Welcome to the hardest blog I’ve written yet. In the spirit of reflection, honesty, and sharing my thoughts on wealth, health, and happiness, today I’m writing a very emotional blog. Five years ago, February 17th, 2016, was the worst day of my life. Juxtaposed one day after my oldest daughter’s 4th birthday was officially the day “the music died” in my life.
This was a day that came without warning. My father left his physical life on earth to move on to his spiritual life. What he left in his wake was a massive void and a sea of sadness, but this world (and the people in it) are forever better because of him.
How does this tie into finances and wealth? It’ll probably be a bit of a stretch to do so. Therefore, I’m instead hoping that sharing my deepest darkest thoughts over the past five years can help others, young and old, who’ve gone through something similar. What’s the end result I am hoping for? Well, for those who need it to be a little bit happier.
I wasn’t sure what direction to take, but I had to write something marking the five-year anniversary of his passing. I’ve been dreading this day for a while, but feel it’s important to share whatever insights I have. We’re a community, and I hope we’re on this journey together. If nothing else it will therapeutic for me, so thank you.
So here it goes, my list and lessons from the past five years:
- The saying is true, you’ll miss and think about them every single day. As hard as that it is, there is a positive of that. In a weird way, I actually think about my dad, talk to my dad, and feel his presence more than I did when he was alive. I guess it forces me to appreciate him more, as I don’t have the luxury of calling him up.
- Speaking of always thinking about them, I also find myself wanting to make my old man proud. He was the kindest, most easy-going person, loving, family man that I knew. He was also an incredibly astute businessman that I looked up to very much. While he was here, I guess you could say I wanted a “that a boy.” But now that he’s gone, I constantly yearn for his approval, which of course I can never get.
- You realize all the moments and things you wish you did or discussed together. For instance, I always wanted my dad and I to get his record collection up and running. Sadly, I no longer have that opportunity, although slowly trying to build my own. I also have a laundry list of questions and wish I had asked. I saw plenty of my parents my entire life, but for some reason, we never got around to having a lot of those “important” conversations.
- I wish he was around to see all these big milestones. My father didn’t get the pleasure to see my son, his namesake, being born (which rips my heart out). Even as I’m writing this, I’m a few weeks away from my 40th birthday, although I’ve always hated my birthday. That said, celebrating your 40th birthday and being surrounded by loved ones there’ll clearly be one big void.
- As I’m aging (gracefully, thank you for noticing), I’m starting to get to the age where I remember my dad in our hay day. When he was turning 40, I was 13/14 years old, and the perspective of being able to remember and share these things together would truly be amazing. I found that during much of my childhood, and young adulthood, I was trying to be my own man. As I get older, I’m constantly reminded of how similar I am to my dad.
- It changes you. In some ways for the better. I look at things differently, experience things differently, and certainly have been faced with my own mortality (a lot younger than most). In other ways, however, the change is not for the better. There’s a scar on my heart and it has callused over. I’m in some ways hardened and not sure these things can be fixed. At the end of the day, the man who went to bed on his daughter’s birthday on 2/16/16 was not the same man that went to bed on 2/17/16. I’m sorry that is the case, and sadly wish there were a way to fix it.
- Happy jealousy is a real thing, even though it is a made up saying. It’s the feeling I get when I see friends go on golf trips, or watch the big Eagles game with their old man. It’s a beautiful thing to see, but if I’m being honest, there’s definitely a twinge of jealousy deep down.
- Record it all. My dad was the family photographer. However, by being the family photographer he took many more pictures than he was in. I love going back and looking at those pictures, remembering all the good times. I just wish there were more. So, do you and your family a favor, capture more of those special moments with all of you in them.
- All I remember are the good times and, speaking of special moments, I can’t recall one bad thought, memory, or occasion with my dad. Don’t get me wrong, he was the best dude ever, but still we had our moments. I guess I exert so much effort trying to remember him that I have no room for bad memories. That’s a great life lesson for us all. We won’t remember the bad stuff so don’t dwell on them. Instead, focus on creating those special memories. Because at the end of the day, it’s what we’re left with.
- I have a friend who’s a funeral home owner, so I guess I can’t claim top death expert. But living through this experience has armed me well to be there for others who’ve gone through something similar. I’ve since had a handful of friends, clients, and acquaintances lose loved ones. What I’ve realized living through it is that being there as an ear to listen and shoulder to cry on for others is a blessing. No one should go through this alone, and death isn’t something to run from. I’m here for you regardless if I even know you or not.
- I see things everywhere that remind me of him. It could be something I did, or literally any Bruce Springsteen song. Perhaps it’s watching a Sixers game, or just eating unagi sushi (which I still save him a piece every time I get it). Regardless of what it is, I see him everywhere and talk about him like he’s here. There’s an old saying that you die twice—once when you actually die, and then again when the last person on earth has uttered your name. While I’m here my job will be to keep him alive.
- I mentioned the enormous void he left that can’t be replaced. It might as well be me who tries to fill it. (Well, it certainly doesn’t stop a guy from trying.) I instantly had to step up in many ways. I wanted to host holidays and be that ear for mom. It helped me through it to try to fill those size triple EEE wide shoes! I’ve learned it truly takes a village to try to replace him and we can barely manage.
- I’ve become obsessed with anything that ties me to him. (Bruce Springsteen–need I say more?) We saw probably about 20 concerts together and now literally anything “Boss” related is my way to still hang with my pops. I also find myself with little rituals and traditions I still do that I keep between me and my dad.
- If you can handle this you can handle anything. It’s amazing what you realize about yourself going through death and grief. No way I would have thought I would be able to survive a tragedy like this. We are tougher than we think. I’ve actually used that mantra in my life since then, and it has allowed me to be radically candid with people in my life. I’d rather them hear the bad news or truth from me over sugar coating it or dancing around it. We as humans have an incredible ability to withstand pain.
I apologize for the rambling, as writing this was not easy for me (and now I’m covered in tears). Also, thank you for letting me vent, and I’m here if anyone wants to vent back. It’s the worst club in the world to be a part of, but also makes you appreciate how wonderful (and fragile) life actually is. Just know by letting me share this, you’re giving me an outlet to keep my and all of your fathers alive.
Not sure how to end my ramblings except with a story and a quote.
2/12/16 (five days before my father passed) was simply one of the best days of my life. I knew it then and I know it now. I was able to procure a few tickets for the Bruce Springsteen River Tour (bet you can’t guess why my son’s middle name is River). Not only that, we had box seats! My dad, me, and my youngest bro were there (along with my aunt). The concert was epic. We laughed, we rocked out, and we simply loved being alive (actually listening to the concert right now as I do every Feb 12th).
Bruce played his first two hours of strictly The River double album and ended with the last song called “Wreck on the Highway.” As the song ended (and before his next 2 hours of the show), he spoke about what the album was about. He gave this quote, which now sits alongside a signed Bruce guitar in my man cave. He said this, “The River was about time, time slipping away, and how once you make your choices—you choose your partner, you choose your work—and you enter the adult life, how the clock starts ticking. You walk alongside not only the things you’ve chosen but your own mortality. You realize you’ve got a limited amount of time to do your work, to raise your family, and to try and do something good. That’s The River!”
I suppose that’s my end message. Love those special ones and let’s all do our best to do something good because it can help us all be a little bit happier. Thanks for indulging me. My father’s name was Ethan Rosen. I appreciate you keeping his spirit alive, as I’ll do the same for all those great fathers we have lost along the way.