In the early Autumn of 1986 my family went through a typical American rite of passage when we drove my older sister to college and had to adjust to a new dynamic of the three of us at home. A short time later (maybe a week or 2) our family of three spent a great day with my parents’ best friends. The year before they had been through the same ritual so it was just us younger siblings with the adults. We arrived home late to find our apartment building elevator was out of service. We slowly climbed the six double flights of stairs to our apartment. Moments after entering our home my father went into the bathroom and had a massive and fatal heart attack.
I was 14 years old and had just started the 9th grade. In a matter of weeks I went from a typical middle class American family of four to living alone with my mother. I am sure there is no best time to lose a parent, but I desperately wish I could have made it through my childhood with my family in tact. There were so many moments when he should have been there by my side – when I graduated from school, headed off overseas, at my wedding to walk me down the aisle and share a dance, when my children were born…
The funny thing about life events is the ripple effect that occurs with each twist and turn. Once an event occurs you cannot go back to see where the original path would have taken you. The life I have led since has been filled with some very hard times (only some of them directly related to the loss of my father), but also filled with some amazing moments where I chose a new path (some of them motivated by the loss of my father). If I had my father back would it have prevented the bad things? would the good things still have come into my life?
Raising me through my teen years was very hard for my mother. I never dealt with my grief and became a very difficult teenager – more so than I probably would have been otherwise. I am lucky though that I was blessed with a mother who has stood by me through the ups and downs and and always let me be the person I was – even when it was probably driving her crazy.
Now that I am raising two daughters I look back on my life and think about the lessons I now want to teach my children. The biggest insight I get into how to be a better parent comes from the lessons my own mother taught me. I have seen many an interview where someone has suffered in their life and is asked “would you go back and change it if you could?” I used to think I would, but knowing the ripple effect that has occurred in my life I can now say I would not. To accept my life now means to accept it fully for I did not arrive here on a straight and predictable path. Tragedies and traumas can make us feel broken, but they can also make us stronger as we heal. A protected and easy life does not ensure any greater happiness or success. Challenges that arise in our lives, whether they are daily or single experiences, are the things that will make us unique. How we use our pain and choose to move forward is what will set us apart from victims and those who stay with the fear and anger rather than pushing through them.
Find your simple,