Beauty in the sadness

On Saturday, the 11th of November, 2023 my Dad died of cancer. He died in his own house, with the morning sun on his face with my mum and I by his side.

He was first diagnosed just over two years ago and despite multiple rounds of chemotherapy and operations to cut out the cancer he sadly didn’t pull through.

My story isn’t unique, it is a story going on up an down the country and all over the world. Cancer was always something that happens to other people and their families. It struck ours and created the all too familiar devastation and loss.

This is a giant personal loss for me but also a loss to everyone who knew my father. When I look back on the many times we spent together, I just remember the quiet unwavering support he gave me and the happy moments we shared together. A rich tapestry of shared experiences that helped me become who I am today.

While my own experiences are unique to me, everyone’s lives are impacted by the loss of people close to them. I’ve found that through many conversations I’ve had with people about my Dad’s struggle, that others have had theirs. I feel that losing someone close is a time to pause and reflect on many things, including what makes the good-life.

Do I have the right values and am I doing the right sorts of things? Who am I? What do I stand for?

The more recent posts on this blog talk about technology but if we look back at the articles written 20 years ago you can see they are snapshots of my earlier life - right at the start of my 20s - where I had different values. Most of these updates talk about partying and friends. A lot of it sounds immature and a little pretentious when I look back on it now, but I’ve kept the posts live on the site as a reminder of who I used to be back then. It also reminds me of what happened two decades ago when I was really still just a boy.

When I reflect on the meaning of life as I saw it then, I saw it as basically hedonistic. The good life was one spent partying with friends and drinking as much alcohol as possible. Yet when I look back, that time in my life was when I was most unhappy.

Everyone realises there is a problem with hedonism and each person’s rejection of it will be for different reasons. I think the basic general problem is a confusion caused by language. Happiness measured over the course of a few hours doesn’t translate to happiness when taken over months or years. The word is the same but the source of the feeling comes from different places.

From my vantage point at 40, I believe long-term happiness comes from fulfillment. That is, that your life is in the right general shape and that you are doing activities that furthers your development and those close to you that you love.

Fulfillment is a much better word than happiness. What is fulfilling can be difficult and hard. It can also lead to emotions like frustration, feeling lost, feeling inadequate and all sorts of challenging feelings.

These emotions are okay. There is beauty in the sadness. It is necessary and part of the human condition to feel like this from time to time. What matters is that the process is leading you to something that fulfills you.

When I was learning to fly, I had a lot of set backs. Initially I had problems with my Class 2 medical. I had lots of problems with learning to navigate with a map and compass. I had times where I wanted to quit because the lesson had gone badly. I stuck at it and now I have a Private Pilot’s License. It’s the fact that I struggled and succeeded despite these setbacks which is what made the adventure worth doing.

When we look back on our lives there are many examples like this where we faced adversity in whatever shape it came and defeated it. Whether it was building a deposit to buy a house, the sleepless nights after having a baby, getting that qualification from university or getting a promotion at work.

My Dad lived a fulfilling life. He got the career he wanted and achieved success that took him around the world. He got married and had three children. He lived long enough to see all three of them get established in their careers and have children themselves. He died in his own home, close to his family and his wife of 45 years.

His life wasn’t blameless. He faced adversity - just like any of us - but by the time he died his life was in the shape he wanted it. He had worked for that and achieved it.

My message to everyone is that it’s later than you think. Life is short and it’s too short to not find it fulfilling. If what you’re doing isn’t bringing fulfillment, change the script. Fill your life with people and projects that help you grow.

Embrace challenges, learn from failures and enjoy your brief time in the sun while it lasts.

  1. 2023-11-12 18:39 GMT
  2. #Life
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