One for My Dad.

My birthday has been this weird amalgam of hurt and hope for 14 years now. In what I can only describe as a cosmic kick in the groin, I remember being woken up to a phone call at 3am letting me know that my dad was found – his life lost to a massive heart attack as he was walking along a road. I remember completely losing it driving from upstate New York down to the city to catch a plane. In the middle of a crying jag, I was met with Louie Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” softly on the radio. I remember screaming ever so loud at the radio in the car.. desperately asking whether it was true. Is it? Of all days, and all times. Is it?

For years, my family have spent the morning in Mass, and the afternoon trying to do something to kinda lift everyone spirits. Including my own. Truth be told – its never really worked. I still passed the days thinking of my dad in the middle of the night trying to recreate images of what it must have been like for him. Things that I really have no reason to think about. Things that, no matter how much I try, do not change the outcome of what happened that night. Try as I may, I find myself with the same empty questions, only met with the silence of the night never quite calming me.

I usually brush it off and get going with my day, and not really call any attention to it. As time passes, I spend my time calling my mom (i mean, it was my dad.. but this was her partner in crime.. I couldnt even imagine.. ) and spending time with my loved ones. But i’ve never really been OK with it. I never wanted to be OK with it.

This year, I was blessed with the opportunity to take back a little bit of it and try something different. I’m spending the day out in Paradise – Jade Mountain teaching at the Joe McNally Workshop. For the first time in 14 years, I am out with my partner in crime, enjoying some time in a beautiful place and stretching my creative wings. I get to pick up a camera and do something that I absolutely love- photography. I get to stand in a class and do what I really love and feel deeply for – teaching.

And I get to write this. I guess its my own moment of catharsis. Its a time for me to say that I am totally OK. That he’s totally OK. And that I miss him – ever so much. And be OK with saying that. Though I cannot change what happened, I can learn and try to be the best dad I can be for my daughter.. and make sure that I always stay in touch. Always tell her that I love her.

If I were to have one birthday wish, it would be this. If you can, call your parents. No matter what. Despite the ups and downs that I may have had in my own life, theres not a moment that doesn’t go by that I wouldn’t trade much of what I have done for just a few more minutes talking with him. Just call and say hello.

And get out there and enjoy that day you have. It really is a Wonderful World after all.


  1. Wow! I feel so identified with your article. I’ve struggled with a similar story my entire life. I learned that I had to have a deliberate plan to encourage myself in the God, otherwise I’m not going to be encouraged. Years passed and I simple noticed that It is not normal to be encouraged; it’s normal to be discouraged. It’s abnormal to be strong and of good courage, but it is certainly doable. I thankful for my friends and God’s Word that show me exactly how to do it. Súper Feliz Cumpleanos!!! 😉

  2. RC,

    What a wonderful way to honor your pops. Obviously you turned to your creative outlet to help yourself move forward from your personal struggles. Out of all the dudes in the NAAP, I enjoy your teachings/instructing the most. Looking forward to seeing your seminar in Chicago.



  3. Thank you for sharing this part of your journey. We are all on one. This month, three years ago, I was going through a divorce with my best friend of 21 years when he chose to end his life. Needless to say, it was a rough part of my journey.He left behind our two daughters as well. Even though I lost my own Dad just 3 months later, I cannot know the same pain my daughters feel having lost their Dad at ages 12 and 6. When you go through such trauma, it is such a blessing if you can come out feeling faith in all the goodness of life. Small moments are more pecious. Grand moments are overwhelmingly so.Yes, call your loved ones now, but I would add, do not let a single person pass your way without seeing the beauty they can offer! Here’s to another birthday and to every rough road, because they are always leading you to the next thing you need to learn.

  4. Thank you for this heartfelt post RC. It touches my own raw nerve having lost my dad earlier this year and reminds me to spend time with my mum while I still can.

    The night my dad passed I took this image and penned this note …,-Day-46-The-End-of-Time.html

    Again, thank you RC for sharing and than important message about family.

    … Robert Rath

  5. RC

    Happy Birthday. Thanks for sharing this story about you and your Dad. Even now, I’m sorry for your loss and there’s not much I can say to ease that except that I know from the loss of both of my folks that its a part of life that hurts and leaves wounds that heal at their own pace and become pieces of the puzzel that makes us what we evolving into.

    Enjoy this time in paradise and thanks for sharing your images with the rest of us. Such a beautiful place.


  6. Thanks for sharing a piece of your heart with us. He would be very proud of the man you’ve become.

  7. Thank you RC for sharing. It’s very deep! Every moment you spend with your loved one is precious. Your dad is looking down at you from heaven doing all the awesome things you are doing!

  8. It is too late for me now, but, your message is strong and important. I too wish that I could have a few more moments with my parents. I miss them every day.

    Thanks for sharing your story RC. What a beautiful photo. Enjoy!

  9. Thanks for sharing. I wish you a Happy birthday for this year and going forward. I was raised by my grandmother and three days before my 21st bday I was awakened in my army barracks and told that she had passed away. I flew home for her funeral on my birthday. 25 years later (my birthday was last Friday) and I still think of her and miss her tremendously.

  10. I’m envious of feeling those emotions for a father. How blessed you were and brave to open your heart like this in what can be a cynical world. I should imagine your father was immensely proud of you

  11. My father just had a close call where they discovered 95% blockage in the main artery of his heart that they were able to correct with a stint. As I was reading this I was struck again by just how close I came to loosing my own father and how valuable the remaining time I have with him is. Thank you for sharing such a personal story RC. We all need the reminder to cherish the moments we’ve been given with the people we love the most.

  12. My own father died over 40 years ago, and I don’t think I have yet gotten over the loss. So don’t expect that to change. However, you may have hit on one of the secrets of life—Get in touch with your joy..That which gives you real pleasure. Embrace it. Own it. And go there at every opportunity.

  13. 12 years ago this coming January I too lost my father tragically although the circumstances were different. I have spent a very long time trying to be okay with it and I’m not quite there yet, but this might help. Thank you for sharing your story and your pain, it does a lot of good for a lot of people.

  14. RC,

    First of all, Happy Birthday! Secondly, I am very fortunate to still have my father, but I lost my grandfather (PawPaw) to cancer in 1994 when I was 12. He was an entrepreneur, an amazing husband, father, and grandfather. He was truly my role model. Oh what I would give, like you say, for one more day, or even 60 seconds, to speak with him again. I live every day hoping that I make him proud. I know that you have made your Dad proud, and he will confirm that to you one day. Enjoy this day as well as all others, knowing he is OK, and he’ll be even happier knowing you are OK.

    Happy Birthday!

  15. Written from the heart . Beautiful and very good advice.
    It’s not easy losing parents. Have a very happy birthday 🙂

  16. RC, Thank you for putting into words feelings I have too. I so wish I could have another chance to be with my Dad (and Mom).
    Very courageous and helpful to me (and sure to others).
    Love when I get to learn more about others, because I always learn more about myself.

  17. Love & Peace on your birthday RC. Thanks for that personal share and maybe right now your Dad is very happy seeing what and how you’re doing. You’re a great guy.

  18. Beautiful post, Thx RC. Peace, bro-

  19. RC, I am very sorry for your loss. This is a subject that hits home for me. My father has a congenital heart defect. One day I will go through what you have been through. Indeed we’ve already lost my Uncle, his younger brother. I hope that I handle loss with the Grace you have shown here.

    Thank you very much for writing about your Father.


  20. I to have a similar story with the passing of my father, Aortic aneurysm that was inoperable due to emphysema. Anyway just so you know your not alone. But, my advice to you is with that beautiful wife and daughter, Bro, you need to take the best care of yourself you can. I also know that pain as well. Much Respect

  21. I lost my dad five years ago. It feels like yesterday, and it comes in waves. He had a great life, all 84 years. My Mom continues to amaze me, and I tell her that all the time. She is incredible.

    When my dad got sick, I listened to Mike + the Mechanics In the Living Years. I was and am bound and determined not to fail to tell the ones I love that feeling everytime I can. And nothing beats a good hug.

  22. RC, what a beautiful column. It brought tears to my eyes just reading it. My parents are gone — my mom 19 years ago and my dad will be gone 10 years this November 1st — and I cannot call them at all. But your words remind me that, no matter what, we should all cherish our parents while they are here, and let them KNOW that we do. That also goes for siblings (even when they drive you crazy). Thanks so much for sharing.

  23. Thanks for sharing this beautiful remembrance, my friend. And have a very happy birthday.

  24. As a 4 year (and counting!) ovarian cancer survivor, I know firsthand the thoughts of losing your best friend. The emotional strain has been, by far, much more challenging than any of the physcial changes that have come with my wife’s disease. But how amazing it has been to be that much more alive – closer to each other, our two girls, and to God. Quite a paradox how God can redeem even cancer cells to the point where we can genuiunely and with all humility – give thanks. Happy Birthday, RC! Sounds like you got the best birthday gift anyone could ever receive. And may the peace of God, that passes all understanding continue to keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen. Chris from Charlotte.

  25. RC,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s been nearly sixteen years since I lost my dad suddenly as well. In reading the preceding comments, it is obvious you have touched many hearts. God bless you for that, too. The best thing for me is the memories . . . and lots of pictures. I, too, would give anything to be able to talk to him again. But he knows what I’m doing. His example is my inspiration that I try to live up to. Happy birthday! I look forward to meeting you in Minneapolis on the 17th!

  26. RC – thanks for sharing your heart here. Happy Birthday and God bless you.

  27. Happy birthday, RC! Losing a loved one is never easy. I still have my mother, but never knew my father as my parents divorced when I was an infant. The closest thing I ever had to a dad was my maternal grandfather. It stung my big time when he died of cancer when I was 14. I often think of him, even after 21 years of him being gone. The thing that helped me the most, was to cherish the memories, and not try to dwell on what was lost. I chose, instead to honor my grandfather by trying to be the gentleman that he was. I do miss him tremendously at times, but I am glad I got to know him. Hopefully you are finding your own way to honor your father.
    All the best to you and yours, and have a blessed day!

  28. I’ve been thinking about you, praying for you, asking God to lift the vail, it appears, He has!!! Healing comes in stages and lessons are learned the hard way. I dare say you’re getting the revelation of the value of a life. You’re spending yours well. I treasure being your friend! Bless you my friend, you’ve certainly been used to bless me! Hang in there!

  29. RC, this is very timely. I just lost my father last week-he had been ill for a while and we knew it was just a matter of time. He had a soaring spirit, he saw the world more than once and he was beloved. Just a great guy. I inherited his artistic sensibilities and my love for music from him.
    We were so very fortunate to have some time with him before he went on his next journey–and he was lucid and accepting to the end. I am sorry you did not have that, but please know how much you have inspired me (and so many others) over the years. I have learned so much from you. And I am certain that you inspire your daughter in countless ways. 🙂
    All the best to you and your family, and thank you for all that you do. I bet your father would be so proud.

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