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Sharing the people, places & little moments that make a difference.

Still learning lessons from my dad June 18, 2017

Filed under: Life Lessons — Heather @ 1:57 pm
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Family1980

We were a tight-knit family from the start.

Father’s Day seems to creep up on me every year.

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Perhaps because it is like every day for me. It is a day without my dad. I recall the memories of our time together, and ponder the many moments that he has missed in my life, and our family, since his death from cancer. My sisters and I were fortunate to have a dad who was ‘there’ for us. My parents were an active part of our childhood, from activities to helping with homework to family outings and more. I am blessed that I never doubted for any second the love and support that my dad had for his daughters (and my mom still has).

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Since we have always been a close family, his death had a significant impact on our lives, causing a deep hole that aches less over the years, but never will fully close. I think of him often. When I decided to buy a new home on my own, I knew he would be proud that I worked hard to afford it. When I made an offer on my new home, I thought how convenient it would be to have him inspect my house (he was a home builder). When I needed to coordinate contractors before I moved, I thought how he would have had a list of people to call. As I make a (growing) list for the handyman I need to hire, I think how easy it would be for him to complete my list (because he would have been insulted if I even thought of hiring someone!). As I still figure out this new chapter of life, deciding on my long-term career goals, dating again, travel plans and more, I think how amazing it would be to have him sitting across from me, listening and giving input when I needed it. As I advocate on behalf of cancer survivors, I know he would be proud. As I prepare to bike across Iowa with LIVESTRONG, I know he would encourage me and remind me to have faith in myself.

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The great thing about my dad is that during his time with us, in our presence, he shared many stories and taught us many lessons that traverse through these years without him in our presence. Just the other day, I was pondering the best way to hang a new shelf and I swear I felt him standing beside me right before my ‘aha’ moment. Some of the lessons that he shared…..

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Be smart. Get educated in school so you can have a career that allows you to be independent and happy, and get educated outside of school about the world around you. There are so many lessons to be learned simply by paying attention to what’s in front of you.

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Be a woman who can take care of yourself, yet also be willing to let a man support and be there for you (and don’t settle for a man who is unwilling or able to do this). My parents raised my sisters and me to be able to do many things around the house, in the kitchen, outside in the yard and through varying aspects of our lives. My dad also showed my sisters and me what it is to have a man respect and love you, as he did my mom, by pitching in with cooking, chores, supporting her career choices, listening to her and us, asking for opinions and more.

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Laugh and be silly. If you didn’t know my dad well enough, you might see a serious, sometimes scowling man on the outside. But when you got to know him, you saw his loving, funny and goofy side. He loved practical jokes and playing games. He showed me the joy of letting your guard down and enjoying the moment. And thinking about his sometimes too serious side reminds me not to be so serious all the time.

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Trust in love. My mom turned my dad down multiple times before agreeing to go on a date. He said he knew the moment she smiled at him that he needed her in his life so kept asking. Many people didn’t think they would make it very long due to varying circumstances, yet they trusted in each other and their love (and were married almost 35 years before he died). I often marvel at how fortunate my sisters and I are to have grown up with such an example of love triumphing, and I often hope my future husband and I will be brave enough to trust in our love overcome anything life throws at us. I have learned that you never know when love will stroll into your life. But to trust in love with someone else, you have to trust yourself, your judgement and what you want.

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Wishing all dads a very Happy Father’s Day, today and every day!

 

A look back at life advice from Dad June 18, 2016

Filed under: Cancer Tips,Life Lessons — Heather @ 9:00 am
Tags: , , , , ,

In honor of Father’s Day tomorrow, I thought I would re-post a blog I wrote a few years ago about some life advice my dad shared before he died from multiple myeloma. I am blessed to have experienced his love and guidance for as many years as I did. I still miss him every minute of every day.

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Life Advice from Dad (originally posted June 26, 2014)

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DadHH

Pictures capture the special memories.

Tomorrow is a special anniversary for it will be 16 years since I walked out of the hospital finished with chemo and ready to face the world as a cancer survivor. I was terrified, relieved, excited, hopeful, anxious.

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Sixteen years later I still feel those emotions on a regular basis. Finishing treatment for cancer doesn’t mean you’re finished with the disease. If you’re blessed and lucky, the actual disease will stay away forever but the aftermath of treatment, both mentally and physically, continues to greet survivors daily. Of course I’d much rather face those challenges than the alternative of not being on Earth.

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Next month, the 10-year anniversary of my dad’s death from cancer will occur. While we were diagnosed a year apart, our cancers were different enough that our paths split.

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Thoughts of my dad flit into my mind daily.  Sometimes, it’s little things that make me miss him, such as knowing he’d help with a home project (he was a home builder) or his willingness to try the craft beers I like (even though he was a faithful Budweiser man). Other times, my heart aches for the major milestones he is missing, such as weddings, the birth of his grandchildren or opportunities to enjoy retirement with my mom. And, even though 10 years have passed, I still have the desire to share with him and ask his input on random things – successes at work, advice on marriage, family vacation stories, politics, books. I sometimes get taken aback at the strong urge to pick up the phone and talk to him.

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Family1980

My family has been close since the beginning.

My dad knew his battle was ending, probably before all of us accepted it. While his spirit and mind continued to rally, his body was worn out after six years of treatment. In the months leading up to his death, we talked a lot. About how cancer changes you, his love for his family, his happiest memories, his childhood antics, my future. He was never an overly emotional person but his illness made him open up more to my mom, sisters and me. And in those moments he provided good life tips that only a father can share with his child. In honor of him and my cancer anniversary, I thought I’d share with you.

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  1. Learn to laugh at yourself, and also laugh at the challenges life brings. I’ve learned your attitude can be a major factor in how life plays out. You can’t control everything in life so focus on what you can.
  2. Learn to forgive. It may be difficult to forget when someone hurts you but forgiving heals you. And saves you time and energy. Why exert so much negative energy? Maybe you choose not to keep a person in your life but then don’t let them have so much influence that you’re negatively impacted. What’s the point?
  3. Let people love you and surround you with laughter. You can’t truly love or be loved if you don’t open your heart and take risks.
  4. Don’t let work be your life because at the end of your breaths, people matter. Make time for them, enjoy them, love them. Love life.
  5. Always hold your head high and do things you can be proud of.
  6. Be loyal but don’t let people screw you over.
  7. Learn about life and the world around us, listen to others, try to solve a problem yourself (this helps you learn something new), travel outside of your hometown and if possible outside of the U.S. Step away from the television, computer and phone to open your eyes to the beauty and happy people around you. Enjoy life.
  8. Don’t spend your energy and time on people who don’t make time for you, including friends and family. Life is too short to spend it on people who don’t feel the same. We’re all busy, whether you’re single, married, parent, business owner, etc. It seems like people are always trying to be busier than someone else these days. I’ve learned to make efforts with those I care about but if it’s continuously not reciprocated, then I turn my energies to others who make efforts too (but I don’t harbor negative feelings towards those who didn’t make time for me. We choose our priorities and live with the outcomes.).
  9. Don’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. You can’t fix everyone’s problems or attitudes so focus on what you can.
  10. Treasure each day. Seriously, DO THIS. Appreciate being alive, time with your loved ones, your body, the breaths you take, the steps you walk and the opportunities you have.
  11. (Bonus) Love your parents for you never know when they won’t be there.
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It may seem odd to roll my cancer anniversary, a celebration, and the anniversary of my dad’s death into the same blog. But they are connected – being a cancer survivor and my dad’s death made me stronger, braver and much more appreciative of life. My dad fought cancer to the end and I continue to fight it daily by embracing those I love, taking advantage of opportunities and adventure, facing life with hope, standing strong for others when I can, laughing, breathing.

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What do you treasure and appreciate about life?

 

 
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