When my father died at age 37, I was 12 years old. The grief hit hard; the sudden death was a shock to the family, especially to me, my sister and mother.
It happened on a beautiful sunny April day. I can remember it clearly. Coming home from school, as I walked up the driveway to our house, I noticed more cars parked in the driveway than normal, I assumed some relatives had all coincidentally stopped by. Great! I thought. I loved seeing my grandparents and for them on both sides to be here on a Wednesday afternoon; what a nice surprise!
When walked in, I knew something was off immediately, you can feel emotion, the quite shock hit me, but I didn’t want to believe what my gut was saying. My grandfather greeted me at the door. “You better go to your sister’s room, your Mum is there and she needs to talk to you.” I could feel a deep dread in the pit of my stomach. My grandfather’s tone and more tellingly, the look in his eyes belied something was wrong.
My mother and sister were in tears, the news was broken to me, my father was taken to the hospital, he’d had some type of medical emergency I didn’t understand at the time. I asked naively: “but is he okay?” “No…” came my mother’s reply.
It has been 20 years since my father’s passing. To say that a lot has changed for me since then would be an understatement. Not a bad change, nor can I say a positive change without feeling some level of guilt. Just change.
Out of that change, this is what stuck with me and although there are many more things losing a father can do to shape a person; building character, making you more responsible, ambitious, etc. These are my reflections.
“When one door closes another opens”, we’ve all heard that, but the rest of the Alexander Graham Bell quote is even more important: “but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” It’s hard for me to look back with regret when so much of where I am in life is shaped by the events of his passing.
My father was a successful carpenter and owned his own business. I would have likely ended up working for him, or in that line of work. Instead, I got a degree in journalism, worked in IT, then moved to a foreign country where I met and married my wife. All this, I’m 99.9% sure, would not have happened without his passing.
The point is; I don’t regret the path I took. I don’t feel cheated, or that I missed following in my father’s footsteps. Quite the opposite, I feel liberated by that fact. Many others have no choice BUT to follow in their father’s footsteps.
I can take some pride in that the path I took, was my path.
You never know…
At age 12, I saw what grief did to my mother, how cruel life can be and how all the Hollywood notions of epic final goodbyes, although a quaint and idealistic closure, was only an illusion for me and my family. The last thing I said to my father was “bye”, shouted down the hallway of our house.
Pretty meaningless, eh?
It might be slightly compulsive, but I always try making a point to tell my wife I love her each day. If it’s the last time I ever see her, the last words I want her to hear are; “I love you.”
I count l myself lucky
That’s right! It might sound crazy, but I am very lucky. Lucky that I had a wonderful childhood, lucky that I had such a caring supportive family, this cannot always be said for children of divorced. Lucky that I have (knock on wood!), both sets of grandparents still alive and well.
Most importantly, I feel lucky to be alive. Even in this brave new world, with all its problems, frustrations and heart-ache. Life is something that is often taken away from so many, so young, for no reason.
At the very least, if you know of a nephew, cousin, brother who has lost a father, it’s not the end by any means. On the contrary, it may just be the beginning of a new life.
Photo: Getty Images