This Is What I Learned From Losing My Dad At 21


Being grateful for what we have in our lives is one thing that money cannot buy. It is a feeling, it is a knowing, it warms us on a cold night, and it gives us the strength to carry on.

My Father passed away suddenly, and without any warning in our family home on the 4th of January 2005. I got the call from one of my younger brothers that Tuesday night at 8:26pm, and I will never forget it.

Losing a loved one is one of the hardest things we humans have to endure, in my opinion. No one can ever be fully equipped on how to deal with a situation like that. There is no rulebook, there are no instructions, it just happens, and we do what we can to go on.

I lost my dad at the tender age of 21. I’d just celebrated my 21st birthday with friends and family and not long after, we had a wonderful Christmas together as a family too.

I was living away from home studying at the time, and working casually in a supermarket in The City to support myself. That year, we had 4 days off work over Christmas, so I embarked on the 5-hour drive back home to spend time with my family and friends.

Usually, when I went back home, I’d hardly be there. I’d be out partying and catching up with old friends. Doing what young people do. But this particular year, I didn’t do that. I stayed in with my family for the entire period. If you asked me at the time why, I would have said that I just felt it was where I was meant to be. The only time I left the house was to take my brothers shopping on Boxing Day to buy them a PlayStation for Christmas at the Boxing Day sales (struggling student wage.)

At the end of the 4-day break, I was reversing my car out of the driveway and Dad asked me when I was coming home again. I told him that I had a 21st birthday party the following weekend, but I could not get the time off work.

He replied, “You’ll be back.”

Those were his last words to me.

He died a just over a week later, and just as he said, I was back home.

A lot of things go through ones mind when they get the call telling them that someone has passed. I could not even begin to list what they are right now. It has now been almost 12 years since that day, and I have had a lot of time to think and reflect.

Just recently, I was talking with my younger brother, who was 15 at the time when Dad passed away. We were reminiscing about life on the farm where we grew up and hypothesizing about what Dad would look like if he were still alive. Telling stories of all the funny things that we got up to when we were younger, laughing uncontrollably.

We then share a moment of silence. We came to the conclusion that we will never know what he would look like today, but that we are grateful for all that we had when he was alive, and that we have now that he is gone. We are grateful that he did pass in a sense, because it allowed us to turn into the strong and independent young men that we are. By no means does it make it any easier, but it can equip you with knowledge like no other. A sense that it is all going to be ok, it is a learning that can be passed down through the generations. Losing a loved one changes the way we interact with those that are close to us who are still alive. You begin to really get the most out of every moment, out of every look, every word.

I am the eldest child of my parents. Often, the eldest children feel the weight of the world on their shoulders, and I have been no exception to this over the years.

Losing one’s Father, or the man of the house as it were in our case, can add much weight to that burden felt by the eldest child. For a long time, I felt that I had to take care of my Mother and my brothers. I felt that I had stepped into the role of the man of the house. Though I was living away from home the entire time, I felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility, most, if not all of the time. I asked my Mother in the weeks after it happened if she wanted me to come home to help out. She told me “No, it is not what you Father would have wanted, go on living your life.”

I am grateful that I lost my father at a young age, and these are the reasons why:

• I no longer take things for granted.
• I am grateful for the time that I did have with him, for some in this world unfortunately don’t get even what I had.
• I am proud of the man I have become, and the men that my brothers have become.
• I am proud that as I have gotten older, most, if not all that he taught me, has almost embedded in my DNA.
• I look at the best in life, because I know how fragile it is. I would not like it if my last thoughts were negative. If there is an afterlife, and we get a chance to look at ourselves just one more time, I would like to look at myself knowing my last moments were that of gratitude and happiness.
• One thing that my Father always used to say, and that I now have tattooed on my chest – “There is no point in holding a grudge, either one of us might be dead and gone tomorrow.”

I operate with the above points in mind daily. Sure, we have our bad days and we have our moments of anger at others, the world and ourselves. But so long as we have guiding principles to come back to, then we will always come back to centre.

My aim in writing this piece is to offer hope and help to those of you struggling with the reasons why someone you love has been taken from you, and to let you know that there are positives that we can take from every situation in life, despite not being able to see them straight away, they are there.