What Losing My Dad At 17 Has Taught Me About Life

Zack Minott

It is through pain and adversity that greatness emerges.

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It was September 24, 2014, when my father passed away.

He laid there lifeless on the hospital bed positioned in the middle of my living room surrounded by the entirety of my family.

My hand rested on his knee, I felt the warmth slowly leave his body as if his soul dissipated into nothingness leaving only the remnant of the great man I have once known.

I knew it was coming for a while, but I always held onto the hope that he would somehow pull through.

He was the strongest man I knew after all.

Stage 4 throat cancer. It’s the only thing I can imagine that can defeat a man I thought to be invincible.

He was a great father. I loved him and I learned many many things from him. No man or woman should ever go through what he went through. All the pain. All the suffering. All the tears. But it was through the witnessing of his decay and the loss of his life, that I learned the greatest and most valuable lessons about life.

His death was the single most life-changing event that has ever happened to me and without it, I don’t think I would have become the man I have become today.

I was old enough to have been nurtured by him but young enough to have never really known him.

It was through this that I evolved into a better human being and emerged into the best possible version of myself.

Amor Fati

In Stoic Philosophy, there was this proverb called Amor Fati which roughly translated to — a love of fate.

“That one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backwards, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it….but love it.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

No matter how tragic losing him was, I would not allow this event to overcome me with grief and depression. I can’t rewind time, I can’t get him back, so I decided that I needed to move forward and utilize this to empower myself as an individual.

I do miss him very much, but honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It was a part of my fate and served as a great lesson for me in understanding and seeing the most important and beautiful things about life.

It is through that adversity, through that pain, through that grief that I evolved into a greater man. I embraced my fate to its fullest and knew deep down that this was meant to happen and there was no reversing it, so I instead learned to love it for the simple effect that it had on my life.

I transformed my suffering into strength.

We Are Living Off Borrowed Time, It’s Best Not To Waste It

It had become blatantly clear to me that man is mortal and that life is fragile. We can leave life at any given or unexpected moment.

Time is a currency that is not to be wasted, so spend it wisely.

I started asking myself, is what I’m doing right now the best way I can be spending my time? Is this important to me? Am I present in what I’m doing? Am I showing those that I love how much I care for them?

The present moment became the most valuable thing to me.

I have no clue when I’m going to die. I could die later today. I could die tomorrow. Or I could die 70 years from now.

This gave me a great sense of urgency in my life. That I have to do everything I possibly can and extract the most out of my life while I’m still alive.

My father had his regrets on his deathbed, and I knew fully-well that he didn’t experience all that he wanted to experience. He didn’t achieve all that he wanted to achieve.

I wasn’t saddened by the fact that he died, but I was saddened by all that he couldn’t experience or see.

So I made it my life goal to exude as much love as possible. To change as many lives as I can. And to not procrastinate on my goals, because the last thing I want is to leave this life feeling like I didn’t do everything in my power to live a fulfilling life.

Life Is Precious, Be Grateful To Have The Honor Of Experiencing It

I remember as my dad was going through chemo-therapy and his symptoms started to worsen, he both lost his sense of smell and his ability to taste. It was extremely frustrating for him.

He couldn’t taste the food that he loved. He couldn’t smell the scent of freshly brewed coffee in the morning. He couldn’t explore what he wanted to explore. And he couldn’t do what he wanted to do.

What did that tell me?

We need to be grateful for everything that our senses provide us. It’s much too often that we take everything that nature has provided us for granted.

Stop and smell the flowers.

Enjoy and focus on the food that your tasting, that might be the last bite you ever have.

Absorb the scents of your environment, that might be the last thing you ever smell.

Enjoy the sensation of touch and how it feels when you brush your skin against the person you love.

Appreciate the harmonic and chaotic noises of your environment, you might find peace there.

Be grateful for everything that your eyes allows you to perceive, the world is more beautiful than you can ever imagine, all you need to do is pay attention to the details.

Everything I need in life is right in front of me. I have everything that I need and I should be grateful for all that I have. Why should I ever waste my time stressing out or being angry?

Just sit back, inhale, and take it all in.

Always Show Others How Much You Care About Them

My single greatest regret in my life is that I never told my father how much I loved him. My mother told me to write a parting note to him several times before he passed away.

A task that I never fulfilled.

Seeing him go without expressing that emotion was the most painful thing to me, which made me promise to myself that I would never again avoid not showing the ones I love, the friends that I care about, and all people that I interact with how much I care.

I want to leave this life knowing that I had the opportunity to change the lives around me through kindness and respect.

Through thoughtful and empathetic interaction.

Don’t make the same mistake I did.

Tell your parents how much you love them. Be present with your friends. Treat everyone with care and respect. You don’t know whose life you’re going to change. You don’t know when you’ll lose those that you care about. Your relationships matter.

Let What’s Most Important To You Drive You Forward

I remember my mom telling me this story about one of the nights she thought my dad was going to pass away.

As he was being rushed into the hospital room coughing up blood, he kept repeating to himself how all he had to do was just make it to a big tournament that I was going to playing in. All he wanted was to live long enough to see me compete in one last game and dream about the man I would become. He wanted to make sure that we would all be okay with out him and that he would always do his best to be there for us. Rest assured, he made it to my game and supported me the entire time with the biggest smile on his face. That meant more to me than anything.

I learned a great deal from this story.

We must be resilient and ruthless in the pursuit of what we want.

Let what is most important to you propel you to where you ultimately want to end up being.

We have to power through adversity and tough times with sights set on where we want to be.

That’s the power of goals.

For me, my dad left my mom all alone drowning in debt with a less than $20/hour job in California’s insane housing market and full of grief.

I made it my duty to do whatever it takes to get to the point where I could support her and provide her with the happiness she once had. I made that my ‘why’, and I let that empower me on a daily basis. Everything I do is centered around that base.

That’s why I stayed close to home, that’s why I picked up reading and learning, that’s why I adopted the entrepreneurial spirit, and that’s why I’m doing everything I possibly can to make myself stand-out from the crowd.

I want to reach a point where I can both support my dreams and my mom. I don’t want to see her struggle anymore and never do I want to see that struggle for myself.

Takeaway

Appreciate what you have.
Show gratitude to those that you love.
Value the time you have and live in the present moment.

Any of us can die at any given moment and we can likewise lose someone we love completely unexpectedly. We’re not going to be here forever, so strive to impact as many lives as possible one person at a time, strive to be the best possible person that you can be, and strive to enjoy every moment that you spend alive.

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Cloud Developer | Philosopher | Avid Reader | Intellectual Explorer and Lifelong Learner | Athlete | Top Writer @Medium

Santa Ana, CA
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