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How I survived burying my father

How I survived burying my father

Burying my father was the hardest thing I ever did but I survived it. I hope that my story will help you to handle your own grief and will teach you that there’s a way out of it.

The Relationship

My dad and I had what one would call a long distance relationship at best. He didn’t much care for the telephone, and he moved to another state altogether. We spoke on occasion, and the talks were very brief. I tried on several occasions to engage him in dialogue, but my dad wasn’t interested in talking on the phone. After several attempts I decided to give up trying to engage him. This is a decision that I deeply regret and will have to live with for the rest of my life. I really wish that I had tried harder, and that we had shared more time together. My only comfort is that when we parted last, we did share time together, and we were finally able to talk as adults.

During my last visit, we sat at his quiet, plain apartment and he told me stories from his younger days. My dad had a very storied life, and my only regret about that day is that I did not record our conversation. I believed that I would remember all of the details from his stories, but I was wrong. He told me how he had seen me on television several times, and that he was proud of his famous son. We shared some more stories, and then I left him at the hospital as he was feeling slightly ill.

Days later after I returned to New York City from my time in Florida, my dad was gone.

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The Cremation

My dad asked to be cremated, so that is what was done. I wasn’t present during this request, so I don’t know exactly what he wanted to do. However, we cremated his body and my sister received his remains in Pennsylvania. After several months of driving around with my dad’s ashes in the back of her van, she decided that it was time to finally bury his remains. I was under the impression that we’d scatter his ashes in the ocean or something, but she really insisted on burying them. My sister happens to be somewhat religious, and it is her belief that the lord will return, and his servants need to be buried. I respect her views on this and I complied. I also paid for it all. Money comes and goes, but if I can give my little sister some peace of mind, then so be it. The entire day was a haze for me, I know I lived it, but I was in a dreamlike state the entire time.

I had a cold the night before, so I had to sleep on the couch. Using my cpap with a runny nose is not a good thing. I awoke relatively early, went through the morning routine, and I took the train out to Newark with my son. The only times I had ever gone to Newark Penn Station had been to visit my dad. Immediately after arriving there, I started to shed tears. My youngest sister called me, and I could barely get the words out as we spoke. Everything about this trip reminded me of visiting my dad, except that this time he’s in an urn. I couldn’t breathe, I started to hyperventilate. I told myself “breathe Angel, let it out.”

Dad’s Girlfriend and her faith

My son and I caught a cab and went to my dad’s girlfriend’s place. When we arrived I saw the cathedral where my dad used to work, and the building he used to live in. Last time I was here was a few years ago, before he moved to Florida. His lady moved to a new apartment, thank goodness, less pain. However, once we walked in, I heard the birds that have always been there. As soon as I heard them, I remembered joking with my dad about the angry birds that they have. My tears began to flow, she hugged me and my son. I couldn’t bare her looking at me, I know that she saw my dad in my face. When she looked at my son, I know that she saw my dad in his face as well. I saw my dad as I looked at her, then came more tears.

We sat and spoke for a while as we waited for my mom and sisters. She spoke about Jesus and the Christian religion. As she spoke, I heard her radio in the background, it was tuned to a Spanish Christian station. The speaker on the radio was intense, screaming and preaching. I was feeling overwhelmed and I just wanted to run away. She continued to repeat to us how good God was, almost as if she were trying to convince herself of this. She repeated how her faith and her love for the lord have guided her through this and many other difficult times.

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She shared a story with us. She said that 40 years ago she was an alcoholic, heavily drinking beer, wine, and whatever she could get her hands on. She said this happened when she was more or less my age. She then stated that one day she couldn’t take her lifestyle anymore, and she threw her arms up, closed her eyes, and begged the lord to save her from this living hell. Just like that, she said she was done with the drinking and dedicated her life to the lord.

Anyone who knows me, is aware that though I respect religion and people’s right worship as they will, I don’t particularly follow any religion myself. Though truth be told, I was raised as a Christian. As I listened to her, I could feel my son looking at me, he was wondering what I was thinking. I didn’t say anything, and I let her express her views uninterrupted. My son knows that I often speak my mind, but in this case, I decided it was best to let her continue without interjecting my own views.

It is my belief that if a person’s faith is so powerful that it can actually stop them from doing drugs and drinking, that you should allow them to follow their faith. Who am I to try and steer her from that? Who am I to plant even the smallest seed of doubt? The only thing that I said jokingly as she prayed for my cold to go away, was that just in case God was too busy to cure my cold, I was going to take a cold and flu pill.

The Cemetery

Once the others finally arrived, we all piled into the car and drove over to the cemetery. My mom saw a flower store and wanted to get flowers, I complained that we were late and we should proceed to our objective. I think that I was overwhelmed and didn’t want to prolong this any longer than it needed to be.

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It was a dark and rainy day. My sister asked “Who is carrying the urn?” I immediately replied that I would. I am his son, and I will carry him to his final resting place. I picked up the urn containing my dad’s ashes and I carried them slowly up the hill towards his grave plot. The urn was much heavier than I expected. It had a rough grainy and salty feeling. It’s one of those eco-friendly urns that will dissolve in time. My youngest nephew asked my sister question after question as we walked. “Grandpa is in there? Why? How did he die?” She knew that I was upset, and she was concerned that I might snap so she told him to calm down. “Sorry, he doesn’t understand yet.” I nodded that I understood, he is a child after all.

The Goodbyes

Once we arrived at the plot, some men were there waiting for us. I didn’t know what to do, so I stood there holding my dad’s ashes. One of guys told me to place it on top of the plot and I did. Once I set them down, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I stood there staring at the ground. The men indicated that we should say our goodbyes and final words, but I had none. I took the lead position in the group, but I just stood there like a deer in the headlights.

What happens now? What are we supposed to do? There was no major procession, no priest, just me, my son, my mom, my two sisters, my nephews, and my dad’s lady. The one who actually said some religious words was his girlfriend. As mentioned before, she’s extremely religious and provided the parting words. I didn’t process a single thing that she said, “thankful and grateful he is free.” I was in a haze, she held my arm, my sister held my other arm, “I’m happy he is at peace.” I couldn’t process or say anything. I stared at the urn and thought “he tried,” and “this is all that is left of what was my dad.” No legacy, no grand event, not even a proper grave marker.

The Burial

One of the men picked up the urn, removed the green carpet and inserted the urn in the hole. What was happening? I think I was crying. “Are you okay, Angel?” I didn’t know who was speaking. They began to throw dirt on the urn. I began crying again. My sister was confused, “How will we find him?” The guy explained, she didn’t know these details, my pain became anger. I understood what was going to happen, we spoke about this before, she’s the one who explained it to me, why was she confused? I didn’t want to talk about this then, I thought she understood.

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I was getting angrier, but I came to my senses. She was distraught, she was hurt, he was her dad too. I became foggy again. I explained to the men that we understood, not to worry. My mom wanted to put a simple grave marker of sorts, again, the anger came forth, but she loved him too. I went through so many emotions. I was numb, angry, confused. We were there, but were we really there? Was this really happening. I was so very sad.

Since my dad was in an urn, they do things a little different and only provide a small little plot with no headstone, or grave marker, etc. They put their names on this big stone where the other urns are interred. It didn’t feel quite right to me, my dad was worth more than this. Are we cheating him in death? Again, I felt the anger and rage coming up from inside of me. We spoke about this, why did they bring it up? This made me feel unsure.

Part of me thought this was a fitting ending for a man like my father. He loved his privacy, and unlike me, he was extremely discreet and secretive. He hated people knowing anything about his personal life. Even as he was dying, and I went to visit him, he was suspicious of the other folks in the center. He never trusted people, he was extremely private. So I can’t help but think that he would prefer that we are the only ones who know where he is buried. I considered trying to find out if he could get a marker, but it seems like it’s not an easy thing to do, and like I said, I kind of felt he’d prefer this method.

What’s next

The whole day I felt weird, and I apologized to my loved ones if I was distant or not present. It was all a haze to me, and though I know I was there, I wasn’t. This was truly one of the most difficult things that I have done in my life. Today as I look back on that afternoon, I miss my dad, but I am thankful that we shared those last few moments together. I am thankful that I made him laugh, and that he was proud. I am thankful that I was able to feed and provide him some comfort in his last days. The most important thing that I know, is that my father felt loved, and he was not alone when he left this world. Isn’t that the sum of it all? The true meaning of life, being loved, and not being alone?

That’s how I survived burying my dad.

Featured photo credit: Angel Rodriguez via instagram.com

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Last Updated on July 24, 2019

What Makes a Good Leader? 10 Essential Leadership Qualities

What Makes a Good Leader? 10 Essential Leadership Qualities

The word “leader” makes you think of people in charge. High-ranking people – your boss, politicians, presidents, CEOs…

But leadership really isn’t about a particular position or a person’s seniority. Just because someone has worked for many years doesn’t mean he has gained the qualities and skills to lead a team.

Getting promoted to a managerial position doesn’t automatically turn you into a leader either. CEOs and other high-ranking officials don’t always have great leadership skills.

So what makes a good leader? What are the characteristics of a leader?

Good leadership is about acquiring and honing skills. Leadership skills enable you to be a role model for a team in any environment. With great leadership qualities, successful leaders come in all shapes and sizes: in the home, at school, or at the workplace.

The following is a list of characteristics of a leader who successfully leads a great team:

1. Stay Positive, Even in the Worst Situations

Great leaders know that they won’t have a happy and motivated team unless they themselves exhibit a positive attitude. This can be done by remaining positive when things go wrong and by creating a relaxed and happy atmosphere in the workplace.

Even some simple things like providing cupcakes or beers on Fridays can make the world of difference. An added perk is that team members are likely to work harder and do overtime when needed if they’re happy and appreciated.

Even in the worst situations such as experiencing low team morale or team members having made a big mistake at work, a great leader stays positive and figure out ways to keep the team motivated to solve the problems.

Walt Disney (1901-1966), had his share of hardships and challenges; and like any great leader, he managed to stay positive and find new opportunities. In 1928, Disney found that his film producer, Charles Mintz, wanted to reduce his payments for the Oswald series. Mintz threatened to cut ties entirely if Disney didn’t accept his terms, and Disney chose to part ways. But in leaving Oswald, Disney decided to create something new: the iconic Mickey Mouse.

    Lesson Learned:

    Break down huge challenges into smaller ones and find ways to tackle them one by one.

    Think about the lessons you can learn from the mistake and jot them down — Because sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.

    2. Exhibit Confidence Everywhere

    All great leaders have to exhibit an air of confidence if they’re going to succeed. Please don’t confuse this with self-satisfaction and arrogance. You want people to look up to you for inspiration, not so they can punch you in the face.

    Confidence is important because people will be looking to you on how to behave, particularly if things aren’t going 100% right. If you remain calm and poised, team members are far more likely to as well. As a result, morale and productivity will remain high and the problem will be solved more quickly.

    If you panic and give up, they will know immediately and things will simply go down hill from there.

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    Elon Musk is a great example of a leader with confidence. He truly believes that Tesla will be successful, which he has shown many times through his actions. He converted 532,000 stock options at $6.63 each, their value on Dec. 4, 2009, before Tesla went public. It was a hefty bargain considering Tesla’s stock price stood at around $195 per share at that time. He doesn’t apologize for his beliefs and has drawn fire from just about everyone for his political actions.

      Lesson Learned:

      You can’t instantly become a very confident person, but all the small things you do every day will gradually make you more confident:

      • List 10 things you like about yourself every day (something different every day), and you’ll be more confident about yourself.
      • Work on your strengths, do your best to enhance them.

      3. Have a Sense of Humor

      It’s imperative for any kind of leader to have a sense of humor, particularly when things go wrong. And they will.

      Your team members are going to be looking to you for how to react in a seemingly dire situation. It would probably be best if you weren’t stringing up a noose for yourself in the corner. You need to be able to laugh things off, because if staff morale goes down, so will productivity.

      Establish this environment prior to any kind of meltdown by encouraging humor and personal discussions in the work place.

      As president, Barack Obama exuded confidence and calm during stressful situations. But he was also known for his “dad jokes”,[1] his genuinely funny speeches at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and appearing on Zack Galifianakis’s Between Two Ferns.[2] Obama’s sense of humor made him grounded, realistic, and honest – no doubt that helped during some tense moments in the White House!

        Lesson Learned:

        Laugh at yourself. Confident people laugh about their own silly mistakes, others will also trust you more because you’re willing to share your experiences.

        Be observant and learn from the jokes others make. You can also get a lot of inspirations from the internet.

        4. Embrace Failures and Manage Set Backs

        No matter how hard you try to avoid it, failures will happen; that’s okay. You just need to know how to deal with them.

        Great leaders take them in strides. They remain calm and logically think through the situation and utilize their resources. What they don’t do is fall apart and reveal to their team how worried they are, which leads to negative morale, fear and binge-drinking under desks.

        Great leaders do in fact lead, even when they’re faced with setbacks.

        Henry Ford experienced a major setback after designing and improving the Ford Quadricycle. He founded the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899, but the resulting cars they produced did not live up to his standards and were too expensive. The company dissolved in 1901. Ford took this in stride and formed the Henry Ford Company. The sales were slow and the company had financial problems; it wasn’t until 1903 that the Ford Motor Company was successful and put the Ford on the map.

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          Lesson Learned:

          Get to the root cause of any problem so you can prevent it from happening again and learn from the mistake.

          To do this, use the 5 Whys problem solving framework.

          By asking “why” for 5 times (or more) on why something happened, you can find out the key factor that caused the problem and can find the best solution to tackle the problem.

          You’ll also learn how to prevent this from happening again in the future after finding out a problem’s root cause.

          5. Listen, and Give Feedback

          This is far more complex than it actually sounds. Good communication skills are essential for a great leader. You may very well understand the cave of crazy that is your brain, but that doesn’t mean that you can adequately take the ideas out of it and explain them to someone else.

          The best leaders need to be able to communicate clearly with the people around them. They also need to be able to interpret other people properly and not take what they say personally.

          The Dalai Lama, as a symbol of the unification of the state of Tibet, represents and practices Buddhist values. The Dalai Lama’s leadership is benevolent and aims toward truth and understanding, alongside the other Buddhist precepts. This is a great example for all leaders: if you want to give good directions to others, you have to get feedback from others to understand the situation properly.

            Lesson Learned:

            Encourage communication between team members and establishing an open door policy.

            Practice not to interrupt team members when they’re talking.

            Summarize what they say and ask for feedback every time after you have talked about your ideas.

            6. Know How and When to Delegate

            No matter how much you might want to, you can’t actually do everything yourself. Even if you could, in a team environment that would be a terrible idea anyway.

            Good leaders recognize that delegation does more than simply alleviate their own stress levels (although that’s obviously a nice perk). Delegating to others shows that you have confidence in their abilities, which subsequently results in higher morale in the workplace, as well as loyalty from your staff. They want to feel appreciated and trusted.

            Although Steve Jobs is known for focusing in on the smallest of details, he knew how to delegate. By finding, cultivating, and trusting capable team members – like Tim Cook – Jobs was able to make Apple run smoothly, even while he had to be absent for extended periods of time.

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              Lesson Learned:

              To know when and how to delegate work to team members, you have to be very familiar with each of them:

              • List out all of their strengths, weaknesses and personalities.
              • Talk with your team members more too to know more about their passion and interests.

              Take a look at this guide and learn more about delegation: How to Delegate Work Effectively (The Definitive Guide for Leaders)

              7. Inspire and Grow People Around

              Any good leader knows how important it is to develop the skills of those around them. The best can recognize those skills early on. Not only will development make work easier as they improve and grow, it will also foster morale. In addition, they may develop some skills that you don’t possess that will be beneficial to the workplace.

              Great leaders share their knowledge with the team and give them the opportunity to achieve. This is how leaders gain their respect and loyalty.

              Pope Francis has been unusually popular with many Catholics and many non-Catholics. His position isn’t totally traditional, which is part of his appeal, but he also has admirable leadership skills. Pope Francis’s TED talk drew attention, because he encouraged leaders to be humble and to demonstrate solidarity with others. This inclusive, kind, and respectful style of leadership is incredibly important for any situation.

                Lesson Learned:

                Spend time to talk with other team members individually to understand them.

                Find out team members’ current challenges and try to give feedback and encouragement so they will grow and do better.

                8. Take Responsibility and Never Blame Others

                Great leaders know that when it comes to their company, work place or whatever situation they’re in, they need to take personal responsibility for failure. How can they expect employees to hold themselves accountable if they themselves don’t?

                The best leaders don’t make excuses; they take the blame and then work out how to fix the problem as soon as possible. This proves that they’re trustworthy and possess integrity.

                Howard Gillman is the chancellor of UC Irvine. You might have heard of how the university rescinded a bunch of acceptances, and then changed its mind.[3] This past spring, an unusually high number of accepted students decided to matriculate; the school initially responded by rescinding offers over things like missed deadlines. But the college realized this was a mistake and reversed its decision. Gillman and the university accepted responsibility and decided to move past their earlier bad decision.

                  Lesson Learned:

                  Ask yourself what you could have done better to prevent this from happening.

                  Take the responsibility and think about what you can do better to prevent this from happening next time.

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                  9. Make Decisions Based on Lessons Learned in the Past

                  It’s safe to say that all great leaders will have to enter unchartered waters at some point during their career (figuratively, of course). Because of this, they have to be able to trust their intuition and draw on past experiences to guide them.

                  Great leaders know that there’s always something to learn from everything they have experienced before. They are able to connect the present challenges with the lessons learned in the past to make decisions and take actions promptly.

                  You can either recall what you’ve learned from your memories, or search from your notes (ideally, a software that you can access anywhere with things well-organized).

                  Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, has mostly made the right calls. But in dealing with huge amounts of money, Buffett has also made several multi-million (and sometimes multi-billion) dollar mistakes. He has stated that buying the company Berkshire Hathaway was his biggest mistake.[4] From that poor choice, he realized that it was unwise to pursue “improvements” and “expansions” in the existing textile industry. Despite mistakes like this, Buffett has invested wisely – and it shows.

                    Lesson Learned:

                    Write down lessons you’ve learned from any mistakes you’ve made.

                    Have all the lessons well organized and  when similar things happen again in future, take these lessons as references.

                    10. Lead by Example and Commit to Do the Best

                    Great leaders stick to their commitments and promises, and they are the most committed and hard working ones on the job. All great leaders lead by example.

                    Why should your staff and team members give it their all if you don’t bother to? By proving your own commitment, great leaders will inspire others to do the same, as well as earn their respect and instill a good work ethic.

                    After 15 years of house arrest, Aung San Suu Kyi was voted state counsellor in Myanmar – one of the highest-profile and most powerful positions in the country. She became a symbol of peaceful resistance when she attempted to bring democracy to her country.[5] In the early years of her detention, she was often in solitary confinement. Suu Kyi is a perfect example of committed and belief-driven leadership, which she openly demonstrated during her many years of house arrest.

                      Lesson Learned:

                      Some people learn by observing the way you perform a task, some need more detailed guidelines.

                      So dedicate time to demonstrate your work to team members, let them observe how you do it. Summarize the skills you use and let team members know how you make difficult things work.

                      The Bottom Line

                      Leadership traits are learnable. If you practice consistently, you can be a great leader too.

                      Make small changes your habits when you work with your team – wherever that may be. Most of us aren’t presidents or CEOs.

                      But we all work with other people, and our actions always impact others. This gives every person the chance to develop leadership skills and to stand out from the crowd.

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                      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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