What Dad's Death Taught Me about Life
My father was a Sr. I am a Jr., and Scotty is a III. We were actually hoping for a little Scotty IV, but, it looks like that is not likely. Since my father passed away at the end of 2015 , I am assumed to be the Sr. and Scotty the Jr, which is ok with me, but I am getting off subject. I wanted to talk about my Dad and his legacy for a minute.
I cannot speak for everyone, but I believe most people live in an alternate reality in which their parents will always be there… Oh sure, you KNOW how the circle of life works and we can all comfort others with this analogy. But, as far as MY family, it’s all Hakuna-Matata and parents don’t die.. Although logically, you realize they will move on someday, emotionally, you live in a happily-ever-after world when it comes to parents. Uncles die, aunts pass away, but, not dads. Maybe you understand reality, but the subject is too painful to contemplate and dwell upon.
Someone recently introduced me to blogging, and I began using it as an intellectual tool to help others with problems and processes. I found it to be more than a tool. Blogging became a fulfilling pastime. I didn’t consider why, I just liked getting my thoughts out on proverbial paper. This morning I realized, dealing with death is also a process and getting your thoughts out can be extremely helpful in processing your emotions during times like these. I am a list maker, and as I recently learned, my wife’s entire family is a group people that punctuate their thoughts with numbers, bullets or some other artificial point-maker. I am in great company.
Here are some things my father taught me through his death.
1 Longevity –
Parents who live long are very lucky. Not only for their longevity, and not only because they get to see their children grow into adulthood, and not only because they may see grandchildren, but for all those extra years to develop a closeness with their children. Had my father died when I was a teenager, we would not have had the decades since then to get closer. My Dads passing help me realize that I should exploit this fact with my own children in the decades to come.
2 Age at death-
My father was born on August 12, 1937 and died on Dec 8, 2015. He was 78. When people are told that someone’s parent has died, the first thing most ask — and nearly everyone wonders — is, “How was old was he/she?” This is completely understandable. But it needs to be analyzed. The age of the deceased matters only if one is assessing whether the death was a tragedy. Death at age 78 is not a tragedy. I would suggest the age at which a parent dies is irrelevant regarding the hole left in your heart. Dad taught me that the more years a person has had with his or her parent, the larger the hole.
3 Judgement vs knowledge-
Perhaps parents are the people that you keep at an arms length away, but close enough when you need them. These are the people that not only know how to push your buttons, they installed them. Don’t get me wrong, you love them dearly, however they are still teaching, still guiding, still disappointed in poor behavior, still correcting, still being a parent. How dare them! I will say this, no matter how old you are, as long as a parent is alive, you are still a child. Your parents care about you, love you deeply and always want you to be happy and reach your full potential. Dad taught me that no matter how old either of you are, both of you have the ability to teach the other.
4 Impact and legacy-
Just as children can be a source of pride or shame to parents, parents can be a source of pride or shame to their children. In some ways, even more so. I came to realize that as regards shame, bad parental behavior can actually have a greater impact on children — including adult children — than bad behavior of children has on parents. If a decent person’s son commits a terrible crime, we tend to have compassion for that parent. But if a decent person’s father commits a terrible crime, that crime, completely unfairly, reflects on the child. That is why one of the sons of Bernard Madoff, the man who stole billions of dollars, committed suicide. So did one of Charles Manson’s sons. It was as if they felt forever tainted. Yet we don’t hear about the parent of a child who engages in similar criminal behavior committing suicide. It was my Dad who made me realize this. Whenever I introduced my father to friends or my wife’s family, I was proud of him as he carried himself with respect, dignity and grace. If your parents bring you no shame, be very grateful. If you’re proud of them, celebrate. Dad taught me to be the parent your children are proud to introduce to their friends.
5 What is more important than closeness-
My father loved my his wife. He loved her more than anyone or anything in life. They were married for 23 years. His wife was a talker. My Dad and I who were cut from the same swatch of fabric, are not big talkers. However, we shared great memories together. These were solid emotional ties. However, more important than emotional closeness, I had developed his strong ethical/moral model. I have always worn an invisible but powerful bracelet with the letters: WWDD. What Would Dad Do? The ideal for a son is to have an emotional bond with his father who is also a strong ethical model. But, if you can only have one, the latter is more important than the former. I had the benefit of both with my Dad.
6 Where is my father now?-
Has anyone ever lost a loved one and not wondered, where is he/she now? This is the ultimate question. Is it really all over after the last breath? Was my father a vibrant, thinking, feeling, imbued-with-meaning human being one minute, and then a bunch of inanimate molecules — no different than his equal weight in sand — a minute later? I have always recognized what is logically obvious: If there is a God, and the bible is the word of God, there is an afterlife. Dad was a Christian man, so, my Dads passing has not left me wondering what his fate was and why we are here, but, instead has solidified my meaning in life and provided assurance that I will see him again.
Goodbye, Dad. You did well.