I'm back in Ottawa now, back to my regular life. Unfortunately what this means is that my Father has died. If you have read previous posts (and the comments) you will know that I was away this summer. I was living with my Father. He wasn't feeling well and he was eventually diagnosed as having cancer. The cancer had spread from his left lung to his liver and to his bones by June. Being a care giver and living away from home wasn't easy but I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Being able to help someone I love during a very difficult time was very important to me. Dad didn't spend his last few months dying of cancer, he was living with cancer. The above photo was taken just two weeks before he died. He was determined to keep on doing the things he loved as long as he could. Dad died August 26 at the wonderful age of 84. He was waked on August 29th and buried on the 30th.
I would like to say thank you to everyone who wrote me kind and supportive emails and blog comments. Your friendship is much appreciated!
I could go on and on about what a great man my Father was but you probably wouldn't find that too interesting. What I decided to do instead was to share some thoughts about this experience that you may find inspiring. Accompanying someone on their journey towards death is an intense experience. It was my intent from the beginning that good would come of this somehow and I was open to being changed and transformed.
My first thought is obvious but it is often overlooked by us. Love is all that matters so give it and receive it. Don't let work or other things get in the way. Don't take people for granted. I didn't take my Dad for granted and I very glad now that I didn't.
Live your life so you won't have regrets. I asked my Dad if he had any regrets about his life and he emphatically replied no. I couldn't quite believe it so I rephrased the question. Wasn't there something in his life he would do differently? His answer again was no. He was very content with the choices he made in his life. Can you say the same thing? When my Mom died five and a half years ago, one of the main things I took from her life is that if there is something you want to do, then go out and do it. My Mom was born in 1924, during the Great Depression and there weren't many opportunities or options for women from that era. While my Dad was quite satisfied with his life, my Mother was dissatisfied with some of her life, like she had untapped potential that she never explored or that there were things she would have liked to try doing. After her passing, I took a hard look at my life and I realized that there was one thing I would regret not doing. I would regret it if I never pursued my art. Prior to this I had dabbled and dreamed but I hadn't given it my all. Hence the birth of Teresa Mallen Studio. Is there anything you would regret not doing?
Work hard to achieve your goals and dreams. My Father had a strong vision for his life and he worked very hard to achieve it. He was doing what he enjoyed so for him it wasn't "work". He ended up being very successful and he did realize the vision he had had as a young man. Be honest with yourself. Do you even know what your goals and dreams are? Can you say that you are working towards them? Are you working as hard as you could or do you let other stuff get in the way? I watched my Dad achieve his dreams and I can tell you that it didn't come by wishing it so, or by lucky breaks. He clearly defined his goals and he tackled them one by one. Perseverance does wonders!
Be a person of character. No matter what you do or what stage of life you are at, what people remember is your character. For me it defines who you have chosen to be and it is more important than how much money you earn or what sort of stuff you own. During the wakes we held for Dad, people poured through the line up telling us how Dad was so honest, fair in all his dealings, a great friend, liked by everyone, a mentor, an example to others, always full of life, passionate, fun, a "great man"...on and on it went. He was incredibly honest, fun and full of life. I think we need more people with great character in this world. I am fortunate to have been raised by such a man. And yes, my Mother was a woman of great character as well.
Live in the now and intentionally put things in your future that you can look forward to. My Father didn't look back at the past. He lived each day as the gift it is. He also kept his focus on some event in the future that he could look forward to. He looked forward to simple things like the monthly spaghetti supper in his village, grandkids staying for a couple of days, a party at someone's cottage. Do you have something fun and enjoyable noted on your calendar? Did you enjoy today, really?
Look for the lighter side of things. My Dad had a great sense of humour and he loved to laugh and joke around. No wonder people loved to be around him.
Okay, enough of the inspiring thoughts...Now it is September. A new month and a new season. I have spent this past week moving back home, unpacking and trying to get caught up. I even managed some hours in the studio! Tomorrow I shall show you my latest work in progress.