In just two months they both died. Grandpa had been ill for years… expected to not live long. Amputated legs, lost kidneys, heart ready to quit: these things don’t make you expect a long life for an old man. But Grandpa was so bright and alive in mind and spirit. He just didn’t quit — until one of his two sons died. My Dad’s only sibling—my uncle—had a massive heart-attack at just 51. He died so suddenly and tragically that I know several non-family members who were permanently shaken by it. Grandpa must have been shaken most because his heart finally quit one day during dialysis.
[highlight class=”highlight_yellow” style=””]A man in his forties searches for his legacy. [/highlight]He sees the men that shaped him fade into What Is Next and looks to make his own mark. Dad turned 41 the year his father and brother died. His identity as a man was shaken as he dealt with death firsthand. More importantly, he came to grips with his own eventual death, and it marked him. [highlight class=”highlight_yellow” style=””]A man must be marked by something before making a mark in the world[/highlight]—even if that mark extends no farther than his children.
Life and Death
I believe that dealing with death holds particular challenges for men. It is even less easy for fathers. As men, we have a tough enough time with the insecurity the subject generates. As fathers we must also deal with the position our own death would put our children in. The father factor makes the untenable idea of death a horrifying subject not brought up on purpose.
Dad dealt with these deaths by leaving a greater legacy than he would have if they were alive today. He made his mark not in spite of death but because of it. You see, as dads we must discover quickly that we are not invincible. [highlight class=”highlight_yellow” style=””]We must employ our mortality as the motivation for living right in the present.[/highlight] Dealing with death, as I’ve seen in my own father, is less about grief than it is about life. The question, “How will I live without so-and-so?” eventually transposes into “How will I live my life from now on?” We cannot simply examine other loved-one’s deaths. Examination of our own lives is the crux of dealing with death as a father. Who will mourn my death? Where will my legacy be left? What things would my children miss? What have I entrusted to them thus far in life? Being Dad on purpose means dealing with death as a fact of life.
Questions to Ask Yourself or a Group of Other Dads:
- What were the most significant deaths in your family growing up?
- What did you learn about life and death through these?
- Have there been any recent deaths that your kids are aware of?
- What could you do to help your kids understand death?
- How could explaining death to your kids actually help you grieve too?