Lessons from losing my father

Losing my dad last week has taught me some important lessons that I thought were appropriate to share here, before I get back to my regular blog topics. It feels weird to get back to my regular life, without reflecting. I know a few of these ideas might sound cliché, but I hope my thoughts resonate with you and help spur you to take action as I am doing.

Be sure you have a will, a medical directive, and guardians set up for your children in the event that you, your spouse, or both of you pass away. Also, if you can, make funeral arrangements or at least make a record of your wishes. (Funeral insurance is a new option to help with this.) We had started working on this years ago, but had never really finalized any of it with a lawyer. We just didn’t have the money to get it done. My dad’s hospital stay and passing was my wake-up call about how important these things are. My dad did not have a will or a  medical directive, which meant we had to guess what he would wan. It also made the day of his death that much more stressful. We cannot wait anymore to do these things, especially since we have young children that need to be taken care of!

Shiva is an important mitzvah that should not be overlooked. I have attended only a few shiva houses (Jewish houses of mourning) that were not of family members who had died. I did not realize what an important chesed (kindness, help) this is until experiencing it myself. It was so nice of people to take time out of their day to come visit us and also for those who sent food, cards, etc. It was also a great opportunity to learn more about my dad and his impact on others. I am proud that despite his quirkiness and mistakes, he still left a legacy of chesed and extreme kindness to others. I will definitely make more of an effort to pay shiva calls as often as I can.

Don’t have regrets in your relationships, fix and work on them now. We often don’t think about losing a loved one. No one wants to face that someday that person will be gone from our world. I, of course, cannot stop thinking about all the things I should have done and said to my father. A friend reminded me that having those regrets does me no good if they just make me sad. But if I use them to better my current relationships, then those mistakes and thoughts have a purpose.

Prayer has amazing power. I have heard this so many times and am definitely a believer. However, I also saw it first hand while my dad was in the hospital. He made it through so many hurdles and so much longer than any of the doctors thought. I have to believe that this is not just because he was a fighter, but because of all the people davening (praying) for him and all the mitzvot (good deeds) he did while he was alive.

Don’t wait for the opportunity to do a mitzvah – seek them out. One thing one of our rabbis who was close to my dad said was that my dad always searched out ways to help other people. He was proactive in his chesed. He would often go into debt helping others. What a powerful example!

Be a good neighbor. I was so touched that my dad’s downstairs neighbor came to see me during shiva. She said she had come to think of him as her own dad. She looked out for him as he did her. These last few weeks she has been helping keep an eye on his cat, too. At other times she would give my dad toys and clothes her kids had outgrown for my kids. She had never met me until shiva! What an amazing relationship! I am glad my dad had someone living close by to keep an eye out for him!

Thank you for reading/listening to my thoughts. Perhaps one of you shares my feelings, having gone through a loss of your own. I hope something may be of help to you or may influence you to work on your own middos (manners) and actions.


11 thoughts on “Lessons from losing my father

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  1. This is so meaningful and beautiful and inspirational; thank you! Hamakom yenachem eschem bsoch shaar avlei Zion vYerushalayim.

  2. Very wise words Rachael and beautifully written. A word about Elliot – he was the most resourceful person I’ve ever known. If something needed to be done he found a way to do it. Nothing was impossible to him. That was who he was. (And I love the photo of him and Gavin:).

  3. dear rachael,
    thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences. hope to be more in touch with you in the future. please feel free to contact me anytime. with love, cousin sharon

    1. Thank you so much! I am so glad we got a little time together when you were here. I hope to see you again soon! I would love it if you did a class here!

  4. Rachael…I wanted to tell you that I am so proud of you for handling your Dad’s death with such grace, strength and courage…God bless you.
    With love and prayers,

    1. Grace? Huh? I am not sure my sons would agree as I lose my patience with them over small things. And collapsing after my boys go to bed and not getting anything done is not so helpful, either! Thank you for your kindness and comment, though! 🙂

  5. Your words are very meaningful and will hopefully give me a kick in the pants! I have all of the paperwork to do a will and web sites for a medical directive. I just need to do it! You’re right, thinking about the “end” is really hard, but must be done. Thanks so much for your insight.

    1. None of us want to think about it. Now my siblings and I are having to do so much work and guesswork about handling my dad’s affairs. If I can, I want to prevent my sons from having to go through all that! Thanks for your comments! Looking forward to seeing you soon!

  6. Thank you Rachael for those beautiful reminders of things we often forget about in the fast-paced lives we live in. I’m sure your father is very proud of you and is still with you and your family. Thank you so much for sharing. I’ll take those things to heart.

    1. Thank you so much for your nice comments. He thought very fondly of you all, too. So sad we lost him so soon! Thanks for reading!

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