A personal message after the death of my dad

Monday, December 19, 2016. Earlier this month, I participated in a presentation addressing, “What to do when your loved one dies.”

And then mine did. Today, my brother called. “Dad’s dead.” I dropped the phone onto my desk. Like it was the messenger and I wanted it away from me.

My brother was at dad’s house. The police were there. He had been cooking lunch and probably dropped dead from a heart attack. The smoke from the untended skillet had set off alarms.  But wait? He’d done so well after his heart surgery a couple months ago. His cardiologist told him to book a tee time. He was back to his engaged, hard-working, always-got-something-going self. He thought about coming up for Christmas but had been feeling a bit tired; thought he better not. Well, I figured, summer in Michigan might be better anyway…

My dad wasn’t a saint. In fact, it’s really only been in the last 10 years or so that we’ve gotten close. I can’t deny that my life has been influenced by his seeming lack of awareness while I was growing up that he had a daughter. And yet, following a trauma in his own life, he softened a bit. Through that experience, he found the Catholic Church. Not what speaks to me necessarily but it did to him and so we began speaking more. I had a choice to make when he began coming around so late in my life. Was I going to hold on to past wrongs? Or was I willing to give him a second chance?

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I read somewhere that every marriage has cause for divorce. Every relationship has hurts and wrongs and irritations. Some are small. Some are of the kind that no one would question whether divorce was justified but would rather question the wisdom of granting a second chance. I don’t write from only professional experience here.

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There are crystal clear decision points in my life when I chose to extend a second chance. They occurred in very different arenas: following childhood pain with my dad, adulthood trauma in my marriage, and professionally in my firm with a hiring decision. I make no blanket statements here. There are definitely times when the best right decision would be to decline to extend a second chance. And we will all get it wrong sometimes. Extend a second chance only to be stung again. Or fail to do so and deny ourselves richer, deeper relationships that might have resulted from another chance. But today, while processing the loss of my dad, I am so grateful for the memories I have when he came for Christmas five years ago and met his first great grandson, when I stayed with him at his home and traipsed all over looking for acceptable senior retirement housing, when walking with my brothers alongside his gurney at the hospital before his heart surgery, and when he flew up last April for the Senior PGA Golf Tournament—his very favorite hobby—and met his great granddaughter. And I’m so grateful that my soulmate and the person who knows the depths of my being better than anyone anywhere will be beside me as I process this loss. Finally, I’m grateful to have a business where I can offer someone a job that represents both a second chance and the opportunity to begin making restitution.

I have been extended a second chance by others after I’ve failed them. I am grateful for that too.

I’m not advocating an uninformed or wholesale granting of second chances at all times to all people. And every one of us has to make our own best decision when faced with the choice. But I feel grateful for some fortunate calls in my life so I want to declare: I believe in second chances.

Wishing you wisdom,

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