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8 Life Lessons From My Father

By June 12, 2019 July 25th, 2019 Swing Lifestyle Articles

In 2007 my father died. A shocking “here one day, gone the next” kind of death and it shook me to my core. I began to think about my own mortality and that awakening taught me how to live my life.

Twelve years later, I’m still marveling at the legacy he left and applauding the lessons he instilled.

What did I learn?

#1 – Say Yes

Life for my father was about saying yes (or at least the desire to say yes). Life was about what was being offered, not what was missing. Yes meant ease and enjoyment. Yes meant excitement and learning. Yes meant go.

#2 – Read

Whether I was lost in the pages of a novel, a biography, history, or hidden behind the pages of a newspaper, my father instilled in me a love of reading. For years, my father would read a book, pass it onto me, and then the two of us would spend hours on the phone discussing the contents.

Our “superior intellect” would astound both of us… lol! I can’t tell you how many times we had revelations and world solving epiphanies. We were brilliant in each other’s eyes… I miss those conversations the most.

#3 – Discipline & Compassion Co-exist

When I was in high school, I got a job at a local retail store. I was also the typical messy teenager. Unlike my room today, which is open house ready, my high school bedroom was a disaster!

Make my bed? Why bother, I was just going to climb back in it within a few hours.

Pick up my clothes… ugh! That sounds sooo boring. Who cares if they’re dirty, I’ve much more important things to do with my time.

On one particular day, my dad had told me to clean my room. I don’t remember what I said, but suffice it to say, the order went undone. Who has time to clean rooms when you’ve grown up things to attend to like a part-time job?

As I stood behind the counter at work, a fellow employee came to me saying there was a man with flowers wanting to see me. A man? Flowers? What?

I came around the counter and made my way through the racks of clothes.

My father.

My father was waiting for me and he had in his hand a bunch of roses. He hugged me, kissed me on the cheek, and handed me the sweet bouquet. He didn’t say a word. The attached card said it all:

“I want you to know whether or not you clean your room, I love you.”

On the back of the card it said:

“But you still need to clean your room.”

The impact of his love coupled with his discipline left its desired effect. I never wondered whether my father loved me, nor did I ever doubt his desire for me to understand the importance of learning responsibilities.

#4 – Try New Things

I don’t care if you end up not liking the taste, you need to at least agree to try new flavors.”

Translation: Don’t let fear stop you from growing.

#5 – Articulate Your Beliefs

“I don’t care what you end up believing, but you better be able to explain those beliefs.”

Translation: Understand why you stand where you stand.

#6 – Escape The Modern Trappings

My father could shop with the best of them. A clothes horse of sorts, my dad appreciated a well made pair of shoes and adored Italian suits. But at least once a year, the whole “fam damily” (a phrase used by my mother to describe the family whenever we all traveled together) would load up the Airstream and set off for the mountains of Wyoming. No phones, no television, no radio.

We had to haul our own water and spent hours around the campfire. We would pack our backpacks to the brim and hike deep into the woods for days on end. I didn’t care about my hair, my makeup, what I was wearing, or what was happening elsewhere on the planet. I used to kick off my heavy hiking boots and wade through the ice cold streams. I made s’mores ‘til my fingers stuck together. I explored the forest and connected with the deepest parts of me. My father taught me the subtle art of disconnecting.

#7 – Laugh & Have Fun

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized a large portion of my youth was centered around laughter. Whether we were watching a Mel Brooks movie or sitting around my grandparents television watching episodes of “Faulty Towers” or “Groucho Marx,” throwing your head back in laughter was a norm for me.

Life was serious enough. Laughter was fuel for a more positive outlook, an energy source that electrified the atmosphere. It was light hearted and I was drawn to those experiences. I have strong affirmations of growing up within this environment. The easy smile, the quick wit, the sunny side of life.

#8 – Death is a Part of Life

My father had diabetes and then later we learned he also had epilepsy.

Each time my father experienced a diabetic reaction, it would trigger an epileptic attack. For thirty years, my family watched out for my dad. We knew about glucose packs, insulin shots, and ambulance rides. I grew up knowing that every reaction could be his last.

When your phone rang at odd times of the night, you knew the drill.

“What happened? Which hospital? I’m on my way!”

For thirty years my father pulled himself through… until the day he didn’t.

I’ll never, ever forget the morning my sister called. It was early, too early for a regular call. In a place somewhere between asleep and awake, I answered.

I heard my sister say, “Dad had a reaction.”

My brain pushed to wake up. “Okay, which hospital?”

By now, I was sitting up in bed, already thinking about what clothes I was going to throw on. I told myself I would call into work on my way to the hospital.

“He didn’t make it.”

The words fell into my ears like anvils. Wait! What did my sister just say?

“He didn’t make it… Dad died.”

It was as though my sister was speaking a different language. The news was so horrific that my brain fought against the information. My father was dead.

For a year I shuffled through life. I was devastated. My dear sweet father was dead. I didn’t know how, nor did I want to know how to proceed without him.

Some days, I made it through without crying. Then one day 8 or 9 months into my grief I stood in front of my bathroom mirror, took a pair of scissors and cut my waist long hair clear up to my neck. I quietly braided the eighteen inches of hair and mailed it to Locks of Love. I couldn’t grieve anymore, I needed to let the healing begin.

I stopped focusing on the void left by my father’s death and began opening my eyes to what he had left behind—the legacy of him.

In time I understood the importance of what had transpired. My father’s death reminded me why it’s so important to live life in the now. To be purposeful in what we do each and every day.

I went from wanting to see him again to realizing those sacred moments with my loved one wasn’t some magical place I would arrive after death, but from every moment, every morsel we had together in life.

The true impact my father had on my life was carved out everyday between my birth and his death. I don’t have to see him again because he gave me everything I needed when he was here. I don’t need to talk to him again because we said all that needed to be said. I don’t need to spend eternity with him somewhere because he lives within me and my children and their children.

He lives in the lessons and the laughter and the love he shared.

My father’s death taught me grief is very real. My father’s death also taught me that at the end of grief, a beautiful transformation can take place. Because my father was intimate with death, his view was different. “Death is a part of life,” he used to tell me. He accepted this. Me, well it took me a little longer to ease into the acceptance.

In the end, losing my father was hard… staying lost in his death was harder.

15 Comments

  • Gary Seven says:

    Beautiful

  • Tana says:

    I am sitting here bawling as I write. What a wonderful tribute to your Dad. Not all of us are blessed with such amazing fathers and yours was clearly exceptional. I happen to be so duly blessed too. But he’s still around and I am grateful for every moment he is, though I am a 9 hour drive away.

    I’m printing and saving this. Blessings.

  • Lynn Moorhead says:

    That was a very moving story Jackie, that left me needing a tissue.

    However, it was also full of a LOT of wisdom, and I truly appreciate you taking the time to share it.

    Thank you,
    Lynn M.

  • Joe Vasquez says:

    WOW

  • Michael says:

    This is one of the most awesome and moving testimonials I have ever read. Thank you for sharing this as it is such a personal experience.

    Kindest regards,
    Michael

  • Jenifer Lyn Ryser says:

    I just read your story, & like the others am bawling my eyes out. Absolutely beautiful! I also had a wonderful father, who after remarrying a lady who despised me, decided to disown me. Even though we live less than 2 miles from one another, I’ve not seen or spoken to him since 2001. I’m an only child as well.
    I’ve been thinking about him a lot in the last few months, & after reading your heartwarming story-have decided to attempt writing my Dad a letter. I hope he at least reads what I have to say, & understands how hard it’s been without him the past 18yrs.

  • Morgan says:

    Along with everything else you shared I have to say laughter is the most important thing I have taught my sons.
    You guys are amazing. Thanks for sharing.

  • Carlos and Rocio says:

    You are a beautiful person inside and out. My wife and I met you guys a couple of years back on a C.Cruise and we had such a wonderful time talking with you two that we missed that night’s show and we both agree that you where a very very nice person inside and out.
    Reading this words you wrote brought us back some very nice memories from that night.

  • Robert Glass says:

    Thank you, Jackie! You are one in a billion! Never change who you are – You are perfect, right now!
    Robert G

  • Steve says:

    Wonderful recollections of your Dad’s wisdom. As a father of three grown children I wonder if I imparted life lessons to them!
    It may be awkward but I’ll ask them. One pearl was “when sharing something that requires dividing the item, always give the larger piece to that person”.
    Keep up your writings.
    Steve M. ,M.D.

  • Truly, Obviously, he left on this Earth, a gorgeous, awesome, incredible woman with more love than what I have ever seen.
    Michael

  • Kimberly S. says:

    So beautifully expressed, what a wonderful man!

  • Wow, inspiring as I have two teens – and always strive to be such a Dad…

  • Randy H says:

    What a great tribute to your dad. You told me about why “YES” was so important to you and after reading this, I understand so much more. This gives me inspiration to be a better dad to my 2 girls and teach them how to say “yes” to all that life has to offer!

    Thanks for sharing.

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