In 2007, I helped write my maternal grandfather’s obituary. I called it the hardest writing assignment of my life.
I was wrong.
Less than four years later, my father asked me to write his obituary. He’d been diagnosed with brain cancer in 2010, shortly after undergoing brain surgery on his 36th wedding anniversary. We lost him on May 31, 2011. He was 58.
In addition to his obituary, I also wrote and delivered a eulogy for Dad. Writing often serves as my therapy, so sharing his story and the lessons he taught my family, and the legacy of love and friendship he left helped me.
We laid him to rest in the U.P., his birthplace. I visited him over Memorial Day weekend. While driving in rainy weather on Friday and Saturday, I realized that driving in the rain could serve as a metaphor for the cycles of grief.
Sometimes the rain comes down in an unexpected torrent, leaving you unsure where you are and unable to see ahead. Sometimes the rain is steady, but you can keep moving forward. And sometimes there is a break in the clouds, allowing sunlight to pour through, offering hope of better weather ahead.
In the five years since we lost my father, my son learned how to drive, graduated from high school and is now attending the same university his grandfather and I did. My sister moved from Indiana to Georgia and Florida, and now works in Indiana again, commuting back to Florida most weekends. I made a commitment to better health before turning 40 and ran my first half marathon. My mother recently remarried, adding not only a wonderful stepfather to our family, but also a stepbrother and stepsister.
Not a day goes by when we don’t miss my dad. But we carry him with us in our hearts.
The lessons we learned from his life and losing him too soon still resonate with us. I shared some in my eulogy, and feel those lessons are worth sharing again.
My father kept a planner, tracking his life in his neat, precise print. He logged his exercise routines, and kept references and business contacts in it. He stored a copy of his favorite margarita recipe in the planner, and tucked in a photo of my mom and a love note from her. He kept a list of his friends, and wrote down his values — from having close relationships with those he cared about, to having security and a meaningful job, to having free time to enjoy his hobbies.
Dad also wrote down his dreams.
Perhaps someday we’ll understand God’s plan in not giving him enough time to achieve them all.
If we can learn anything from losing him, please let it be this…
Writing down dreams and goals is important, but don’t wait for some future date to pursue them.
Buy that home in the mountains or on a lakeshore.
Travel to Alaska… Yellowstone… England… or France.
Visit the Apostle Islands.
Drive a Corvette Stingray.
Live each day as if it may be your last, and always let those you love know how much they mean to you.