and I both tested him at times. Throughout that, he always supported us in everything we did, even when it was contrary to his own wishes. My dad was a machinist, and very good at what he did. I worked for him for years, and was always happy to help him, learn from him, and be by his side. When he saw that it was not my calling, he always supported me and was there by my side wherever I travelled in life. Through all my concerts, plays, games and events, he was there. To my dad, nothing mattered as much as family, and he wanted to show his love and support. His moral values dictated that if it was important to me, it was important to him.
Even as I grew older and started a family of my own, my dad embraced them. I was lucky enough to have him at my wedding, and get to know my wife, Anya. He was there to see me bring my daughters into this world, and showed them the same love and support he showed my sister and I. I think it brought him happiness seeing that I was starting a family. Above all, I think he wanted my happiness, and the fact that I was growing to embrace the family life the same way he had gave him peace. I’m glad he got to see that.
I hope he’s still smiling somewhere. I hope he’s proud.
I loved my dad. Everything I am today is because of the love and support he showed me. I try to pass that same love on to my family, my friends, and my students. I try to be the same man he was, and live a life of integrity and principle.
I’ve got huge shoes to fill.