My father passed away on January 23rd, 2018, but the life lessons he taught me will live in my heart forever.
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My dad was many things in life- a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a teacher, and a friend- and he excelled in every single one of those roles.
He was a physicist, a professor who worked for 45 years teaching science to young minds and changing the lives of countless students.
He was a friend, a man who never refused a helping hand to anybody who needed help.
He was also devoted husband and father, never too busy to spend time with my sisters and me and always ready to do anything for my mom.
My father was not a wealthy man, but he made us all feel loved and made our lives richer for it.
In fact, I believe my sisters and I were wealthy just because we had him as a father.
It saddens me to think that my father died of kidney failure due to type 2 diabetes. A preventable disease shouldn’t have taken his life, but this happens every year to millions of other people around the world.
However, the disease didn’t define my father. His contributions to this world were many and great, and he taught me many valuable life lessons that I will always hold dear.
The Greatest Life Lessons My Father Taught Me
1. To be generous
Dad was the most generous person I’ve ever known. He handed out everything he could give to anyone who needed it.
He was generous with his time, always making sure he was there for his family and friends. He was generous with the things he knew, always willing to spread knowledge to anyone who asked. And he was even generous with money, making sure his family had everything we needed.
Dad was always a generous provider for his family, but I think the most important thing he provided us with was his example of what a parent and spouse should be.
2. To love
It’s amazing to think how much Dad loved everybody around him. He was such a loving dad and grandfather.
Since we were little girls and even after we grew up, my sisters and I knew Dad was always ready to give a comforting hug. He called us his “little bear cubs” even though we were no longer little, and he was our dear papa bear.
He was the same with his mom and siblings. Even after he went away to college, he made sure to spend time with his younger siblings whenever he was home. He loved to visit his parents every chance he got, and he made sure we had a connection to our grandparents.
But Dad loved my mom most of all. I remember the way he looked at her with a spark in his eyes. They were together 42 years and he still called her the love of his life.
Dad once told me he would love me no matter what,and that’s exactly what he did. He loved me and everyone around him with all his heart.
3. To learn
Although Dad was a teacher, he never stopped learning.
Reading was his favorite way of learning new things, and he especially liked to stay up-to-date in science and technology. He went on to get a Master’s Degree and a Ph.D in the U.S, which is still a rare feat in the world of Mexican academia.
Dad often seemed to embody the absent-minded professor stereotype, but he was a very intelligent man.
My love and talent for language learning came from him. Without ever taking a specialized course, Dad learned enough English to ace the language exams necessary to apply for an American university. He once told me all he did to prepare was listen to Beatles songs and read Playboy magazines.
Dad wrote books and laboratory manuals for the university’s Physics department. He also founded the Introduction to Experimental Science course for freshman students and designed the syllabus. He organized an annual Rural Culture Fair which has been taking place for more than 20 years. He taught science to more than 40 generations of students. His contribution to university life is priceless.
But his love of reading, learning, and science also took root in his family. My sister and I became teachers too, and my youngest sister majored in agricultural science. My son is majoring in computer science and my two youngest children dream of becoming engineers or scientists.
I believe this is my father’s greatest contribution to the world.
4. To be happy
The last few months of his life, Dad felt terribly ill. He lost a lot of weight and aged 20 years in 6 months. He didn’t smile or laugh very often anymore.
But that wasn’t the real him. Dad was a joyous man, and in the past, we would often see him smiling or laughing about something.
I remember his loud and hearty laugh in countless parties and celebrations. I remember him having a lively conversation with friends and family members. He would always stop to chat if he ran into an acquaintance or a former student.
He loved reading, going out for walks with his grandkids, watching sci-fi films, listening to rock music, going on beach vacations, and having dinner with the family. In my fondest memories, he always looks happy.
Dad lived with a smile on his face, and that’s how I will always remember him.
5. To believe in God
Dad was a scientist, but he also believed in God.
He was brought up Presbyterian, and his faith was strong even if he wasn’t much of a church-goer.
Throughout all of life’s worst and darkest times, he remained steadfast in his beliefs, and this set an example for me.
When my oldest son was born at 28 weeks, nobody thought he would make it. It was a difficult time, but Dad hugged me and told me God was going to save my baby. He was right. By the will of God, my son is now 20 years old and in college. Dad was very proud of him.
After my sister lost the battle to leukemia, we were all left troubled and in doubt. I think we all lost our faith in God for a while, but not Dad. He kept his faith and took comfort in it until the day he died, knowing full well he would be reunited with his daughter in Heaven.
My dad learned this from my grandmother. Though she is 95 years old and barely able to stand, she attended Dad’s funeral. He is the second son she’s had to bury, but she remains faithful even when faced with this terrible pain. She told me it was all the will of God, and I realized her strength comes from her faith.
Dad taught me to believe in God and trust in His plan for us. It’s hard to do, and it doesn’t make sense sometimes, but faith is the only thing that keeps me going during difficult times.
After my sister died, Dad told me he still believed in God, and I saw the strength of faith in his eyes. I feel grateful for his faith, because he passed it on to me and now I’ll be able to get up and keep going even if Dad is no longer here.
6. To take care of my health
My father was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes almost 20 years ago. He lived with the disease and dealt with it as best he could during all these years.
I watched Dad’s health slowly deteriorate over time. For years, he seemed to be the same happy, productive man he had always been, but we could tell he sometimes felt troubled by his health.
Dad kept many of his symptoms to himself. He didn’t say a word when he felt dizzy or tired, or when he started going to the bathroom more frequently, or when his eyes started watering excessively, or when his skin broke out in painful rashes.
He also kept quiet the day he woke up blind in one eye, and we only found out days later. He still didn’t complain when, a few months before he died, he started feeling too weak and tired to do anything anymore.
We tried to provide him with the best care we could find. Dad had good health insurance, and he had all sorts of medical care at his disposal, but none of it was enough to make him better.
Perhaps if we had noticed the symptoms of kidney failure earlier, he could have had dialysis sooner. Perhaps if he had changed his lifestyle and eating habits earlier, he could have prevented the disease. Perhaps.
Dad told me to take care of my health. He knew his condition made my sisters and me prone to having diabetes too, and our chances were made worse by the fact that both of his parents and a couple of his siblings were also diagnosed with the disease. Dad was terrified about any of his daughters falling ill because he knew chronic disease takes its toll.
My father neglected his health, as so many other people do, and focused instead on other things which were also important to him. In the end, he realized health was just as important because it gives you time to be with the people you love.
But watching him deal with diabetes was a powerful motivation for me to change my lifestyle. I decided I didn’t want to get sick, so I started exercising and eating a healthy diet.
In many ways, my father has made me the person I am today, right down to my health and fitness journey. Before he died, he told me he was glad I was taking care of my health. So although he was never able to change his lifestyle in time to prevent the disease, my dad became my inspiration for my own health and fitness journey.
Dad never told me how to live, but he lived and let me watch so I would learn all the life lessons he had to teach me.
I’m going to miss him so much. His absent-mindedness, his fascinating conversation, his laughter, his smile, his bear hugs.
Thank you for everything, Daddy. I love you and I’ll see you on the other side of the stars.