10 Years Later: Life Lessons Learned from the Death of My Father

On April 19th, 2006, my father passed away. Seeing your father lose his fight to cancer at nine-years-old really shapes your perspective of life. I still miss him every day, and I wish that I could have had a strong and healthy relationship with him. I was too young to understand the importance of having a close relationship with my dad, but I was old enough to realize that I missed not having the opportunity to spend more time with him.

Whenever I hear someone talk about their dad, I question what my life would have been like if he was still here. Would I still want to talk to him? Would I appreciate the fact that I even had a dad? I’m not sure. However, even though losing my father was painful, and I still grieve over his death from time to time, I can say that I’ve learned valuable lessons about life by being so close to death. As I reflect on the ten years that have passed since my father passed away, I would like to share a few condensed versions of those lessons that have been made so real to me.

1. Say “I love you” more often.

Too many people are afraid of this phrase. Some people feel love through your actions rather than your words, and some prefer to show love to people rather than saying it, and that’s fine. But, don’t let that be an excuse to not let others know how you feel. Sure, saying it on the first date, or the first time hanging out with a friend may be coming on too strong, but if you actually love and care about someone, it’s okay to let them know. Love covers a multitude of sins, and it drives out fear. If love has the power to do that, then why withhold it from anyone?

 2. Remember to live.

Life is short and death is final. Remember to laugh when life is full of joy. Take a risk. Put yourself out there. Surprise yourself with something amazing. Don’t just let life pass you by. It’s super cliche, but it’s also extremely important.

3. It’s okay to cry.

Life can be heavy, and sometimes, things just suck. But, you don’t have to hide behind a mask to cover up your hurts. A key step in healing is to acknowledge what has hurt you. Maybe you don’t cry; that’s okay. Different people have different ways of expressing their emotions. But it’s still vital that you release some of that inner turmoil. Talk about it. Cry about it. It’s okay. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

4. Forgive and let go. 

For years, I held onto bitterness and confusion about my father’s death. My dad wasn’t really around for my childhood, and then I lost him before I got a chance to grow up. I was mad at my father, mad at God, and furious with the world around me. Sure, the hand I was dealt in life wasn’t necessarily a full house. But, once I learned to let go of the resentment inside, I grew to appreciate the memories that I do have of my father. I was able to appreciate everyone around me who has ever loved me unconditionally, and I was finally ready to see that life is truly beautiful.

5. Your pain is someone else’s comfort.

Although I have had the unfortunate experience of losing a parent, I have learned to turn that experience into something beautiful. Being able to sit with someone and feel and relate to their pain helps to alleviate feelings of isolation. Sometimes, all we need is to be understood. Sympathy may help to an extent, but empathy has the ability to bring healing.

 6. Appreciate those who are currently in your life.

So far, I’ve experienced more deaths than I would have liked to. People come and go, and our culture’s response is often to become reclusive, making many acquaintances but few actual friends. It’s okay to say goodbye, and in fact, we’ll probably say goodbye to more people than we welcome into our lives. But, while we have them in our lives, we should take time to recognize the ones who have shaped us into who we are today. Did someone leave a lasting impression on you? Be sure to thank them.

7. Stop thinking you’re alone.

Because you’re not.

8. It’s okay to ask for help.

One of the most humbling things you can ever do is to ask for help. It’s okay to admit that you don’t have your life together. Can I let you in on a little secret? (Nobody has their life together). We tend to have this image in our heads of what the perfect life is, and we spend so much time striving for that, that it’s easy to forget that everyone else is doing the same thing. And who knows? Maybe asking for help will give someone the courage to do the same.

9. You always have a Father in Heaven.

This one is my favorite lesson. It took me a while to understand, but the love that I have found in Jesus Christ has made up for every single time that I have felt alone following my father’s death. Even when our earthly fathers aren’t picture perfect, God is. He offers an eternal, unconditional love that is not dependent on circumstance, and there is rest to be found in that love. (I’ll talk more about how I discovered this in a later blog).

10. Move along.

Move along like I know you do. (I added this one because you need completion, and I need a laugh.)… In all seriousness, you do need to get on with your life, even after experiencing a death. Give it some time, but move along.

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Keep on keeping on.

 

 

 

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