When a loved one dies suddenly it has a different impact than when the death is expected. Notice the words “different impact” not “less” impact or “more” impact. It does not matter how a loved one dies; the pain and suffering is agonizing. There is no banner to hold up, but not in my life I’ve personally experienced both - sudden death and anticipated. My dad Herbert would have been 93 today died suddenly with a massive heart attack after singing a solo at a friend’s funeral. After singing, he retreated to the pulpit and sat down. As the attendees came up to view the body and give their condolences to the family, someone came over and touched my dad on the shoulder. He slumped over, and without success reviving him at the church or hospital my dad was pronounced dead. And just like that at age 62 my dad was gone, and it changed me forever. My father was my spiritual guide, and confidant. He was a nurturer, man of character, kind, giving, and yet firm person. He loved me and my mom, his mother and cared deeply about the conditions, hurts, and needs of people. For a living he was a principal and, on the side, loved referring, and coaching me through my tennis career. He loved to dress well and was known for his hats. Even with all those memories, what my dad left in me shouts loudest, and what I learned from his death remains a different string of life lessons - very different than my mom’s death.
Eleven Life Lessons from a Sudden Loss
1. Life is short and unpredictable
2. Forgive quickly, express and share your love each day, tomorrow isn’t promised.
3. Live today – it’s all you really have.
4. God can move supernaturally putting people/circumstances in place as preparation for an unknown tragedy ahead.
5. God offers clarity in hindsight. He will answer questions in His timing.
6. There is an appointed hour for each of us. Don’t waste time or energy on things that don’t matter.
7. God does not gain our permission to choose the end.
8. Live well – from the inside out.
9. Allow your choices to please Him. He’s watching with great expectation and love.
10. Prioritize your inner work (character, integrity, wholeness)
11. You cannot take one “thing” with you – their importance vanishes in an instant.
I still remember my last interaction with my daddy. I was leaving my parents’ house to go back to my own. Daddy was cutting the grass and stopped to come over and tell me bye. We hugged each other he kissed me and said, “I love you”. I said I love you too daddy. I was 26 years old. I am forever changed not only by losing my dad but how I lost him.