Two weeks ago, I lost my father to cancer. He passed away on Veteran’s Day – and being a veteran was something he was proud of until his final day. Of course, this event has given rise to so many emotions. Certainly, there is grief. A longing to have him back. But also, a sense of peace now that his suffering has ended. And so much reflection on the memories that made up our life together.
It’s a funny thing, the relationship between a father and son. I remember my dad being my first hero. He was larger than life to me when I was a young boy. I watched him closely and would marvel at all the things he could do. He was seemingly great at everything he did.
“Every son's first superhero is his father, and it was the same for me. For me, he was Superman and Batman combined.” – Tiger Shroff
Then, as I grew older, I began to see the flaws. I felt the anger and betrayal. I judged, criticized, and even pushed him away as I began to exert my own identity in the world. It’s a classic story, and yet to me it was my own, and no one else could claim it.
He had big dreams for me as many fathers do for their sons. He didn’t always know how to express those dreams, so I pushed back against what felt like control. Of course, I see it so much more clearly now. It was really his desire for me to be better than he thought he was; to do more, achieve more, and live more fully than he had.
“A father is a man who expects his son to be as good a man as he meant to be.”
- Frank A. Clark
He could be very direct in his communication, which could sometimes lead to hurt feelings. While it wasn’t his intention, that was simply one of the outcomes we learned to deal with as his children. In his later years, it was something that would actually make me smile. I would tell him he was a cranky old man – with a smile on my face, of course!
There were many times throughout my life that I wondered if he was proud of me because it wasn’t his style to dole out compliments. As I built my career he was quick to give unsolicited advice about how I should conduct myself as a leader and to point out places where he thought I should be doing things differently. Some of it was good, some didn’t fit my style. Either way, I know he was trying to help.
When I left my corporate career to begin my coaching business, he wasn’t sure what that meant. But as he watched me learn and grow – and build a business that has taken me around the world, working with amazing organizations and people – he saw my passion and drive. And he was exceedingly proud. So much so that many times over the last few years he would call me or we’d talk over lunch with him asking me for “advice” – even though I don’t give advice. But he was eager to learn and grow and to improve himself in meaningful ways. It’s something that I treasured being able to help him with.
“Until you have a son of your own... you will never know the joy, the love beyond feeling that resonates in the heart of a father as he looks upon his son.”
– Kent Nerburn
The last few months of his life provided an incredible opportunity for me. We healed our relationship. We learned to see each other through a different lens. And it opened us up to enjoy the kind of rich, loving father-son relationship that I think we both always wanted but didn’t know how to get.
I’ll never forget our final coherent conversation just two days before he passed (the next morning he would begin to slip into a semi-comatose state and would be unable to communicate from that point on).
I had spent most of the day with him, and as always he was expressing his gratitude for my being there for him. He looked at me with an almost quizzical gaze, and said, “You know, out of all my children I never thought that you’d be the one who would be here for me. You’ve been a great help to me, and you’ve been my rock. I love you, Kev.”
And then he said three words that will remain in my heart as a treasure forever.
“You’re my hero.”
Farewell, dad. Godspeed. Rest in peace, my beloved father. Until we see each other again, I will treasure the gifts you gave to me.
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Kevin Ciccotti, Human Factor Formula
Helping companies create sustainable, effective teams that are committed to the success of their projects, the organization, and the individuals with whom they work