The lessons Dad taught me about God’s love

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Paul Joseph Jullien - Sept 8, 1934 - Nov. 21, 2011

My Dad built his life and career around his family.

In doing so, he showed me the power of God’s love and taught me the value of relationships — which are not easy.

Dad was a twin and an orphan.  He and his twin sister Louise were the youngest of seven children and by the age of 14, both his father and mother had passed away and he was taken in by his Dad’s brother, Uncle Cy, who provided well for my Dad and his twin sister – and they spent a lot of time at boarding schools.

Much of my Dad’s early childhood was spent moving from place to place (with his Mom until she died). He was cared for, but longed for the family he and my mother gave me and my siblings.

He never complained about his childhood or the loss of his parents. He only spoke of his gratitude to his Uncle for taking in two teenagers.

And Dad never gave up hope for his future as a family man – he wanted to have the family he didn’t experience as a child.

While in the service, he met my mother, a great lady  – Isabelle Joyce Carmichael, and together they made a family. They both made personal sacrifices in the process. I can only imagine the times when it felt like she could not have a future for herself, raising five children with one income.

Joanna with Mom and Dad 1960

And Dad did the most important thing a father can do for his children: he loved their mother who gave her life to our family 

Ways Dad demonstrated God’s love:

I. On my wedding day in the Oakland Rose Garden.

Just before the ceremony was to start, Dad pulled me down a rose garden path, far away from the event; he kept me waiting for what seemed like an eternity. I thought he was crazy. I kept rolling my eyes and letting out sighs that could move mountains. Finally, he looked at me with his smiling eyes, and declared in a very firm and reassuring voice:

“You know honey, marriage is a lot of work but it is worth it.”

It wasn’t until my later years that I truly appreciated that comment and thought perhaps he really should have told Scott this because Lord knows I am not easy to live with.

And Dad showed me how God’s love makes forgiveness possible, and why it is the supreme power: because it conquers fear.

II. Compassion for David and his dog

When I was about eleven, my Dad did something that stunned me. The neighbor dog had seriously hurt my brother Gus, who was only three. It scratched his eye and tore the tear duct requiring extensive surgery and follow up care. He wore a patch on his eye for many months.

Prior to the incident, we had asked the neighbors repeatedly to keep their dog off of our property. Their dog always managed to find his way to our yard and had displayed hostility toward my baby brother. 

Dad had to call the authorities to have the dog removed and destroyed. The dog belonged to a young boy, David, who was my age, and lived with a single mom and his teenage sister.

Photo: swanksalot(Flickr)

After the dog was removed from their home, Dad invited the boy over to our home to roast marshmallows. He put his arm around the child and apologized for having to take away his dog. He told David he hoped someday he would understand.

In his own comforting way, my Dad was asking this child to forgive him. Not for his sake, but for David’s sake. I know he did not want this child to carry resentment in his heart for something that was necessary, and painful.

This was a lesson in forgiveness that took me a long time to appreciate. Today I realize that my fear of safety for my baby brother was driving a wedge between me and our neighbors. It was a discord that serves no purpose except keeping hurt and misery alive.  In that one act of compassion, my Dad showed me that setting healthy boundaries with others, and addressing offenses with mercy, kindness and compassion promotes healing and peace.

And more importantly it requires the love described in 1 Corinthians 13 — which is not easy; it is a choice; a decision-point.

III. Career and relationships.

In his career, my Dad emphasized the value of relationships too. He was a banker dealing with multi-million and billion-dollar loans.

Interestingly, when we talked about his business deals, he never focused on the money. The only thing I remember him saying about the money regarding billion dollar deals was that “they simply have more zeros and commas”.  The important thing, he emphasized, was the prosperous relationships that the money supports and how the building industry was the bedrock of our economy.

Those who worked with my Dad knew that he looked at the quality of individuals and business practices and sought to promote good, prosperous relationships with the loans he authorized.

Everything hinged on the quality of “trustworthy character”.  For my Dad knew that without this trust, the loans would have little real value.

IV. Dementia and Death

In some ways, I see my Dad’s long suffering with dementia that eventually took his life as God’s mercy.

Since his retirement, the very trustworthy character he sought to support in issuing major loans was thrown out the window.

I think it would have been very disheartening for him to fully witness the fall out of the “too big to fail” crisis that produced buckets of toxic loans and empty, broken relationships.

Dad enjoying Christmas circa 1985

Rather, the Lord called upon my Dad to be with God and his family.

The way his disease progressed, my Dad lost the command and control over his physical body first. While he did have short term memory loss, he never lost his cognitive ability, his intelligence remained in tact.

Early on, before the disease took over completely, my Dad told me how  he prays. “Every night when I go to bed I thank God for intelligent life,” he shared, “Intelligent life is the greatest gift from God.”

Just like my Dad never gave up hope that he could have the family and become the Dad he never had the chance to experience as a child, I have hope for our future.  The trustworthy character my Dad sought to fund with loans is not lost; it is in every heart and mind, in every home, church, school, and community. I know my Dad would be telling us now that this trustworthy character, the source of our prosperity, is in our future if we choose. For it is written:

“There is no limit to love’s forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure.” 1 Corinthians 13:7

Thanks Dad for showing us God’s love in action.

We love you too.


Paul Joseph Jullien went home with the Lord on November 21, 2011 after a long illness. He was a family man; a devoted husband to Joyce (married 51 years), and a wonderful Dad to his son Augustine, and his daughters, Amy, Claire, Marcia and Joanna; and a magnificent grandpa to 13 grandchildren.

Paul lived most of his life in the Bay Area and Contra Costa County, where he retired. He was a banking executive over 30 years (starting at Citizen’s Savings and finished at First Nationwide) responsible for major loans. He led efforts to successfully implement the Community Reinvestment Act which produced affordable housing strengthening many communities.

 He will be sorely missed by family, friends and co-workers alike. He was an honest, kind, intelligent man whose brand of leadership empowered others.

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna ( and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.