Remembering Dad 11 Years Later…

My Dad died 11 years ago today.

11 years… it seems impossible that much time has passed, yet it has.
This photo, of my Dad and I, is one of the most important photos I own. I have a copy of it enlarged to poster size. It’s hanging on my wall.
For me this photo is a daily reminder to not waste my moments; to be present; to love; to forgive; and to savor what’s in front of you.
This photo is from my college graduation. I remember my Dad hugging me so tight – he was proud. I can also remember me not reciprocating – I was annoyed.

The truth is I missed out on really getting to know my Dad. I squandered a lot of opportunity with him. I spent most of my life judging him. I routinely complained about what he didn’t do and rarely celebrated what he did.
I spent much of my time with Dad wishing he was this or he would do that. I did this instead of seizing the opportunity to love him for who he was.
I don’t fault myself for this… how could I know any different? I only knew what I thought I knew and I believed the biased version of reality I focused on.

What we focus on we will experience.

Combine that with a healthy ignorance about the mortality of the people I love, and you get the perfect recipe for missing out on the life of those you love.
When my Dad was considering options: to do chemo or to not do chemo I remember him sharing this story:

“The doctor said he was 60% confident the cancer would not come back. He said with chemo it would boost that number to 80%. As we were weighing the options there was a lady in the room next to me. The doctor told me she had elected to skip the chemo, her cancer came back, and she was going to die.
Jesse-boy (what my Dad would call me) you never have to look far to see someone who has it worse than you.”

The majority of pain we experience in our lives is self inflicted – we create it by weaponizing our thoughts + emotions & turning them inward.
We obsess over how life is NOT what we think it Should be.
This “should” is of course in large part fueled by:
A comparison to others
And an expectation that: God, Universe, Source etc… was supposed to make things different (the difference is often fueled by comparison).
Most of us never check in with God, Universe, Source, etc… to see if our actions we are taking/not taking along with our expectations match their plans.

When my Dad told me this story I suddenly realized a truth in my own life:
I was missing out.
Every day I was losing out on life – squandering precious moments by comparing my path to others and obsessing over what I perceived as lacking vs celebrating what I had.
My Dad taught me this.

He taught me that the greatest opportunity each and everyone of us possesses is the opportunity to be happy, grateful, and live our lives celebrating what we DO have.

Suffering is not a byproduct of circumstances.
Suffering is a byproduct of ones own self obsession over their perceived unfairness of life.
I’d also argue that suffering is fueled by the assumption that we have tomorrow therefore we can afford to squander our right now.

I’ve seen my birth certificate. It did not come with any guarantees that life will promise me: x, y, z. Did yours?

Back to the photo…
When my Dad hugged me I was tired, hungover, annoyed with taking photos, embarrassed, etc…
I was all that and more.
What I could have been was: loved, happy, grateful, proud, excited, etc…
I could have been all of that and more.
I look at this photo daily and it reminds that life is all about choices.

Every day you and I have an opportunity to make a choice:
Do we choose love or hate.
Do we choose forgiveness or love.
Do we choose being right or compromise.
Do we choose happy or sad.
Do we choose grateful or resentful.
We always have a choice.

11 years ago today my Dad took his final breath. He woke up, ate his cereal, started getting ready for work… he had not plans on dying that day.
We never know when our time will come. We never know when the time of those we love will come.

Each moment we have a choice. What you focus on you will experience.

Living a life filled with happiness, love, joy, and gratitude is hard work. It’s inner work. It’s work that cannot be done by anyone else other than you. It requires a lifetime commitment.
My promise to you is this: if you do the work, life can become magical.

My Dad remains one of my greatest teachers. He inspires to do the work. This photo reminds me to do the work… it reminds me to:
Hug tighter
Laugh often
Love more
Be grateful
Celebrate little moments
Smile generously
Accept people as they are
Judge less
Make my moments matter.

Life is precious my friends. After you finish reading this you too will be given the opportunity of a choice:
Spend your next minute scrolling or ______?
Whatever you choose, I encourage you to choose to do something that makes your moment the most emotionally enriching experience possible.

Note: this post has an incredible discussion going on over in Facebook. If you would like to participate in that discussion and experience the stories/insights others have shared, click here.


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