Paulelmo's Blog

For sons who have lost fathers and daughters who have lost mothers

My dad died in 2000, so there’s been a bit of time to get used to having him around, and the pain never comes as raw as it had the potential to do in those early days. You get used to it; still, whether that’s true or not, you can’t say that to a son who has recently lost a father or a daughter who has lost a mother. (Unless you’re an SH or a DW of course.*)

But you have to say something, and is there ever really anything right to say? Everything you say sounds hollow, and you know it’s the same stuff everybody else says, so you have to wonder if they question whether you mean it or if you’re just saying it because it’s what people say.

Having lived through losing my father, I also know that there comes a time when, as the bereaved—and so consoled–you just get tired of hearing it. And here is where human frailty comes into play for that person. You know people are just being nice–which is not a bad thing at all to be–that they would show a lack of social grace if they didn’t say something.

Still, you’re tired of it; you’ve been hearing it for a week or more, and it has gotten to the point where the mention serves as a reminder you don’t want, and you just wish everyone would accept that you’re ok, that you do know how sorry they are and that you’ll call if you need anything, and leave it alone. At least that’s how it was for me.

Then, when Dad had been dead a little more than a week, I had a guy say something to me that really set me back.

He was a regular at the bar, and since I had taken a week off from work I hadn’t seen him. So, there’s the whole deal with people welcoming me back and offering all of those condolences. I don’t recall if he took part in any of that or not, but a bit after things had settled down a bit and other bar guests were getting caught up in their conversations, he says to me, “So, you’re dad died.”

I said yes, my father had died.

He then said, “My dad died.”

I told him that I hadn’t known and offered my condolences, because that’s what we do, and he told me not to worry about it because it had been a long time.

Then he says, “Now, I’m going to say something to you, and at first you’re not going to know how to take it. Still, if you hear me out, I think you’re going to be glad I said it.”

I was a bit wary, of course, but I told him that would be cool.

“Your dad has been dead for a bit now, so you’ve probably had enough of people telling you how sorry they are and asking if there is anything they can do.”

I told him that was pretty much the case.

He laughed. “I know. I know; you feel bad for thinking it; they’re just doing what we’re supposed to do in those situations, after all, but still…you just kind of wish you could get that part of the whole deal behind you.”

I agreed to feeling as much.

“I felt exactly the same way, and then one day I ran into one of the men my dad had worked with, and he spoke to me in much the same way I’m talking to you, telling me he wanted to tell me something and that he wanted me to hear him out before I hit him or whatever.”

I laughed a bit at that.

“So, what he says to me, in response to my father having died, and what I’m now saying to you in response to your father having died, is this: “Congratulations.”

I didn’t say anything, knowing that he was going to explain what he would say such a thing.

“The reason that man said that to me and the reason I’m saying it to you is this: A man can’t fully become the man he is intended to be until his father has died.”

I thought about it for a moment, and it kind of made sense, and I was just so relieved that he hadn’t me how sorry he was or ask if he could bring some dinner by.

I’ve had a long time to think about that statement, and it has meant a lot of different things to me at different times. Still, I have been a better man since Dad died than I would have been if I hadn’t heard it.

I was talking to a friend recently and he was telling me how his father had passed. I prefaced my words carefully and shared that with him. I saw him since and he told me how he had shared it with his sales staff, underscoring the drive he has for the man and man of business he wants to be.

His telling me that it helped made me think some of you might take something from it. It doesn’t just apply to sons and their fathers either; I don’t see any reason why the same isn’t true of daughters and their mothers. And I don’t mean to imply that we live in our parents’ shadows; it doesn’t mean that to me. What it means to me is this: We are the greatest legacy our parents have, and nobody knows more than us the dreams and goals they had for this world. That being said, when they go, part of what they were here to do falls on us. I don’t think more needs to be said.

So, there’s that; I hope it helps someone. God bless you all and watch over you while you sleep.

Feel free to share this with friends who might be able to use it.

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