DADDY | “WAIT, WHAT?” or HOW I GRIEVE

“Do not hang up the phone. You need to tell me what happened.” I told her. Calmly but directly.

“Your father. He’s no longer with us.” My cousin told me. She wanted me to call my mom and hear it from her, but when you get a phone call like that at 10:30pm, you know you need the information right away.

That’s how I learned my father had died. From a phone call late on a Saturday evening. He and my Mumma were at their home in India, on their annual visit. They were there, and then, in a flash, only she was there. That’s how real life gets. Quickly.

What followed was a whirlwind. Getting my sister. Looking for tickets to India. Coordinating a fly through Dubai where I could get my VISA so I could enter the country. Saying goodbye to my family here — and oh wow, talking to Anaiya about her Dadaji turning into a star. Arriving and seeing my Mumma. Then seeing my Daddy’s body in a clear, refrigerated coffin in the bedroom. And then everything that followed.

I had time. At the airport. On flights. But I had no space. I had zero space. I was instantly immersed in the entire world and sometimes all I wanted to do was cry. (Note: The two best places to cry in an airport are the bathroom, and, a gate that’s just been vacated. Push your face up against the window looking out and let it fly. If necessary, to distract even more, hold your phone up to your ear. It’s amazing the cues you can give to people that help you create space.)

The one place I found space was on Facebook. Facebook got me through. Because I could ignore everything and just write.

A funny thing happened. I found my voice. I found my POV about all of this.

A funnier thing happened. I realized quickly I was writing for all the people who loved my Daddy but couldn’t be there (we were in India, some were in other parts of India, others were in the US — few of the hundreds to thousands who would have wanted to be there were able to be.) My writing turned into a way to help people grieve and connect. I was humbled.

And then, an even funnier thing happened. People who had lost someone reached out and told me that what I was writing was helping them. Grieve now. Grieve for someone they had lost recently or even, years and years ago.

People reached out and told me to package this in some way. Package this writing because it could be helpful to others who go through this. Not just the words, but the approach of just laying bare all the truth.

Everyone grieves and heals differently. The only thing I can say with confidence is that this helped me. Which is why I’m sharing as I was asked to.

I moved everything from Facebook to my blog, and have for the first time, in years made this blog public. And I’ve organized it and summarized it below for anyone who needs it or wants it. I’m skeptical it will be shared, but if it is even once, then it was all worth it.

  1. February 4th: A Star – The announcement.
  2. February 7th: Ami Chhatna or Auspicious Rain – Observations around the cremation.
  3. February 8th: On Grieving or A Single Blade – Advice and context for people trying to console those grieving.
  4. February 9th: My Sis or Creating Space – My love for my sister and helping others understand her unique grief.
  5. February 14th: Love or The Insanely Finite – A short post for Valentine’s Day.
  6. February 15th: 12/40 or Happy Birthday, Priya – My wife’s 40th birthday.  She’s amazing.
  7. February 21st: Embrace It or On Your Shoulders – Acknowledging all the support and strength we were given, one Mama in particular.
  8. February 23rd: Memorial Service or Kishore Kumar Said it Best – Setting the tone for a memorial service that would honor Daddy and also, one he would have enjoyed. 🙂
  9. March 3rd – Forever Man or Forever, Man – One month after; I wrote a poem that I still read all the time.
  10. March 6th – “Thank you. For everything.” or Thank you for everything – For my Mumma. My first post after the memorial service and I always knew the first page would be turned here; and I had been writing this post in my mind for a full month.
  11. March 12th – Sir, I Gave you my Word or What Gives you Faith in Humanity – One of my favorite stories about my Daddy. We made this the program at the service; a takeaway, something to remember him and his values by.
  12. April 5th – Tending vs Trending to Entropy or High Hopes – A family wedding, two months after Daddy died. My thoughts on it, and a conversation with him to help me get through it.
  13. April 24th – Go Birds or Humbled by Thoughtful – One of the most incredible gifts I’ve ever received; Daddy was a huge Eagles fan and this gift in his honor … I have no words.
  14. April 26th – 4 Years Ago or A Lifetime Ago – Amazing what a simple photo can trigger. Let it trigger.
  15. May 21st – Just Monday or Unvarnished Truth – It’s not easy. I missed Daddy a lot this day and I allowed myself to be truthful about it; but forward looking about it.
  16. June 17th – Dali’s Persistence or Happy Father’s Day – 4.5 months later on my first Father’s Day without you; I’ve found real peace in how I plan to move forward.

If you’re reading these, I hope you find them helpful. If you think someone else would find this helpful, share away.

Death sucks. Until it doesn’t. Until we make it not.

Also, it helps that I’ve taken a bunch of his clothes and wear him with me as much as I can. 🙂

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MY $.02 | The Chicken and the Egg of Priorities and Choices

I run a couple of small businesses right now. I also advise two others. Much of my time is spent helping the people I work with identify priorities.

What should they be focused on? What is their priority?

It is the priority that dictates the choices we make. More often than not we’re in position to make choices based on our priorities. I’ve worked with people who cherished such constraints. So much so that they would create them artificially (I believe creating artificial constraints is an incredibly powerful force, depending on the constraints you dictate of course). I have my own philosophy on creating constraints that I’ll write about at some point — as time permits.

If we focus on the priority we can be motivated in good times (or when there is no other choice). We can also be demotivated because of the constraint that we’ve committed so much time to; that may not be working out as well as we had planned.

There is always then a discussion about whether or not we have the right priority. That’s an easy discussion. Because often times, it’s easy to change. Simply adjust the priority and you either have new goals that are more attainable or, you at the very least, have no priorities that can be invigorating purely because … they are new.

These are easy discussions at work. At home, they are sometimes not so easy. The choices we make are more permanent. Which is why I think it’s most important to realize that before the priority, came a choice.

Instead of the priority dictating the choice in our personal lives we must never forget that it is our choices that dictate our priorities. To go to college (and beyond). Where we live. What career we choose to pursue (and what environments we choose to work within). Who we marry. And perhaps penultimately, whether we choose to have kids.

Each one of those choices dictates another set of priorities. And along the way, each one of those decisions elevates a set of priorities and clarifies a future set of choices.

KIDS--Halloween

Of all the choices, the most unique one is the decision to have kids. Whereas all other choices are ones that are designed to make you better, to advance your self — I’ve often told the people I love, the people I work with, the (few and far between) people who (stumble into) asking me questions about life — I’ve often told these people that the two most selfish decisions you make in your life should be (1) the career you choose (and as a subset, the jobs you take and the people you choose to work for) and (2) the person you choose to spend the rest of your life with.

Those are the two most selfish decisions one can make. And if made selfishly, they end up being the most valuable decisions and personally advancing decisions you can make.

KIDS--An--HalloweenKids, however, are something else. They become the most selfless decision you can make You have to embrace and realize that more than anything else, all decisions from the moment of conception or birth forward, are made with their life, their livelihood, their success, as the top priority.

I often hear parents talk about life with kids as a limitation and restriction on

KIDS--Jaanu--Halloweenchoices. I don’t feel that way. I never have. And after this past year and this past few weeks as time to reflect around the annual approach of important Indian and US holidays — I realize kids aren’t restricting.

They were my choice. They were more honestly our choice. Our BEST choice.

And they will always be, as a result, our top priority going forward. Ourselves, dutifully, practically, deliberately, in service.

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DADDY | DALI’S PERSISTENCE or HAPPY FATHER’s DAY

This won’t be my last post about all of this. But I’m putting a period on a 4.5 month sentence today. I knew I would. With the way life happened and with all the life that has happened since we got that phone call on that Saturday night and heard the news. That you. You were the news. You leaving was the news. I had this day in my mind almost as soon as I got my mind back. So I’m putting a period on a sentence today.
It’s a hell of a sentence by the way. Faulkner and Joyce turned a sentence into pages; this one’s days, weeks, months. And also lifetimes.
Death sucks. It warps the world. It bends time. It confuses the senses and it makes no damn sense. It’s like a Dali painting in some ways.
BLOG | Persistence of Memory
For you, it sucks because of all the things you didn’t get to do. All the things you didn’t get to resolve. All the things you didn’t get to finish. See. Taste. Address. For most other people death also sucks for all the little things you didn’t get to do: shower, shave, comb your hair, put your shoes away, make sure your wallet was in its place, meticulously organize your entire estate so nobody who followed up on anything had to worry a lick about anything. You know. Big and small things.
Death sucks for me, for mom, for Tita, for all the rest of us, death sucks for all the things we will do without you. Forever. That’s the bottom line. Death sucks if we focus on all the things we will do without you. Crushingly sucks.
But it doesn’t have to. I’m so focused on the fact that it doesn’t have to.

Death sucks when we live in a Janet Jackson world of “what have you done for me lately”. Death sucking is so much of what’s wrong with our world. We forget how we got here. We forget what made us. We forget what we loved. What we enjoyed. What we experienced. For all the recycling bins out there, we still dispose at order of magnitudes more than we reuse. More than we recycle.

More than we relive.

I’m not advocating living in the past. That’s not healthy either. I am advocating appreciating the hell out of it though. Every day has to start with thank you, not a to do list. Only when you start that day off with a thank you, and subtle nod to everything in the past, does death suck less.
I’m 43.
I’ve got an amazing wife.
I’ve got ridiculous kids.
I’ve got Mumma.
I’ve got Tita.
I’ve got in-laws who, well, I’ve got folks. Just more folks.
I’m pursuing (finally) some of the things I love in the hours between those kids, that wife, that life.
I’ve got …
…and that ellipsis can go on for days. I could keep going and not have space, time, need for a period. (Absalom! Absalom!)
I’m not advocating living in the past. I’m advocating that never ever forget that today is the product of an infinite set of moments and yesterdays — and you, Daddy, were essential to all of those.
It starts there. It really, truly, so ridiculously honestly helps, to start there.
It’s also important not to end there. Yes. There are a million things I see every day that make me think of you. Whether it’s how your granddaughter eats cherries. Or how your grandson ensures he has a good time at every party. You’ve got your legacy. And it’s $%&*’ing wonderful.
But sometimes, that’s what makes death suck even more. You’re so visibly here and you’re so clearly not here.
It sucks.
But there’s a moment when it doesn’t, Daddy. There’s this amazing moment when it doesn’t.
It’s when I hop on the elliptical (not enough).
It’s when I make a ridiculous dad joke (too much).
It’s when I make practical sense of emotional nonsense at work (no comment).
It’s when I try and make sure that Priya feels the way that Mom always felt (I failed at that pretty hard a couple of weeks ago, btw, you’d have hated that.)
It’s when I focus less on emulating on, less on recognizing you, and more on honoring you. Honestly.
Just trying to do the things that would have make you smile.
It’s what works for me.
I don’t know what works for anyone else.
But it’s what works for me. I can’t forget this, you. As long as I remember to say thank you every morning, and to honor your spirit every day, you are simply: persistent.

Like time. Time is persistent. Time is stubborn. It doesn’t care what else is happening in the world. It just keeps moving. It can warp. It can bend. It can feel too short and it can feel eternal. But in the end, all time does is keep moving forward.

That’s what made me think of that silly painting that every college student had in their dorm room or at least, on their floor.

The front of that painting is disturbing, warped, bent, liquid, fluid. But meticulously done. Precise. I bet you read about this already, Daddy. But Dali was meticulous and deliberate about every stroke in a manic way. That’s time. That’s today. Warped. Bent. Fluid, Strewn about and exhausted.
But the back of that painting is time too. It’s fixed. It’s beautiful. It’s stunning. It’s Catalonia. It’s Dali’s home. It’s alright.
Happy Father’s Day. For all the warping that’s been in front of us these past 4.5 months, Daddy, I’ll tell you. You’re Catalonia. You’re Catalonia when I look back, and starting today, deliberately, painstakingly, in a way that would make Dali proud, you’re Catalonia when I look forward.
I love you. I’ll do better. You’ll be proud. We’ll move forward. Death sucks. Until it doesn’t. Until we make it not.
We’ll make it not.
Period.
WEDDING | Lets Go
Note: I’ve collected all the posts and thoughts I’ve shared about my Daddy’s death in one place. Some people have found it helpful as they’ve navigated through their own experiences, or, as they’ve had to step in to support others. This is one in a series, and you can find the full list of posts here.

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My $.02 | Preparing for the Inevitable

I’ve written this post 3 different times in the past 24 hours. Each time I write it get caught up in a theme and a trend, and I end up talking about things and giving advice on things I really have no business talking about.

I’m just a guy. Who lost his dad. And who learned some things as a result of that process that I thought would be worth documenting and sharing here. Each situation is different. I am happy to talk to anyone who wants to talk and share my $.02. Email me if you want: suneet (@) gmail (dot) com

The purpose of this post is to build on those fundamental steps and move forward; as a result, I’ve organized the post into four sections:

  • The Fundamentals (what to think about first)
  • The Individual (my Daddy)
  • The Spouse (my Mom)
  • The Intended Beneficiaries (my sis, me, Priya, the kids, everyone else)

Each builds upon the prior. An important distinction because as a person, depending on age and responsibility, you can be the Individual thinking through legacy, the Spouse of someone who’s thinking through legacy, and, the Designated Beneficiary responsible for carrying forward someone else’s legacy. Most of my friends and peers are actually all three.

A Note on the Fundamentals

There is an underlying assumption here. That you have already:

  1. made a will;
  2. considered and evaluated a trust;
  3. documented all assets and ownership (financial accounts with joint ownership or designated beneficiaries, hard assets with titles of ownership, like cars and house(s)); and
  4. created a digital will, too. Yup. Accounts, usernames, passwords, for all online presences.

None of the below matters unless you’ve completed the above and established a baseline. There are hoards of resources available to you if you want to move forward; I urge you that if you are to start with an Estate Attorney make sure you talk to the Attorney about their services included up to the inevitable moment, and, what they provide after. Get clarity upfront. I issue this warning a few times because it can’t be overstated.

A Note to the Individual

If you are a person with things, then you are “the individual”. The person who will die at some point and who will leave people behind to take over. This is one of the biggest things I learned in my experience with my Daddy. He had everything incredibly under control, but, he was also terrible at communicating about it.

Lesson #1: When you’re gone, you’re gone. You won’t be available for questions.

Involve the people you love in your process. Talk to them about your attorney. About your plan. About your goals. About where things are. It doesn’t matter how organized you are; life happens in the most ridiculous of ways. Involve the other two cohorts above (spouse, beneficiaries) in the discussion early (as you plan) and often (as things change).  This is the single most important thing you can do, even above being organized. Because being organized may be helpful to you, but in the heat of the moment, it’s hard for people to think like you’ve thought and follow your logic — as organized as you think you are, if you haven’t tested your plan with the people on the other side, i assure you, it won’t be perfect.

Make sure your account lists are up-to-date. Make sure your key documents are easy-to-find. Make sure your usernames and passwords are available. Make sure none of this stuff is more than a year old.

In Daddy’s case, he spent a lifetime providing for everyone around him. He was better organized than most people I have spoken to about the same circumstances — but there’s always room to be better.

Lesson # 2: Think about the first 90 days after you’re gone. What’s the plan?

Most guidance on how to think about your death focuses heavily on what you have ready at the point of death. A will (for assignment), and trust (for added coverage and protections), a list of documents (for easy tracking of assets). The better you are on that front, amazing. But I don’t think it’s enough. Stop. Take a step back. What does the life of your spouse and your beneficiaries look like for the first 90 days after you’re gone. Who should they be working with? (Have they met before?) What things do they have to address immediately (Maslow’s hierarchy – house payments, healthcare, monthly bills, utilities, etc?) What do they have time to manage? I guarantee that if every person who reads this were to think of the first 90 days after they’re gone, and what their family has to address, the way we think about estate planning would change dramatically.

Perhaps the thing that gets left the furthest behind here is your interaction with the professionals managing your estate. Make sure your spouse and your beneficiaries know who those people are — humanize those relationships. Also, make sure you’ve worked with those professionals on their role in the estate during that first 90 days. If you don’t outline it upfront, your family will be taken for a ride. My father’s estate attorney was — terrible. The offensive way we were treated from the moment my father died up until this very moment is something to learn from. My advice to you is establish terms upfront. It’s amazing where and how people will try to make a dollar these days.

Lesson #3: It’s easier to remove someone from an account, than it is to add them.

Whatever can be joint, make joint. Whatever can have a beneficiary, designate two generations deep (spouse, children). It’s easier to remove someone from an account then it is to add them after the fact. If you have anything in one persons name, fix it. Either make the account joint (ideal, but there are tax considerations), designate a beneficiary, or designate someone clearly as the recipient and owner (will). Every. Single Account.

Lesson #4: Consolidate. Accounts. How you log in (usernames, not passwords). Where you receive statements. Where you store account information. And where all physical documents need to be.

I’m all for complex passwords; but keep your confirmations and registrations and logins from one email address. These provide a paper trail that make it easy to catch the things that slip through the cracks. Once a year spend an hour or so making sure all of your accounts are coming into one email address to help whoever gets access to your phone or laptop know how to find what they’re missing.

Lesson # 5: Try and avoid hierarchies.

Unless there are clear family dynamics at play, my recommendation is to avoid a hierarchical structure to the will. Instead of requiring certain people to take up work or relinquish rights, focus on “or” scenarios where rights can be easily transferred between people without requirement. For us, my Mumma and my Sis were designated as actors on the will before me: but I was the one who was going to do the work; things were delayed 2 weeks at least simply because we had to get the rights relinquished before I could do anything on our behalf.

It’s hard to give specific advice, but the spirit of the advice above should be helpful as a framework.

 

A Note to the Spouse

If you’re married to a person with the things, make sure you’ve thought about all I’ve outlined above. You have twice the responsibility: because you’re the person, and then you’re also a spouse of a person. For you, all of the above apply, plus…

Lesson #1: Everything is important. Not everything is urgent.

It’s incredible how helpful the state has been, the government has been, the financial institutions have been, the utilities have been. I once believed that the world loved no human being more than a pregnant women. Really. The world bends over backwards for a pregnant woman (as it should). I was happy to see that the world appears to do the same for a grieving family. You will not catch everything and trying to do so before it happens is not worth the stress. Do your best and as new things make their way to you as they inevitably will, don’t stress — simply share the truth.

Lesson #2:  Be honest about the role you will want to play.

This is the single most traumatic and life changing moment you will experience. There are very few people who will be able to make visits to banks and attorneys within the first month, if even after that. Make sure that the appropriate people in your life are around and designated to help with the administrative parts of the estate in the short-term while you get your bearings.

Lesson #3: Gain visibility.

Statements. Accounts. Assets. Titles. Anything. Make it a point to understand what is happening on a quarterly basis. Just make it a point and don’t settle for anything less.

Lesson #4: Define the plan.

As important as it is for the individual to define the first 90 days, it is equally important for you to think through those firs 90 days. Scenario plan. What are you ready for? What aren’t you ready for? Even a 20-30 minute exercise of thinking through what will happen in that environment will carry you far. If it helps, think less in terms of what happens when someone dies, and more in terms of: “what did I do the last 90 days, and what are the things that are being done for me?”

 

A Note to the Beneficiary

If you are a beneficiary, you may be in position to have the most work of anyone — you could be the individual in one case, the spouse in another, and, the beneficiary in yet another.

All of the above applies to you. But you have a few added steps to take.

Lesson #1: Be ready.

If your parents travel overseas, have your passport and VISA, ready. It’s simple. Do it.

Lesson #2: Double check your work.

If you know you’re going to be doing the work, you should be asking questions before it’s time for the work to be done. Make it your priority ahead of time as it will be your priority at some point in the future.

Lesson #3: Order your priorities, and acknowledge this will all take time.

Work your way through the urgent items according to Maslow. Acknowledge that new things will come up that were unexpected. And maintain your wits about you. Don’t change anything until you absolutely need. to. Don’t notify anyone until you absolutely need to. Give yourself the space to operate. It will make a difference.

Just My $.02

These are my thoughts and some of what I’ve experienced. Daddy was incredibly well organized but he couldn’t have planned for some of the things that happened even on his best day (being in India, selling an investment property the day before he died, having an attorney who was more focused on the next dollar than actually being of service.)

Note: I wrote a bunch of posts about my Daddy’s death that some have found helpful; either as they’ve gone through their own experiences, or, as they’ve had to find ways to support others. You can find all those posts organized here.

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DADDY | JUST MONDAY or UNVARNISHED TRUTH

I’m good. I’m truly honestly and undeniably good. But, I wanted to share this because I think it’s the kind of thing that…more folks just need to know, or read, or share. Just because…good doesn’t mean purely good, there’s always an underlying truth. 🙂

Four times. Today. On four distinct, unique, unrelated moments, I’ve had tears stream down my face. Not a tear. Not a couple of tears. Not the kind of tears that are wiped away with the back of one hand swiftly, or hell, even slowly.

DAD | 5-21

Nope. Streams. The kind that form patterns on your face. Where one tear blazes a trail for others to then follow. Drops turn into flow, and it’s the kind of flow so smooth and so steady that even the greatest Nuyoricans would step back and hand you the mic.

That’s my face. But my face and my tearducts are a mere preview, a trailer. of the thoughts and memories. I’m rocking your polo right now. I got angry when something wasn’t in its right place earlier today. I got angry because it wasn’t. I then got mad at myself for being you. I then got sad because there was no (practical or physical) you. I ate eggplant and mushrooms almost as a rejection of your palate.

I struggled at work, really hard today, because I felt like there were objective truths that weren’t being acknowledged. And I found myself having a handful of very productive, unvarnished and fully honest conversations with people that were representative of your spirit (it’s not about me, it’s not about the idea, it’s about your contribution to the bigger, collective idea, that’s what will make the world move forward.)

And then…mom…your wife. 45 minutes between wrapping up dinner with Anu Kiran and Drinda Kay and closing her iPad and heading up to bed with your granddaughter (who still misses you so publicly and so potently), posted this pic.

And it’s just Monday.

And this photo, just says it all.

And you know, it all just sucks.

But we’ll also, just keep moving forward.

That’s, just life.

And I’m good. Just, good. I’m good.

#iamgrateful and #iamthankful for this polo. I’m going to sleep in it tonight.

Just…because.

I miss you and I love you, and … we’ll keep just doing our best to honor you.

PS – Make that five times. Once while writing this.

Note: I’ve collected all the posts and thoughts I’ve shared about my Daddy’s death in one place. Some people have found it helpful as they’ve navigated through their own experiences, or, as they’ve had to step in to support others. This is one in a series, and you can find the full list of posts here.

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DADDY | 4 YEARS AGO or A LIFETIME AGO

4 YEARS AGO or A LIFETIME AGO: “When you live it’s how you are. When you’re gone it’s not how you lived, but how you’re remembered.”

I say, with deep and significant love.

DADDY | April

Note: I’ve collected all the posts and thoughts I’ve shared about my Daddy’s death in one place. Some people have found it helpful as they’ve navigated through their own experiences, or, as they’ve had to step in to support others. This is one in a series, and you can find the full list of posts here.

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DADDY | GO BIRDS or HUMBLED BY THOUGHTFUL

Dad was the biggest Eagles fan. When you think of the speed bumps his fandom took on the way to becoming what I consider to be their #1 fan, you’d agree. How far he traveled to get here. How many sports he immersed himself in to get here. How much time he gave up to give himself time to watch. A politician’s son from India, to a Sunday afternoon loyalist of all things Eagles.

But that wasn’t all. My Dad may have been the last known adopter of the DVR. Which means all games were scheduled for and around, and All were consumed (not watched, but voraciously consumer) … live.

He died effectively the day the Eagles won their first Super Bowl. It’s cruel. When you consider the evils inflicted upon him. The mythological travails of an Eagles fan for effectively their whole NFL existence. I mean, Richie Kotite alone. And on the doorstep of greatness he took his last breath.

While you live, it’s how you are. But when you’re gone, it’s not how you lived, it’s how you’re remembered.

Which is what makes this recent gift so incredible.

DAD | Eagles 1

I have no words for it. I bawl as I write this. Just as I did when I received. Just as my sis did when she saw it. Just as my mom did when we placed both in her lap.

“Thank you for being here with us in spirit to guide our Super Bowl victory. We’re grateful for his presence & the joy it brought your family to celebrate with us. He will be missed!!!”

It’s amazing and humbling how many people have kept him and us in their thoughts, prayers, hearts and minds these past few months.

I am humbled beyond belief. I feel like I should walk only with my hands clasped, head down, knees bent, and mouth open…

“Whispering on repeat, thank you thank you thank you.”

Because thank you. To the friend who did this. I won’t tag you here and now because “it’s not about you” (but it is). I won’t tag you here, now, but we are here for you now and forever.

#iamgrateful and #iamthankful for great friends. We all are.

Go birds. Forever. And thank you, @najee Goode and the Philadelphia Eagles
#GoBirds

and next?

#GoSixers

Note: I’ve collected all the posts and thoughts I’ve shared about my Daddy’s death in one place. Some people have found it helpful as they’ve navigated through their own experiences, or, as they’ve had to step in to support others. This is one in a series, and you can find the full list of posts here.

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DADDY | TENDING VS TRENDING TO ENTROPY or HIGH HOPES

Hi Daddy.

Two months. One day. If you forget timezones and just focus on days and dates. It’s been two months and one day since we lost you. Just typing that brings a coating of tears over my eyes and in a second, everything’s blurry — like I’m looking through our windshield while driving through the rinse cycle at a carwash.

You are, forever gone. We’ve covered this.

There is absolutely nothing I can do about any of the fights we had, the times we parted angry, the times I decided to do something else instead of spending time with you, the times I didn’t live up to your expectations and knew I wasn’t. These were just moments in the moment. They come at me quickly, sparked by the smallest thing (I wiped my hands with the wrong hand towel and <<THUD>> like a sledgehammer hitting some part of my body, instantly, my heart, my stomach, my knees, I remember one of those moments in a moment.)

It’s going to happen forever. We’ve covered this.

What is really helping is the chiropractic work you’re performing on my life on a daily basis. And that’s what I want you to know the most. Twice a day I stop, I pause, I breathe, I close my eyes, I think of your (always freshly shaven) face and I reset. You snap me back into place. In-between those moments, life happens. Entropy happens. But all of this has made me more deliberate and more active in not allowing my life to trend to disarray. I’m tending to things more actively and deliberately. I still do, say dumb things. But I’m more aware. It’s not half the battle (Duke, Gung-Ho, Scarlet, and Roadblock lied to us when we were growing up). But it’s a part of the battle.

Life can either trend or tend to entropy. Im tending to it and taking care. We’ve covered this.

Something that’s jumped out at me over the past 2 months and 1 day is that I’ve heard a lot of people say things about life; I’m getting lots of advice. And there’s a lot of it that settles in around statements like “have no expectations” or “expect nothing”.

And I tell you, Daddy. I struggle like hell with that. I don’t think it’s the right way to live. I’m feeling a little push to the opposite.

I’m raising my expectations of people. Of every moment in life. Because as we’ve talked about, people most often rise and fall to the expectations you set for them. When you walk through life expecting nothing of people you actually aren’t making the world a better place. You’re simply making it easier for you to accept whatever comes your way.

DADDY | 4-5

That’s not good enough. Not anymore. We’ve covered this.

I mean it especially of your grandkids. I’m going to keep expecting the most out of them.

The rub? I’m going to applaud their effort, and make sure none of my happiness is tied to the outcome. The result. Anaiya and I talked about it this morning, actually. And things became really clear.

DADDY | 4-5 2

The world will rise and fall to our expectations. You were right to expect more from me; from all of us; from the whole darned world. Your idealism on right and wrong. Your clarity on the fact that absolute right did exist and absolute wrong could and should be called out, is what we need more of.

I’m not stepping back and expecting less, or nothing, of life and the people who fill it. And I’m not going to expect anything but amazing from your grandkids. But I will promise you, hand to heart, head to food, head to toe … i’ll never be disappointed by outcomes again, only by controllable effort and inputs.

Expect the world of the world. Because … people rise and fall to the expectations you set for them.

Me? I’ve got hiiiiiiiiigh hopes. But we’ve covered this.

Love you, Daddy. Talk soon.

PS – Mom would have made you proud at the wedding. Eeshan Kaka andShannon Kaki too. It was beautiful. 🙂

DADDY | 4-5 3

Note: I’ve collected all the posts and thoughts I’ve shared about my Daddy’s death in one place. Some people have found it helpful as they’ve navigated through their own experiences, or, as they’ve had to step in to support others. This is one in a series, and you can find the full list of posts here.

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DADDY | SIR, I GAVE MY WORD or WHAT GIVES YOU FAITH IN HUMANITY

What moves you to tears? What reinforces your faith in humanity? What memories and experiences do you hang onto when you want to recount the great potential of people?

Daddy found greatness in the simplest of things. The food he ate. The jokes he told. The way he lived. He was grateful and thankful for every moment he lived. It’s not that the grandiose was lost on him.

DADDY | 3-12

It’s that the grandiose was very simply, not necessary. Daddy found himself moved to tears and inspired to faith by everyday people, enacting everyday gestures, that reflected character, integrity and the very best of what humanity had to offer.

One favorite example takes us back to 1989. Daddy hadn’t been back to visit India in nearly 20 years. Needless to say, he was due. Our parents were greeted by a friend at the airport. Unfortunately, their friend was ill-prepared to accommodate our parent’s travel habits. Think large Samsonite bags bursting at the seams with zippers and locks screaming for mercy.

After seeing the volume of luggage our parents had with them (consisting of whatever Mom had packed for herself and whatever she had packed for Daddy), their friend realized he wouldn’t be able to move our parents and their luggage without some help. He summoned a “Coolie”, or a porter, in Western terms.

When paying cash for any service in India, you find yourself at the mercy of the servicer. And so the haggling began. The Coolie wanted 10 rupees, their friend offered 5. The Coolie worked his way down from 10, to 9, to 8, to 7 rupees, with the longest debate happening at 6. At the bargain basement price of 6 rupees, the Coolie would have been able to afford breakfast, to fill himself with a cup of tea. Daddy’s friend wouldn’t have it. And soon, as market forces determined, a deal was reached: 5 rupees it would be. With the ‘deal signed’, Daddy’s friend went off to find his car into which the luggage would be loaded, but only after telling Daddy in no uncertain terms, not to offer the Coolie any additional money.

A deal is a deal.

As soon as his friend left, Daddy went directly up to this Coolie and offered him the balance of the 10 rupees. Daddy pulled out his best hustle. For 10 minutes he tried everything to give this man some more money. He told the Coolie that he was rich, that he had spare change he wanted to get rid of–he tried everything. But the Coolie would not take the money. When my father asked the Coolie why he refused to accept additional money, the Coolie responded humbly, simply, firmly:

“Sir, I have agreed to 5 rupees, and I have given my word.”

Daddy, was floored. Brought to tears. Even when Daddy made it clear that he would not mention a word of additional rupees paid to his friend, the Coolie wouldn’t accept the offer. Actually, he couldn’t. He had given his word.

You see, for Daddy, Maslow’s hierarchy is inverted. One’s own physiological needs come last; human decency, a rich and undeniable social contract — one’s principles and one’s word are the foundation upon which lives are built and happiness is achieved. In this Coolie and in this story, Daddy found all that was right in this world. No grand scriptures required. No religious experiences necessary. The simple decency of everyday people carried the greatest weight in Daddy’s eyes. Daddy proceeded to retell this story for decades. Decades.

On February 4, 2018, we lost Daddy, the world’s most honest and straightforward man. The kind of man moved to tears of unfathomable joy, pride, and happiness through a passing interaction, with an exceptional example of a human being.

This Coolie carried our parents luggage for a few moments, but he carried Daddy’s spirit and faith for 29 years more.

Thank you, sir.

——————————–

Last week at our memorial for Dad, we handed out copies of this illustration with the below story printed on its back, instead of a traditional printed program. If you’d like a copy of the printout, DM me and I’ll mail you one. Thank you Oliver Bruehl for the illustration conjured from magic, pure magic.

Note: I’ve collected all the posts and thoughts I’ve shared about my Daddy’s death in one place. Some people have found it helpful as they’ve navigated through their own experiences, or, as they’ve had to step in to support others. This is one in a series, and you can find the full list of posts here.

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DADDY | “THANK YOU. FOR EVERYTHING.” or THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING

“Thank you. For everything.”

48 years. Culminating in four words. Whispered into one ear. Punctuated by a warm kiss. On the still frozen but rapidly thawing cheek. Of the eternal, undeniable love of her life. Before the doors to that ambulance closed. And their physical bodies said goodbye. Forever.

You want to talk about grace? You want to talk about dignity? You want to talk about honoring a legacy? You want to talk about strength?

Mom. Is incredible.

When I was conceived, my mother gave me strength by her own nourishment. When I was born, my mother gave me strength from her milk. When I was a fat kid with a short temper and a penchant for being ridiculed, she gave me strength through her love. When I was a barely competent high schooller, she gave me strength with her faith. When I was struggling at work, she gave me strength through her reinforcement. When I was struggling to find love, she gave me strength by her understanding. When I was struggling with peace and patience as a parent, she gave me strength with her time.

When I lost my Daddy, she gave me strength with her words and her example. Her final words to him as we pulled away in the ambulance toward the crematorium.

No “why did you leave us.” She thought it. She thinks it. I am sure.

No “what will we do.” She thought it. She thinks it. I am sure.

No “How will I go on.” She thought it. She thinks it. I am sure.

Just.

Thank you.

For everything.

“@#%&?! How is she doing this?”

Our truest self come out at our most vulnerable of moments.

Being grateful. Being thankful. That’s my mom’s truest self.

Thank you, Mom, for giving Anu KiranPriya KC Bhatt and I strength.

Yesterday we held a Celebration of Life ceremony for Daddy. Mom’s example. Her strength allowed us to make the ceremony about saying thank you to Daddy, for the people he influenced. But also, hopefully, everyone who was there, walked out feeling equally celebrated and thanked. They deserve it.

For 48 years, Family and friends showered our parents and our family with love and support. Bringing a lifetime of smiles to our faces. Helping Daddy leave this world at the height of happiness.

To all of you, there in spirit or in person, thank you for everything.

Life is only going to get more real. It’s not going to stop. It’s not going to get worse. It’s just going to get more real. More finite. Everything that happens now for me comes fully contextualized. As someone who enjoys storytelling, I say that before 2/4, life felt like it only had a beginning and a middle—I now know there’s an end. Not academically. Not an end I can’t empathize with because I’m in my early 20’s. An end that’s all too real because I’m in my 40’s and I’m a dad.

If I have any advice to give, it’s to work deliberately and urgently. Make use of photo albums. Not as a way to remember faces that are gone, but to add vivid back story to people who are here. Hug. Love. Celebrate. Talk to and about the people you love like you would if you knew you’d lost them, and then been granted that one last chance. Silly sh*t. Who cares. Do it.

Yesterday I asked honestly, what I’ve been asking for the past month: is it truly better to have loved and lost. I’ve been struggling with that. This pain is so exceptional, it doesn’t feel like it. It’s compounded by the simple fact of how much my parents loved each other. I sometimes wish now that they were less in love.

But that’s silly. It’s ignoring 48 years of life for what remains.

It is better to have loved and lost. Especially if you find someone who looks at you the way Daddy always looked at Mom.

DADDY | 3-6

Thank you, Mom. For your example and your strength.

Thank you, Family and friends, for your love and support.

And thank you Daddy…

…for always looking at Mommy this way.

We’ll be fine. I know we will. Because Mom said so.

Note: I’ve collected all the posts and thoughts I’ve shared about my Daddy’s death in one place. Some people have found it helpful as they’ve navigated through their own experiences, or, as they’ve had to step in to support others. This is one in a series, and you can find the full list of posts here.

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