“Feet on the ground, head in the sky.”
One year ago today, I was coloring with my niece Rylan at my sister’s when she (my sister) got the dreadful phone call that our dad passed away unexpectedly. I still feel that numbing shock. I still feel like vomiting.
I have had one year to reflect on my dad’s life and my own. One year to sleep a lot and have an excuse. One year to let go and learn to live again.
This last year was filled with memories of the good times my sister and I had with our dad. We learned so much about him, and it’s still such a joy to hear the stories shared. I cry during every anecdote told. I miss him so dearly my heart often literally hurts.
What I learned from talking to so many of his friends, tight-knit neighbors, and my family is the impact he left on people. I knew he was a great dad, but didn't think about just how great he was (it’s just Dad!). Selfless, goofy, a rebel in his own way. Nevertheless, he was always thinking of others and his kids. I didn’t see that as an adult because I was too wrapped up in my little world, going 100 miles per hour, trying to survive (just like him).
Slow down, everything is going to be all right.
While working on his house with my (terrific) brother-in-law to prep to sell it, his neighbors would come over and either help with backbreaking work (thank you, Jeff), bring us food (still looking at you, Jeff) and water (much appreciated, Traveedus), or just to tell me stories about my dad and how much he truly loved Hollie and I. He was truly a proud parent and proud grandparent. I take comfort in knowing this.
I wrote about his life — I hope you have some time to read about who he was: The Last Great American Whale.
I was also given the opportunity to write his obituary and eulogy -- both equally terrifying because of the fast turnaround -- and peppered jokes my dad would certainly laugh at: https://www.chasewhale.com/blog/dad.
Writing about Dad made me think a lot about legacy. What will my legacy be when I die? What impact will I have made on my friends and family? In my dreams, people gather and say how funny I was, that I was kind of a mess and super weird with a bit of sass, but overall, was a good guy. I'll never know if that will happen, but after a rough year processing my dad’s passing and legacy, I'm going to give it my all to live simple, work hard, and be kind to others. It's a lot harder to hate than it is to be kind, trust me.
I have hurt people, and people have hurt me. You have hurt people. People have hurt you. Thankfully, people can change and better themselves. I am not the same person I was one year ago and not the same goon I was five years ago. Except, this time last year changed me forever. I see the world in a whole new way. There have been ups and downs (I am human, I think), but I'm trying to do my best. It's a pleasant feeling living simple and well and being kind to others.
It took my dad’s passing to wake me up. I am still working on things (still believe I'm human. I think.), but I think of him and how he treated people regardless of the situation, and it gives me hope for a better tomorrow.
Thanks to all my friends (old and new), family, and strangers for taking time out of their schedules to aide me in my (sometimes counterintuitive) grieving. I will not forget any of you for the rest of my life.