I lost my Dad on 10/27/17. He passed away suddenly; while not completely unexpectedly, as he was well advanced in years and had been a cardiac patient with a history of quadruple bypass surgery which gave him ten more years of life. Still, I wasn’t ready to have him gone. I wasn’t ready to let go of him. I wasn’t ready for what the world would feel without him in it.
His death was a shock to me. It’s taken me this long to even be able to publish this article. I’ve spoken about him in my podcast, and that’s been a way of healing. This blog is my way of not only paying tribute to him, but of solidifying in my own mind and heart exactly how his legacy has impacted me. My life was changed unalterably the day he died. Dealing with the pain and grief of this loss has changed me for the better. I have made some lifestyle and professional changes that I hope will honor his memory. I recently spoke about this in a Facebook live session I posted on 1/24/18. You can view it here: http://bit.ly/2naanms
Make no mistake; my Dad impacted my life while he was alive too. Like many fathers and sons, we had a complicated relationship. Over the years we’ve not always been close, but toward the end of his life we were very close. As a matter of fact, I had called him on the morning of his death just to say hello and to tell him I was excited to see him for his birthday on November 28. I told him I loved him at the end of that call. That was the last thing he heard from me before he died. I feel pretty good about that. If I’d not gotten hold of him that day, or we’d failed to connect somehow, he would still have died knowing I loved him, but that I was able to tell him means a great deal to me now. I have that to hold onto.
I can’t help thinking what if I had not made that call. What if the last words we’d had were a disagreement or our words were unkind or critical. My Dad and I butted heads at times. We both could be a little stubborn and annoying (like Father, like Son)! It really strikes me that it’s so important that we tell those people in our lives how important they are to us; that we love them even if we are irritated by them at the moment. We always want the last impression we leave to be one of loving kindness.
Through processing the emotions surrounding my Dad’s death, I’ve realized some deep truths and come to an understanding of my relationship with him. Moving forward, I want to honor his memory by doing some real and important things that I know he would approve of. I’ve decided that one of the ways I can honor him is by carrying on in a successful career and family life.
My Dad was a dentist, his career was important to him. I believe I can honor him by being the best I can be at my chosen profession. I am now doing some pro bono work and giving of my time in honor of his memory. This mitzvah (good deed) is something he would be very proud of. My Dad gave of himself to his family and was well-loved in the community. In carrying on that tradition, I know I am honoring him.
My Dad was a very devout and spiritual man, a practitioner of our Jewish faith and traditions. Sitting “Shiva” for him in the Jewish tradition has brought me into a deepening spiritual awareness. I’ve begun going to temple more, going to religious studies and honoring his memory through prayer and study in our faith. I often break down crying when I am in Schul (synagogue). I feel so blessed and filled with the rich spirituality I am partaking of. I feel my Dad’s presence in those moments and I know he is happy that I am in temple. That feeling of blessing is also tinged with the sadness and a bit of regret that we will never again be able to share this experience together. It was the loss and grief that helped me to turn and embrace my Judaism in a new way. It’s funny how life (and death) can change your perspective.
My Dad was a giving and generous person. I believe that through volunteering at the shelter, fostering dogs, and giving my time to various charitable organizations I can best honor him through my service.
My Dad loved his wife and his family deeply. He was widowed many years ago and never remarried because he wanted to be faithful to the memory of his beloved wife , Laura, whom he felt was his perfect match. I can honor him by being the best husband and father to my girls that I can be. Putting them as the priority in my life honors his memory and his example.
I was blessed to have my father into his elder years. I never took that for granted. Not all of us are so fortunate as to have their parents living when they’re in their 60s. I hope that bodes well for my daughters and me.
I want to live like he lived: With memories of a life well lived; with my children and grandchildren visiting me and a great legacy to leave behind.
I want to pray like he prayed: To live my spiritual journey out in prayer and study with a deepening understand of who I am through my faith. To observe our traditions and understand what they mean in today’s world.
I want to love like he loved: To have my wife be my great love and to make her the center of our home and to have my children close to me and to rely on the strength of the family.
I want to die like he died: Having lived out my years knowing what I did was important. That I was a good person, father, husband and brother, and to end my days knowing I am loved.
Rest in peace Alvin Fensterheim; thank you for being my Dad and the Grandfather to my girls. I miss your presence in this world, but I feel you with me as I go about my days. I know that everything you gave me is still inside of me; and as long as I keep your memory alive we will not truly be parted.