[This article was kinkdly shared with us by Happy Cow's good friend and Life Achievement Facilitator, Jodene Shaer. It was originally part of her March Newsletter, which you can view in its entirity online by clicking here. You can also sign up to receive Jodene's marvellously inspiring and free newsletters in your e-mail inbox every month by clicking here.]
In a couple of days, it will be six months since my father ended his long and brave battle with emphysema. As time passes it becomes harder to remember the sound of his voice, the twinkle he had in his big blue eyes or the way he used to grind his jaw when he was irritated. I spend so much time encouraging my mother to remember him before his illness and beyond the frail individual that he became. Yet, secretly I cannot get the last day of my father's life out of my mind. As much as I try to think back on his healthy days, I keep returning to his bedside and the two special moments we shared.
I always told my dad that he taught me two lessons that were more important than any other gift he gave me throughout my life. However, until last night I had never truly used or understood his teachings. It is easy to say that you admire someone because they lead by example, but to follow that example and breathe life into it so that it enriches your journey, is a great feat.
My father taught me these two things:
Never give up on your dreams.
Fight for what you want.
And in the moments when any minute could have been the last, he made sure that he imprinted those two lessons in my heart. I wonder if he knew they would emerge as a life changing realisation months down the line?
My father knew what he wanted and for as long as I can remember, he got it too. No matter what it was in his life, he focused on his goal without compromise. His last request went against the wishes of the nurses as well as his physical abilities, yet, on numerous occasions, through a state of delusion and an oxygen mask, he asked to get out of the bed for a few moments. Of course the nursing staff would not hear of his request and the more they said no, the more he argued.
When I was called to his bedside, I was convinced he was so delirious that it could have been any of his five children he requested to see. I was wrong! My father wanted me. He told me of his request and I had the same reaction as the team of caregivers around him. I leaned close to him and told him it was not a good idea at all. Even though it was simply to move from the bed for the shortest time, it was physically impossible for him. As I began to argue with him, he lifted his once strong hand and pointed a finger at me. I had to lean further in to hear what he was saying and needed him to repeat it a few times before I could understand.
"I need you to listen to me" he whispered "I called you because you are the only one who has ever listened to me".
Each of my precious siblings had their own magical bond with our dad, but the way in which he said that defined our connection. I appreciated the odd things my father ate, the mad quantity with which he catered or purchased things and his off the wall ideas and dreams that he had. Yes, I agreed with the rest of my siblings that they were a little crazy sometimes, yet when we spoke, I always accepted them as his truth and his reality and in return, my father had the same respect for me. He would clench his jaw and I would roll my eyes, yet we always listened to each other. Within ten minutes, I ensured that my father's wish was granted by the matron.
My last private moment was a conversation that wrenched at my heart for the lie I had to tell him. Once again, leaning in to understand what he was trying to say, I fought back the tears that might have fallen and wet his cheek as I listened intently.
"Ten days" he said "We have to count down so I am home in ten days". That would have been the beginning of the Jewish New Year celebration and I knew he would have wanted to be home for that.
"Alright daddy, this is day ten, right?"
He looked right through me in his delirious state and nodded.
"So the countdown has begun? You are gonna fight really hard to get better and be home in ten days?"
Once again, he nodded.
When I said good night to him a few hours later, I said it with the knowing that he would leave this life with the fighting spirit he instilled in me. On the morning of day nine he peacefully slipped away.
"Listen to me. You have always listened to me".
That sentence has played over in my head, no matter my attempts to stop the churning of his words. What was it about listening to my father that I had been missing? What if it was just an obsessive hanging on to the last moments we had together? It could have been had I not had this profound realisation: My father always dreamed and the dreams were big. Some of them he did not get to fulfil. However, I do not think it mattered one bit to him because every day he lived as if he would see them come to life. As far back as I can remember, we always spoke of my dad as someone who lived his dreams. Lived his dreams - did not necessarily reach them - but he lived them, with all his heart, his soul and his passion. His dreams, not anybody else's. Believe me when I say that countless individuals tried to tell him what he set out to achieve was impossible and some of them were. But not to him. I believe that is what kept my father bravely fighting till the end and I also believe that is why he had such a simple and peaceful passing.
So, what did I realise that was so profound it would change my perception of my hopes and dreams for eternity?
I realised this: My father whispered to me that he wanted to be home in ten days. He was a man of tradition and had a firm belief in the Jewish laws and ways. Even though I have found my own path, I have the utmost respect for the beliefs that my father held dear to his heart. My father would have believed that upon a Soul's departure from this physical world, it would take seven days to reach "home" from the time of burial. He left us on a Friday and was unable to be buried, according to Jewish law, until the Sunday. There is a window of 7 days of mourning and according to the beliefs of my precious father, he would have returned "home" the day that mourning period ended.
Max Shaer, my ever dreaming father, made his dream a reality and was home in ten days.
Yesterday I wept when I finally honoured his request and LISTENED.
And now, I ask you to listen to my father too: No matter what anybody in this life tells you, do not give up on your dreams. Even if the world says they are unobtainable. Even if, in reality, they are unobtainable. More importantly, do not stop living as if that dream is yours for the taking. Wake up every day and take one step closer to it, despite your ability to see any evidence that what you are doing is getting you there. No matter what, you are dreaming and you are walking and you are never giving up on yourself.
I am writing my first novel. Yes, I put it down and tried to forget about it because it was too frightening to complete and because the thought of the publishing process was horrifically described to me by numerous people, but that is not what my father taught me. He taught me to keep writing, not for anybody else, but for me. And when the writing is complete I will edit that story, not for anyone else but me. When that is complete I will go on a journey to have that story published and I will not stop dreaming until it is. This, however, is the true reason why my father begged me to listen.
That story might never get published, but I will not leave this lifetime believing that for a moment. I will fight till the bitter end for that dream and for all the rest of the dreams I have, so that at the end of my days I know this: I never gave up on myself and because I lived every day dreaming of greatness, success and accomplishment, I lived a great, successful and accomplished life.
Maybe, beyond our physical and material needs, we do all reach our dreams in the end ... my father did.
Watch Jodene's inspiring YouTube video 'Contemplate This' below.
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