My father died when I was 11. Here’s what I learned.
I see my mother everywhere. Though I never used to look like her, these days I can see a physical resemblance, and so many of my qualities remind me of her. Not so for my dad. When I was young, everyone said I looked like him, but I no longer see the resemblance.
My dad died when I was eleven. While his death was devastating, my mother dedicated herself to raising four independent children in a family-focused environment. She was an optimist, always telling us, “Something good comes out of everything.” Under her tutelage, I’ve spent my life looking for that silver lining.
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I never had the good fortune to get to know my father, and he wasn’t part of my life long enough for me to emulate him in any way. So, what lessons did I learn from my dad?
1. Life is short. My father was only fifty-four when he died. His early death taught me that our days on earth are fleeting, so it’s important to make the most of them. I’ve learned to cram as much living as I can into each and every day, seeking the positive and avoiding negativity and obstacles that might derail my plans.
2. Make good health a priority. Health is the most important thing in your life and it is essential to make time for wholesome habits. Take good care of yourself, getting the medical checkups that you need, eating foods that nourish your body, and finding the time to exercise. If you don’t have your health, nothing else matters.
3. Live life with no regrets. I was so young when my dad died that I had many regrets. This experience shaped my decision-making process for the rest of my life. I learned how to quickly size up a personal or professional situation and determine its importance in my life plan. It’s easier to make decisions when you understand that you might not get a second chance at that relationship, job, education, or trip.
4. Express your feelings freely. Did my father know how much I loved him? I will never know. Since his death, I don’t take that chance. When my mother was alive, I made sure she knew how I felt every time we spoke. Don’t assume that your intimates know how you feel. Learn how to articulate and express your feelings and you’ll find that it fosters more authentic relationships.
5. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Each day holds twenty-four hours; how will you use them? When you view your time as a precious commodity, you’ll realize the importance of the present. Manage your time wisely and balance each day with what you need to do and the things you want to do. Once it’s gone, you never get a day back.
6. Each day is a new day and a fresh start. Don’t allow the past to infringe on the present. We all make mistakes and it’s essential to accept them for what they are; an opportunity to learn and grow. Embrace each day as an opportunity to move yourself forward to your goals, whatever they may be. Keep a positive perspective and see where it takes you.
7. Celebrate and find your pleasure in the everyday moments. Learn how to be present in your life. It’s not the big celebratory moments that bring the most joy. Use your senses to enjoy your daily routine whether it’s that first cup of coffee, a walk with a friend, or the wonderful smells of dinner cooking.
On this Father’s Day, I won’t be sad. I will make a point to remember all the wonderful lessons I learned from my dad. While I am enjoying my first cup of coffee, I will recall just how grateful I am to have had him in my life, even for just eleven short years.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don’t Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available as e-books for “Illness & Death,” “Suicide,” “Miscarriage,” “Death of a Child,” “Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby,” “Pet Loss,” “Caregiver Responsibilities,” “Divorce” and “Job Loss.” All titles are in Amazon’s Kindle Store.
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