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How I survived burying my father

How I survived burying my father
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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?

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That’s how I survived burying my dad.

Featured photo credit: Angel Rodriguez via instagram.com

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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