A Lesson In Loss

15 years ago today, I lost my father at age 60 to lung cancer. I had just graduated from Harvard Law School and started working at a firm in New York. My life from starting in a trailer park was about to turn around and shoot to the stars.

My father’s death made me realize that life is far too short, and I’m not here to be miserable, but to try to be happy. I left my lucrative New York law firm life to play guitar and live in poverty in New Orleans, to pursue the kind of life *I* want, the world be damned.

I had a lot of friends and loved my classmates and coworkers, but in a lot of ways, I never fit in with them. And outside of them, as a general rule, the world of moneyed New Yorkers was full of the most abominable people I could imagine, so while I loved my friends (and still do), I found the general culture I was in to be despicable and full of shitty, shallow people I didn’t want to be around.

The day my dad died, I walked from my apartment in Long Island City, across the 59th street bridge, and up to my alma mater, Columbia, where I had the best years of my life, and where I saw my first glimpse of an intellectual life. It was a perfect, sunny day, great for reflection. My best friend Brandon was with me all day. I remember sitting in my apartment waiting for him to arrive as I stared out the window in the morning. I remember my dad’s wife calling me around 5:30 in the morning to tell me he had died. I remember calling my mom and telling her “I don’t have a dad anymore.”

That was a shit day. And in a strange turn of life, I thought that was the culmination of shitty things that could happen to me, but it was just the beginning of some of the hardest, most struggling years of my life. Life has a way…of humbling you. I was knocked right off my high horse about who I was and where my life was going.

I don’t have a nice ending to wrap up this story, but this experience is certainly one of many that shattered my ego, humbled me, and made me see life as a journey rather than a culmination of goals or accomplishments. The universe can take everything away from you in a second, you better believe that. And more than likely you’ll find out someday, if you haven’t already. Pray that you’re strong enough to endure it, and that you learn the best lessons you can from it.



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