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Monday, June 20, 2011

6/15 - 6/19 ... Days 166 - 170 ... Dad

This past week I have spent a great deal of time reflecting.  It amazes me how our mind works.  There are   times where I can view memories from the past like a slide show, flashing one after the other, crystal clear.  Sometimes there is a great deal of emotion attached to those memories; sometimes i cry, and sometimes I can watch the slide show of memories totally un-emotionless.  I find it so fascinating how we can have such drastic sways in the way we think, feel and act.

I think reflection is important.  Our past makes up who we are in the present and influences who we CAN become in the future.  It is important to revisit our histories to see where we have come from, what we have learned... to laugh, to cry, to remember.

I have shared with you all much of my thoughts and feelings over this last week.  As I have said before I do it because I think it is important for me to share my struggles as well as my scuccesses with you all.  The 1000 Challenge is about living life to the fullest. 

Living life to the fullest... an expression that has been so badly mis-understood.  I think we have a false definition of what "living life to the fullest" means.  I would wager that most people would say that "kiving life to the fullest" is living a life full of smiles, giggles, living in the moment, doing things your way and on your terms.  I agree 100 percent.  However, there is an important part of the definition that is missing here.

Human beings, we are experiential creatures; meaning that we use the experiences we have in life to build up the fabric of our lives.  A part of the human experience is our ability to feel: Pain, Joy, Anger, Lust, Happiness etc... all of these emotions are a part of who and what we are. 

In life there is going to be saddness, struggles, anger, frustration etc... and because of this I think "living life to the fullest," really means living a life full of human experience.  Yes, we want more giggles, smiles, and the majority of our time devoted to doing things on your terms, but it is just as important to allow yourself to experience the other side of life.  Not to become it, but to experience it. 

The above reasons are why I have wanted to share as much as I have with you.  This last week has been a challenge for me, I have spent a great deal of time reflecting, remembering, morning, and celebrating people who have come and gone from my life.  I feel good about it to.  It has been a very cathartic, very healing experience for me.  By acknowledging my pain, by embracing my sorrow, I have been able to finally process certain thoughts and feelings that I have been resisting for quite sometime.

I have already shared thoughts and feelings on my friend Gabe.  If you have not got a chance to watch the video I put together, please check it out here: Remembering Gabe

To bring this personal week of rememberance and reflection to a close, I wanted to share with you my Dad.

Yesterday was Father's Day here in the USA, my second one spent without the physical presence of my Dad in my life.  I say "physical presence" because while he is gone, he, like Gabe, is certainly not forgotten.

Like Gabe, my Dad's death was unexpected and it came as a shock.  When I spoke to him the last time, I didn't think twice when I hung up the phone that that would be the final time I heard my Dad's voice.  Losing him was devestating.  Not just because of the obvious loss of my Father, but also because I allowed it to push me right back into a black hole that I had been working so hard to crawl out of. 

What follows is my Eulogy I read at my Dad's service, February 6th, 2010.  I ask that when you finish reading it, you first close your eyes and allow yourself to feel whatever emotions may or may not come up, and then take a moment to write down your thoughts and feelings on a piece of paper.  Allow yourself to experience being a human, allow yourself to live life to the fullest.

Carpe Diem


            I am usually not one to be at a loss for words, I specialize in finding the light on the darkest of days.  Moments like these are the ones I am supposed to shine, these are my bottom of the ninth two outs, winning run is at the plate moments.  When tragedy has happened this is my fourth quarter where I lead everyone to a come from behind victory and we win the superbowl.  I am the one that steps up and finds the right words to say that can see the good in the bad.  This is what I live for - the opportunity to teach people and hopefully impart some inspirational words of wisdom that you will take away and use to live a richer life.
            Now though, I am struggling.  I find myself in that same fourth quarter situation standing at the free throw line, terrified to shoot the ball.  In fact I don't even know if I can even remember how to shoot it.  It's easy to talk and find the words, but this is my Dad I speaking about.  My Dad was supposed to be here forever.  In my picture perfect creation of my life this doesn't happen for a long long time, in fact it never even gets thought of.  Dad just got a clean bill of health, declaring him a 100 percent cancer free, he was supposed to be here forever. 
            My Dad got to witness me doing a lot of cool stuff and see me grow.  He watched me play sports over the years, often from the sidelines as a coach.  As a kid he saw me dress up in my combat gear get my toy guns out and go out and hunt for bears with our family friend Tyler.  He saw that evolve to hunting for people when I started playing paint ball in high school.  He saw me start a bowling career with a blue ball with a little dinosaur on it and a score of 55 and then watched as I evolved into the bowling stud I am today – that's supposed to be funny.  We watched professional wrestling together and played Jeopardy together, even though I usually won, we always played when it was on.  When I moved away in late 2000 to pursue a college education and life outside of Humboldt   County, physical experiences gave way to pictures stories.  He saw me graduate college, heard tales of me traveling the world.  He saw videos of me skydiving and saw pictures of me running and working out.  He counseled me when life got the best of me and I thought I couldn't go on any more.  But there is so much more he was supposed to be hear for.  I am just getting started in my adult life.  I want to get married one day and have kids of my own.  I plan on having conversations with multiple presidents and heads of state.  I'll have books published that he will never read and DVD's that he will never watch.  I have charities I want to start, businesses I want to grow that he will now only get to be a part of in spirit.  Who am I supposed to talk to now about buying a home?  I plan on living to at least 102, so now I'll have so much life I have to go on living without him.  I won't be able to tell him about when I go scuba diving with sharks, or bungee jump off a bridge. I am going to New York for the first time at the end of this month and I won't be able to share with him what running up every single stair in the Empire State building was like.  And when life gets the best of me, I no longer have his counsel.
            The last conversation I had with Dad was on January 31st 2010, at around 8:30 am.  I had just returned from Haiti where myself and a few of my friends had gone to try and help with the earthquake recovery.  Dad wanted to hear all about it you could hear the excitement in his voice.  We talked for 18 minutes and 34 seconds.  We talked about politics and how the news sensationalizes things to make money.  During that time I told him about the trip going there, I told him about how the news doesn't even begin to do justice to illustrate just how bad the destruction is.  We talked about the dead, the dying, the maimed, the mutilated, the broken and battered, yea we talked about all that, but we also talked about hope.
            I realized on my trip there that the Haitian people have a deeper understanding of what it means to be alive than many of us in the civilized world do.  Haiti was one of the poorest countries in the world.  A 3rd world country pre-earthquake, now many refer to it as a 5th world country – that is how bad it is there.  So amidst all the death and destruction everyday I saw people out sweeping the streets in front of their broken homes and businesses, trying to clean up trying to restore order to their lives.  I saw people doing the best they could with what they had to engage in commerce, it is not just a nation of chaos, it is a nation of resilience.  And what blew me away and brought tears to my eyes, was every night around 10pm when the day would settle down you would hear singing and laughter rising up from all the wounded.  Keep in mind that most of these people have shattered bones, amputated limbs, burned flesh, and IF they were able to salvage any possessions they all fit into a half full hefty trash bag.  If anyone had any room to cry or give up it was these guys, and yet they sung and laughed. 
            I realized in that moment that the Haitian people know what it means to truly be alive – to be grateful for each and every moment we are given because we really never know when it will be our last.  They weren't wasting precious moments stressing out over which bill to pay and you certainly did not see them refusing to talk to their spouse because they forgot to take out the trash.  And you definitely didn't hear them complain about “Having to go to work.”  In those moments they were just grateful for being alive and they wanted to celebrate it.  I understood the concept of this, but I never really got it until then and it really hits home now.
            I share this story with you because it is one of the last things I got to share with Dad.  And you know what, I could feel that he understood what I was saying to him.  I could tell he was taking my story to heart and that he wanted to make that story part of him so he to did not waste any more precious life on trivial things – he wanted to celebrate life, he wanted to be grateful, and he wanted to live. Less than 24 hours after having this conversation about life, he's gone.  How, why?  He didn't tell me he was leaving on the phone.  If he would have I would have told him so much more, I would have kept him on the phone and drove up here on Sunday and talked with him the whole time and told him I loved him 1000 times and how grateful I was to him for bringing me into this world.  I left things unsaid with Dad because I didn't know.  Everyone tries to tell me that I had no way of knowing and blah blah blah.  It doesn't matter if I had a any way of knowing or not, what I knew already was how important it was to never leave anything unsaid and that we really never do know when our last minutes on earth will come.  I understood how important it was to never squander an opportunity and to not waste those precious sands of time.  I knew, I understood, but I didn't apply.  Dad and I talked for 18 minutes and 34 seconds.  For me to say just those few extra words beyond “I love and miss you,” would have extended the conversation to probably 19 minutes and 26 seconds, it would have taken me just a few seconds more to express my gratitude for a lifetime.  A few seconds, think about this.  Think about how much of the time we don't say or do what we intend because we always think there will be a tomorrow.  We don't forgive because we want to be right.  We don't forget because we want someone else to be wrong.  Look around this room and look inside yourselves and think about how many unspoken thank you's, Im sorry's, and I love you's reside in this room and inside each and every one of us.  Think about this, it just takes a few seconds to say those words that matter the most.
            I'll leave you all with this. I had been working with Dad on what his goals were for the year he said he had some very solid ones and new he was going to have to work hard on keeping after them – and he was excited to do so.  Dad started 2010 with a clean bill of health.  The health issues of the past were behind him and in front of him lay opportunity, and he was excited about it and he was excited about life.  We are all here to honor Mike, Michael, Dad, Oak, Jack, Appa, Bris and all the other names we all affectionately called him.  Based on my final 18 minutes and 34 second conversation I had with Dad, I know the best way we can honor him is to live and I mean really live.  Forgive those whom you haven't forgiven, tell those you love just how much you love them, don't just say the words, feel them.  Don't leave anything unspoken, express your deepest gratitude to friends, family, colleges, to the stranger that lets you go before them at the grocery store – don't hold back and don't waste a minute of your lives.  Dad was resolved to do this this year and for the years to come.  I know he would have wanted the same for all of you.  Thank you all for listening, for being here, and for enriching Dad's life.  He was a better person because of each and everyone of you.  You all brought so much joy and so many memories to his life.  It warms my heart to see how loved he was.  Thank you.

This pictue is one of the hardest ones for me to look at.  This was my graduation from college.  You can't see my face, but I was annoyed that I was still "having" to take pictures.  My Dad, as you can see from his embrace, was so proud of me.  What's that saying "there are two sides to every coin?"  I never fully appreciated this picture until after my Dad's death.  My Dad and I did not always get along and we often greatly misunderstood each other.  Despite our differences, I know he loved me and the above picture is how I chose to remember him.


  1. Absolutely beautiful Jesse. . .

  2. Is it weird if I say that I already know what's written above and think and feel that I already have been doing those for quite some time now..? I try to thank every person who has ever done me a favor or has been good to me. I am even thankful for the ones who have been mean to me because I think they help mold my personality somehow. As for saying expressing feelings for people we love, I honestly think I do, because I act like a kid most of the times anyway.

    There will always be incidents or actions that we'll take that we might regret later on in our lives but living is a never ending process of learning, and I think you've learned a lot from what you've gone through. :)

    On people from Haiti - I am from a third world country. Laughter alleviates pain and poor people are more appreciative of little things because they have been in so many tough situations. Quite sadly eating 3 meals a day is hard to achieve for some families in my country.

    I also think your dad knows you love him despite not telling him that all the time. I truly believe that loving takes more than words and that people we love will always know that we do even if we don't say it out loud.

    I am a Catholic and I have no idea if you are religious or not but I believe in souls. I remember a priest once said in a mass that the soul continues to exist even after death and that humans only leave their physical body. Should that be true, I think your dad is proud of you at this very moment. :)