Death Gives Clarity To Life

Lessons from my dad's death

My year froze on February 17th when my dad died of COVID after almost two months on a ventilator. Yesterday I saw a mini-van window painted with "Congrats Class of 2021" demanding that I recognize it’s May.

Each 17th of the month, I celebrate my son turning a month older and mark another month since my dad has been gone. They never got to meet each other.

Since I couldn’t bury my dad, I buried my feelings into a fortress numbed by work, pizza, and Netflix. I gave myself permission to take a break from everything. I can't serve and contribute to others until I take care of myself. Now I’m excavating the post-death lessons as I resurrect myself.

Death reveals love.

My dad died at 1:43 am. In the 1990s, the number 143 was the pager and instant messenger code for "I love you." It was his final message to us. I've never felt more loved by my friends and family. I'm humbled by the number of people who have supported us. I smile every time someone shares a memory of my dad. A group of burly longshoremen, my dad's co-workers, took us out to dinner. We stayed until the restaurant closed, telling stories about my dad.

Death gives clarity to life.

I have clarity on my relationship with my dad. Our relationship was complete. There was nothing left unsaid. My dad was a legend whose stories will continue to be passed on. As a Longshoreman, he was so beloved that the Port of LA lifted and lit up all its cranes to honor him.

I quit my nonprofit job working with local health departments. My dad was a workaholic, who loved his job, but he was a closeted musician. He came home every day and played music with a friend who was in and out of homelessness. I could see myself getting trapped into the 9-5 work style and not having enough creative freedom for my art. I knew my job wasn't a perfect fit, but I didn't have enough courage to quit until my dad died.

Grief doesn't end, but I'm starting to come out of my numbness.

Writing is what got me through the past few months. I wrote this tribute about my dad. I am committing to writing a weekly newsletter to share what I am up to. I want to live a life aligned with my artistic side. My goal for this year is to start a dance studio. I shared this with my dad before he went on a ventilator, and he was so excited for me.

I'm honoring my dad's death with a renewed commitment to living an intentional life.