The following are the 10 life lessons I learned through the death of my Dad.
But first, let me explain the process of writing this post.
It’s been a few years since my Dad passed away and it’s taken me this entire time to be comfortable in writing about it. As many of you would know, the sudden loss of someone close to you, particularly a parent, is extremely difficult to deal with.
Whilst the passing of my Dad was hands down the worst experience of my life, I seem to have learned many lessons in the four years since he’s been gone. By no means have I managed to deal with all my feelings as yet, (and I don’t think I ever will), but I’ve come a long way.
I think though, without his passing, I wouldn’t be the person I am now.
A Brief History
Before I get to the 10 life lessons I learned through the death of my Dad, you need to know a bit more about him.
When I was quite young, I had a wonderful relationship with my Dad, well, that’s what my Mum tells me anyway.
Growing up, he certainly took care of us all, spending all the money he had taking us on many wonderful and memorable holidays, buying us brand new bikes, and making sure we never wanted for anything.
Later, when I got a bit older, I noticed that my Dad wasn’t, what I would refer to as, overly ‘fatherly’. This stemmed from his relationship with his father, which by all accounts was quite authoritarian and was anything but ‘lovey-dovey’.
In the years to come, it was quite clear that I didn’t have one of those loving relationships with my Dad that I saw on TV shows, although I loved him very much.
Like many fathers of the 70’s, my Dad wasn’t present all that often. He generally left that bit to my Mum.
He certainly worked hard to put food on the table and made many sacrifices for me and my three siblings over the years, but I certainly don’t remember many times that he would sit down with me and play Meccano, paint model planes, play the Atari or have a hit of cricket in the backyard. I’m sure he did on occasion, but generally speaking, he was a typical father of that generation.
In retrospect, uur relationship wasn’t ever great. I argued with him a fair bit, didn’t show a lot of respect on many occasions, and certainly didn’t really value his influence in my life. When I got married, I saw him less and less. This, together with not seeing eye to eye on a few issues, meant our relationship soured.
Where Things Went Pear Shaped
In recent years, just before I had kids, I had ‘another’ argument with him, and because of my pig-headedness and holding on to a strong position that I was right and that he had to apologize, the rift went on, and on, and on.
Fast forward 3 kids later. I was adamant that he had the issues and if he did really want to see his grandkids, he would need to approach me. I was stupid. But really, that doesn’t accurately represent me at all. I wasn’t only stupid, but inconsiderate, selfish, uncaring, and ultimately unforgiving.
I couldn’t forgive him for what was in all honesty, a lack of being able to bridge the gap. In some sense, he was incapable of knowing how to connect, and because of this, the rift went on.
It was Wednesday and I was enjoying time with my kids at the pool.
I was, in my mind, an awesome Dad. I was a lot of things to my kids that my Dad wasn’t to me. I was present (most of the time), I was caring and would kiss and cuddle them far too often, much to their disgust, and I was forgiving. I had it all together.
Then the call came through from my sister. I’m at Dad’s, with the police. Dad’s dead. You need to come now.
What had I done? Could I be responsible for this? Is this all on me? There were dozens of thoughts rushing around in my head in an instant.
What I couldn’t actually bring myself to admit, is that my kids would never ever get to know their granddad. No sitting on his knee reading books, no gardening with him in the backyard, inviting him to school concerts, no kisses, and no hugs.
For me, there’d be no making up and giving him a hug, no reminiscing about what I was like when I was young, no chats around the fire, no arguments, no sitting through long-winded stories about his life, no opportunities to receive life-changing advice, no holidays together, and no family gatherings with all the siblings and granddad just being together.
This was all on me. ME alone! It was overwhelming. More than I could bear. I didn’t know what to do or how to ‘fix’ this but I knew I had to ask myself some hard questions.
This is the exact point where my life had to change.
Initially, I knew, I had an unforgiving attitude. If I could forgive my wife and my kids, why couldn’t I forgive my Dad?
I did take a bit of time to come to understand that I couldn’t choose who I forgave, this wasn’t how it worked. I knew the ramifications of what my unforgiveness had done, but again, it took time for me to totally comprehend the full and powerful ripple effects.
I do now.
I totally understand how bad the pain is and how, because of my inaction, my children’s lives will be forever different from how they could have been. They’re paying the price now, not just my siblings and me.
How could I have been so uncaring? How could I have let unforgiveness creep into my life without knowing? Why didn’t I think about my children? And so on and so on.
These, along with many other questions, I’m still working through. And let me tell you, it’s tough, Real tough.
What I do know is that it took the death of my father to wake me up from my lackadaisical cloud where I never really had the intent or the guts to inspect my attitude and motives.
My heart was hard and I knew it. I just didn’t want to dig deep and understand why. It was too easy to continue in a lie, telling myself all would be fine.
You know the feeling, you’re drifting along, knowing that there are underlying issues in your life. Maybe they’re not huge, maybe they are, but you know deep down you need to address them.
You have a feeling, just an inkling, that in time, they’ll come back to bite you on the arse one way or another.
A Life Well Lived
I’ve had time to reflect on my Dad and the incredible life he lived. He was a champion and a strong rock to many many people. I’ll never know how many lives he changed through his love of others.
His strong commitment to serve God and to share his beliefs with people he came in contact with that needed either guidance, direction, a friendly smile, some money, a place to stay, forgiveness, love, and everything else he had to give away, has not gone unseen by me, or by God.
He was a man that lived his beliefs.
I don’t know how often I would come home from school and find ‘another’ person in our loungeroom just hanging out with Mum and Dad later to find out that they were across the road on the rail bridge ready to jump in front of the next train, and got talked down by Mum and Dad, or down on their luck with no house or money and needed somewhere to stay, or serious criminals or drug addicts that needed a lifeline. The list went on and on.
Some of the closest friends I’ve had are people who were on serious drugs that had their life changed directly through my Mum and Dad, friends like Ross and Miller, and my best mate BJ. These people are now pillars of the community, reaching hundreds, even thousands of people with their love of God, and their strong convictions that were directly influenced through my Dad.
I’ve now had time to reflect on my Dad’s life.
I’ve also taken quite a bit of time to reflect on my shortcomings in our relationship and had to open up my heart and take a very close look.
For the most part, these include the lack of forgiveness, acceptance, support, love, and the list goes on. There have certainly been many life lessons learned through this process.
Whilst there were certainly aspects of my Dad’s life that needed work and were less than ideal, I can quite honestly say that he was always trying to do his best.
I miss him more than words can say, and would do anything to get back just 1 min. of time to spend with him. Unfortunately, I’ll need to bear the burden of being a failure as a son, until we meet again in eternity, where all hurts and pain are wiped away and our relationship will be around our love for each other.
The 10 Life Lessons I Learned Through the Death Of My Dad
What I’ve also had to time to reflect on are the lessons I’ve learned from my failed relationship with my Dad. These have been the most important lessons I could have ever learned in life.
I don’t think I’d be in a position to learn these unless my Dad passed away, which is the shittiest way of learning, alas, that’s how life works sometimes. I can only take good from a bad situation.
So, with the benefit of hindsight and taking everything into consideration, the following are the life lessons that I’d suggest you consider if you really want to improve your life and become the person you were meant to be.
1. Almost always, others aren’t who we think they are.
2. Without having the intestinal fortitude to dissect your motives, you’re doomed.
3. Unresolved issues Will come back to bite you on the arse.
4. Put yourself in others’ shoes, then determine your response.
5. Hardened hearts destroy lives.
6. Life is short, so wasting time on pursuits that don’t help improve those around us, is a life wasted.
7. Before you judge, know that all of us are broken.
8. Love, acceptance, and forgiveness should be the first three priorities in life.
9. You are responsible for your own thoughts and actions. You alone.
10. Lessons are best learned before they need to be.
I’m still working through these and by no means have I come to grips with them all. I have a long way to go, but I must say, I’m feeling better about myself having realized a few hard truths over the last couple of years.
Every time I look at my three wonderfully loving, accepting and forgiving kids, I hurt for what I’ve caused them to miss out on, albeit for a short time, however, I know that the life lessons I’ve had to learn will be the life lessons they will learn long before they need to, which will certainly make them better people.
My love and forgiveness go out to my Dad, Colin Stanley Ebbage. For all his faults, he was the greatest role-model I could have wished for. Without him, I wouldn’t be the man I am today.
I miss him.
It was a fairly tough process to write this post as I certainly haven’t come to grips with his loss and the effect it’s had on my life.
This can be seen through the many many tears I shed through this writing process together with overwhelming feelings of regret, loss, sadness, and anger.
However, in some respects, it has been strangely cathartic.
It’s my birthday today and as hard as it is to come to grips with turning the big 50 and Dad not being here to celebrate it with me, I thought it an opportune time to publish this post.
I hope you get something out of it.
Re-Write Your Next Chapter
If you are feeling like there’s something you need to change, I implore you to put some immediate action around it.
Do not delay any longer.
You need to re-write this next chapter in your life. FFS don’t use any more excuses.
You are ready.
Be bold and be brave and most importantly, be honest.
Action: Pull out a pen and paper (now!) and write down some things you need to change.
If you don’t know it, I’m here to tell you. You are loved and you are awesome.
Comment below in the comments section on what you thought of these life lessons and whether they resonated with you. Alternatively, head on over to the Facebook page to discuss.
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