Monday, January 4, 2010

Through Death We Learn About Life

This past Saturday marked nineteen years since my father passed away. Nineteen years! I will never forget the haunting wail of that early morning telephone call from my brother, the ominous sensation tugging at my flesh as my fingers found the receiver and I knew that nothing good would come from my lifting it to my groggy head. My goodness, I had brown hair back then, and it filled the majority of my head! I was living in Southern California, in the midst of another bad marriage, juggling several vices that were on the threshold of dragging me down into a hole of depression and angst that would take me years to climb out of.

Nineteen years.

While the pain is no longer fresh, the grief not as insurmountable as it once seemed, the loss, the void my father’s passing left in me, is as substantial now as it was then. Sure, I can conjure up a good sob every once and a while, whenever the mood beckons and I feel the need to let go. But while way back in the day those bouts of sadness were often accompanied by fits of anger at my father not taking better care of himself, and then guilt, for not cutting my old man a break, I have grown from the experience, changed for the better.

Nineteen years.

You see, my father’s death, while still one of the most awful events that has ever affected me, changed my life. His death, in fact, could be said to have created livelife365. (So if you dislike this site, blame my dad, but beware, he has been known to make a special appearance every now and then and may just take some pleasure in haunting you!). And while I would give anything to have him back in my life again, enjoying his companionship and influence, watching him age as gracefully as my mother, I do not dwell on his death; not anymore. As I said, my father’s death changed my life.

REFLECTIONS ON DEATH...AND LIFE



My father was very human, meaning he had many flaws, like we all do. He was a heavy drinker, a lifelong smoker, someone who overindulged in more than a few meals, and often struggled to make ends meet. He died well before his time, in my mind at least, just midway into his fifties (only a few years older than I am). But he also instilled in me the self confidence and belief in myself that has helped to make me the man I am today. As a young boy I can still feel the power of my father’s motivational words, telling me that I could be anything I wanted to be…as long as I believed in myself.

But it was my father’s vices, more that his attributes, that propelled me to change my life for the better. Not long after he died, I took inventory of myself and did not like what I saw. I was overweight, boozing it up, smoking, depressed, in a bad marriage (another one), working at a job that I did not like, and, literally, wasting my time on earth. His death, at first, only made me worse—I actually started drinking more, if that was possible (yes, it was, by the way), and fell into a deeper depression.

And then something snapped inside me. It was the first Father’s Day after he died. I had hit all-time lows with my drinking, smoking, overeating, job performance; I was separated from my wife, living in a one-room apartment, seeing a therapist that wasn’t helping.

Somehow I found an inner strength that had always been there, just buried through years and years of confusion and abuse. I figured out how to stop drinking, cold turkey, with only my determination and desire (and the memory of my father) to guide me. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started exercising. I picked up a book, then another, and another, beginning my autodidactic journey of knowledge that I am still addicted to. I learned about nutrition and addiction, overcoming grief and understanding self. And I read tons of fiction, too…just because I loved it! Why? Because when I stopped drinking myself to sleep each night, I suddenly had all this time on my hands, all this extra energy, and it was like I was a new person, a better person.

I changed my life through my dad’s death.

Nineteen years.

There have been plenty of ups and downs throughout those nineteen years, several other lifestyle changes and challenges. But some things have never changed, and those are my thoughts on the importance of life. Not wasting your life. Not allowing anything to get in the way of doing all that you want and have to do with the precious time we have on earth.

THE PARADOX OF LIFE



But also understanding that life is life. It can be as cruel and uncertain as it is wondrous and rewarding. It is up to each of us to take what we can from it, while never taking it for granted or expecting from it anything that is not earned through sweat and tears and compassion and love.

My dad died nineteen years ago this past week and it was the worst thing that ever happened to me. And the best. The lessons he taught me while alive, while valuable and influential, were nothing compared to what he taught me through his death.

Rest in peace, Dad. I love you.

Until next time…


peace,


Mike
livelife365.com

25 comments:

Rod said...

We all have lost loved ones, at one time or another, it's my belief that the loved ones that have gone before us, would want us and would love for us to carry on and live our lives to the fullest. You do your father proud. Thoughtful blog once again, Happy New Year Mike.

Bagman and Butler said...

I really understand your post. I had the same things happen when my father and when my grandfather died. It was like that part of them that was inside me came alive and filled out my life. Very very insightful post. I applaud your father for your posts.

Carol King said...

I was really moved by your open and honest post. Sometimes it takes something like a traumatic painful event to force us to look at ourselves fully and begin to take responsibility for our lives. Clearly you have done so and I congratulate you and I am inspired by you.

Ann Martin Photography BLOG said...

I didn't know your path to this point in your life and found this post fascinating. Thank you for all the inspiration. You're amazing.

veleska1970 said...

i happened upon your blog by random surfing. what a lovely, compelling tribute to your father. you're truly an inspiration.

suZen said...

Beautifully written/filmed! My mom has been gone for 24 yrs. and I still miss her terribly. I talk to her in my journal sometimes. I don't think we ever "get over" losing our parents, no matter how old we get.
Hugs
suZen

Mike Foster said...

rod: you are so right, it is a disservice to those who die for us not to fulfill out lives

bagman: your kind remarks mean a lot to me, thanks

carol: life is a series of experiences, both good and bad...

ann: thanks, it was a path i would not change, even though, at times, i did not know where i was headed...

veleska: thanks for dropping by...

suzen: you certainly understand the loss of a loved one, as well as persevering and making the most out of one's life...


peace,

mike

Rose M. Garland said...

Beautifully written. I understand exactly how you feel.

SpinDiva said...

Mike this is very inspirational and a nice tribute to your dad. You make him proud, I'm sure of it. Keep up the good work!!

Katrine said...

Mike,
Like so many other readers here, I was very touched by this post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I haven't lost any close relatives yet, and I can only imagine your deep pain. Glad though that you were able to derive so many good lessons out of that experience.

Mike Foster said...

rose: this was a very personal post for me, thanks...

spindiva: your comment made me feel very good inside

katrine: as life goes on we all feel the loss of someone we love, it's best to make the best of it, though i wish it on no one...


peace,

mike

BK said...

Indeed, sometimes through death we learn about life. Everything happened for a reason.

redkathy said...

Mike I just love this post! My mother's death changed me forever. It was a long, hard ordeal. I was her rock and adviser. You are right on, life is life! Wishing you and yours a blessed and Happy New Year

David Tamayo said...

Hello Mike,

Thanks for visiting my site. I appreciate the comment. Your post touched something inside of me that I have been pushing into the far reaches of my mind. My mom is advancing in years. She also has several illnesses more than one life threatening. Your experience with your father directly correlates that of mine with my mother. All I can say is...I understand. Take care my friend.

Mike Foster said...

bk: so true...

redkathy: life teaches us everyday...all we need to do is look

david: my thoughts are with you and your mom...


peace,
mike

Robin said...

Hi Mike,
I am sorry for the loss of your dad. 19 years is a long time not to see your dad. I dread the day this happens to me, with the loss of my parents, if I am still here. Time is going by for all of us. I am happy you made a change for yourself for the better. Our health is so precious for living a long life.

Happy New Year! :-)

Jackie said...

Nice post Mike. My folks died around the same time and within two years of each other. There were also problems in my home and I grew up so different from them and moved town as well so most people were surprised I was even related...yet I still miss them :)

Wishing you a wonderful 2010

Dwacon® said...

Mike

Miss my dad too!

Look forward to seeing him again in the afterlife.

betchai said...

thank you so much for sharing your story filled with lessons and inspiration. it's humbling and filled with strength. am sure your dad is very happy with what he sees in you now.

Don E. Chute said...

Mike, I can relate to so much of what you said. My parents passed in 2000, & 2002. It left me empty. I learned to overdevelop a drinking problem, almost died myself this last September. Divorced in 09. The saga continues. I will continue to Read you. Peace.

heidi said...

What an amazing post about the pain and rebirth of you in tragedy!!! I loved how you took this and changed your life. You are my hero!!

Mike Foster said...

robin: our health is precious, that's what i learned most from my father's death...

jackie: sometimes we miss those whom we didn't have enough time with the most

dwacon: i like that thought...thanks

betchai: i really think he is

don: glad to see you're hanging in there...hope my videos can help

heidi: you are always my hero...thanks for dropping by...


peace,

mike

kRiZ cPEc said...

Sorry if this is not relevant, I just need to let it out. The greatest regrets I have was I didn't visit my mother in her death bed as frequent as I actually could. She had been hospitalised a few times before, and all those times she managed to recover and go to home, so I thought it would be the same last year. And I failed to tell her face to face that I love her, I didn't even hug her when she said she loves me, I only held her hand. Think of these and I feel like to cry. And now it's been six months.

Jennifer said...

I'm glad that you were able to see a path towards change and could stay on that path.

Mike Foster said...

kriz: what more can you do than to learn from your mother's passing...and don't be too hard on yourself...she wouldn't want you to be...

jennifer: i try to embrace change, no matter how difficult..


peace,

mike