My father passed away 17 years ago, today (at least based on the Hebrew calendar – he passed away on 12 July 2003).
We commemorate the day with a candle that burns for 24 hours, and think about what could have been, the time we had with him, and what I could have done differently.
I think that, over the years, regret has given way to contemplating missed opportunities with my father and, hopefully, drawing on those lessons to improve my relationships with our children, my wife, and my family.
That said, it’s not easy for me. I can be pretty self-obsessed, and that isn’t a recipe for success in relationships where my focus should be on my loved ones around me. Still, like most things, it’s a work in progress.
My father passed away 14 years ago, on 12 July 2003. After 14 years he is in my thoughts daily.
There are times when I recognise some behaviour of mine that I probably picked up from him. These are usually the moments when I feel like I understand him a little better.
Mostly, I think about him when I spend time with my family and how much he’d love our kids. I think he would have been an amazing grandfather and his biggest challenge would probably have been working out how to spend as much time as he could with his five grandkids (at present count) in three countries.
Even though he never met Gina or our kids, I’m glad his memory and example still guides me 14 years later. To the extent I’m probably a better father, husband and human being, it’s thanks to him.
Nature abhors a vacuum. So after you are dead the only thing that can happen is the same experience, or the same sort of experience as when you were born. In other words we all know very well that after people die, other people are born. And they’re all you. Only you could only experience it one at a time. Everybody is “I”. You all know you’re you. And wheresoever beings exist throughout all galaxies – it doesn’t make any difference – you are all of them. And when they come into being, that’s you coming into being. You know that very well only you don’t have to remember the past in the same way you don’t have to think about how you work your thyroid gland …. You don’t have to know how to shine the Sun. You just do it. Like you breathe. Doesn’t it really astonish you that you are this fantastically complex thing? And that you are doing all of this and you never had any education in how to do it?
Here is Ratcliff’s video (beautiful aerial footage using quadcopters):
I love this other quote from the Alan Watts website:
The Universe is the game of the self, which plays hide and seek forever and ever
Today is the 12th anniversary of my Dad’s, Peter’s, passing, according to the Hebrew calendar. He died on 13 Tammuz 5763/12 July 2003 after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. Today is our yahrzeit.
So much has happened in my life in the last 12 years that I wish he could have shared with us. Here are some of the highlights:
I met Gina just a few months after my Dad passed away and she became my wife on one of the happiest days of my life.
I left the firm I was working for, started my own law firm which evolved into two businesses which didn’t go quite as I had hoped. In the meantime, we started a small furry family …
… and, soon after that, we started our human family and I became a Dad myself early one morning.
A few challenging years later, our family expanded with our little girl’s arrival and, wow, what a difference in personality.
Time went on (as it does, inevitably) and our family grew and our kids developed their ever-changing personalities and challenge us daily …
I made many mistakes along the way and wanted to be able to talk to my Dad about them, get his advice. All I could really do was think about what he would have suggested and done the best I could as a Dad and as a husband to my very patient and loving wife.
Our next big change was our move to our new home in Israel last year. It was probably one of the best decisions Gina and I have made for our family. People outside Israel sometimes don’t understand why we would want to move to a country with such a difficult history (and an uncertain future) but Israel feels more like home to us than South Africa ever really did (and South Africa was still a good home for our families for a long time).
I only understood why our South African friends who had spent time in Israel kept telling us they wished they could return, after we had been here for a short while. It is an amazing country even with all the challenges it faces.
I think my Dad would have liked Israel if he had the chance to visit. My Mom told me once that he thought about moving to Israel many years ago. At the very least, he would have loved to visit us in our new home.
I met with an Hospice therapist after my Dad passed away and she told me that when a person dies, they leave a big hole in your life. You never fill that hole but you learn to live around it. I miss my Dad more each day because there are more and more experiences I would have wanted to share with him.
My family is somewhat scattered at the moment. My sister and her family are in Australia, my brother and his wife in Cape Town and my Mom in Johannesburg. Being roughly on the same time-zone as my mother and brother makes it easier to keep in touch and we’ll hopefully be able to share some of our new home with my Mom if she has an opportunity to visit us here.
Days like today usually seem like any other when they begin and as the day goes on, I realise that they are anything but. I try use days like today as reminders to be a better Dad to our kids. I’ve also learned that being a Dad is a full-time occupation in which you are constantly faced with the choices of being more loving and attentive and getting caught up in petty, generally unimportant crap that gets in the way of being a better Dad and husband.
You’re never “done” being a Dad. You never reach some sort of relationship milestone where you can sit back and tick the “Dad” checkbox. Being a Dad is a journey and I often take the wrong route (you know, men and directions …) but I like to think I am heading in the right direction. That is something my kids will have to decide for themselves when they have children of their own some day.
In the meantime, today is a little sadder than usual. I miss my Dad.