Community//

How my father’s death gave me a better life.

Now wait, before everyone gets all judgmental and thinks I’m an %$#@, it’s not at all what you think.

In 2016 my father had received the news that finally, after 11 years, he would receive a much-needed kidney. He has endured dialysis 3 times a week for almost 10 years to keep him alive, so you can imagine it was a joyous occasion. Shortly after the transplant the joy soon vanished and quickly turned into a nightmare. Complications and a horrible infection from the surgery caused my father to have a severe seizure and he was placed in an induced coma and placed on life support in the attempt to save his life. He fought for over 100 days with his family by his side. Every day we prayed and bargained with God and the universe to let him wake up. He died on August 31, 2016. 

We were devasted, shook to the core. It was a tragic loss and deeply saddening for my entire family. Life Blow # 1. 

Immediately following his death, we found out that my mother had an aortic aneurysm that was at critical and she needed heart surgery, or she would die. Life Blow #2. 

Why is this happening?! Can we just go back to the way it was? This is too much and not in my plan. 

I didn’t know at the time that these events and the ones that followed was “life” teaching me some much needed and valuable lessons about what is truly important. So, as “life” would have it….it was my turn to learn and I had to learn fast. In hindsight, there was no other way I was going to learn except for “life” to knock me to my knees. I was too busy living my fantastic New York life. It’s not that I thought I was exempt from life’s misfortunes, death, illness, heartbreak but I had experienced very little of this in my 53 years of life and felt somewhat stupidly immune. Denial is a powerful thing.

Big mistake….huge! No one, and I mean no one, is immune from “life” and the shit it throws at us. 

Let me back up a bit to before I dropped everything and high-tailed it to Toronto with one suitcase to be at my father’s bedside with my family. 

I had moved from LA to New York in 2005 for a fantastic opportunity and was on a mission to prove to myself that I could make it in the big apple and put the naysayer’s doubts to rest. I was relentless and single-minded in my pursuit and desperate to prove myself. The fear of having to go back to LA with my tail between my legs because New York kicked my ass was not an option. I was unstoppable!!! 

The better I got at my job the better I felt about myself. The more money I made the better I felt about myself. The more successful I became, the better I felt about myself. I could eat where I wanted, I could afford a great apartment, with no roommates. The subway was out of the question, car service only. I don’t have time to clean said so a housekeeper was needed. I could buy whatever I wanted and since I started getting photographed because of work, God forbid I get caught wearing the same thing twice at an event. I think, ok I know, at one time I had over 100 pairs of shoes. They made me feel good, worthy and successful. This went on with minimal miss steps for 11 years. I got caught up in the external validation and the presentation of who I was showing the world. 

I was great at my job. The raises and title of VP proved this but I was always in pursuit of the next challenge and conquest. You’re only as good as your last success I kept on saying to myself. I never allowed myself to be present, so I never enjoyed the accomplishments and found validation in the superficial. I forgot what was important and placed my time and identity on my job and the external things it afforded me to feel good about myself. So, when it all went unceremoniously away because “life” showed up, I had no idea who I was and found that I had neglected what was most important; family, friends and most importantly myself. 

Placing who I was on what I had, what I do and not on who I am was a painful reckoning. It was a reset life button that needed to happen. I didn’t see it like that while I was clipping my father’s toenails in the hospital but I see it now…..clearly and it was the best and most important thing that could have happened. 

I learned what I was made of, how I identified myself and measured my worth had nothing to do with what I could buy. 

I learned that what other people thought or what I thought other people thought of me is not important at all since most people are too busy thinking about themselves to be thinking about me. 

I learned what I have or do not have is not how I validate myself any longer and not how I validate my self-worth. I still like nice things, but I am no longer defined by them, yearn for them, run a credit card up for them, and not having them doesn’t take anything away from me. Speaking of nice things, while managing my parent’s financials, realizing that 2 pairs of my sneakers could pay their mortgage for 4 months. That didn’t feel good. 

I learned that I am who I am regardless of running around in fake size 14…I wear a size 9….Dollar store Crocs did not change who I am or the support and comfort I was able to give my family during our time of loss. I would never have been able to say that before. 

I learned that life can change on a dime and what I thought was so damn important and what I spent my time thinking about, more often than not, had no importance at all. 

I now have a desire to look inside and grow personally. To be empathetic. To be present. To look at my emotional, mental and spiritual well-being and check in often to make sure I’m on track. I don’t assume anything and take nothing for granted anymore; my health, my finances, my state of mind, my loved ones or another day given. It’s all truly a blessing when life is going great. 

I am most grateful for the family that has helped me grow, the friends that did not leave my side and believed in me when the shit hit the fan, or should I say when life hit the fan. 

So, as I move forward into the next chapters of my life I’m winding up not winding down. I am still learning, evolving and know now what is important. The challenges and obstacles have made me a better man and I’m liking this man a little more every day. 

What I am most proud of is my father’s passing and the events that followed, although sad enriched my heart in ways I never imagined. Money can’t buy that and I am forever changed for the better. 

A few words of wisdom my father used to say, “if you don’t ask the answer is a 100% no but if you do ask there is a 50-50 chance you’ll get a yes, and those are great odds. 

Tony 

Ps. It took over 2 years to get moms health under control and I’m happy to report she’s doing great! 

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