End-of-Life Lessons From My Dad

Photo of the author as a toddler, dressed for church, with her dad crouched next to her, steadying her as she walks
Dad and me, circa 1987

When I was a kid, my dad was what today we might call my lead parent.  My mom was involved in my life too, but she often worked 60 hours a week and sometimes had to travel for work.  My dad’s work day ended at 3:00, and he had a little more flexibility in terms of taking time off, so he was the one who picked me up from day care, took me to my first day of kindergarten, and attended school events.  I spent a good bit of time with him when I was young, and he taught me many of life’s essential early lessons.

I sometimes took my dad for granted in my adolescent years, as teens often do.  He went through some hard times and battled some demons, and I didn’t always understand or appreciate him.  When I was in 11th grade, and again during my first year of college, he was hospitalized with serious health issues.  These brushes with death transformed my dad and my relationship with him, and I’m especially grateful for the person he became and the times we spent together over the past 15 years.

Read more

The Last Man on Earth: What Would You Do?

A rugged, uninhabited mountain landscape

One of my favorite TV shows right now is The Last Man on Earth.  The show’s premise is that a viral outbreak has killed nearly all people and animals, save a few who were immune or unexposed.  At the beginning of the show, we meet Phil Miller, who’s been traveling the country trying to find other survivors after losing everyone he knew.  He’s miserable and lonely, and just when he’s about to give up on life, he meets another survivor, Carol.  As the series progresses, a few others join them.  Phil struggles to adjust to living with people again.  The circumstances bring together dissimilar people who likely would not have crossed paths before the virus, and we watch them try to figure out how to live in this new world.  The show is quirky, funny, creative, and at times poignant, though it’s not as depressing as you might guess.

Read more

Writing a Personal Mission Statement

The beginning of a new year is a good time to reevaluate our priorities. Setting New Year’s resolutions is one way to define our goals, but it can be helpful to do some deeper thinking about what’s important to us and what we want our lives to look like.

When I was in my mid-twenties, trying to find myself and feeling some existential angst, I decided to write a personal mission statement. I thought about what I really valued and about the qualities exhibited by the people with whom I most enjoyed spending time. I considered how I wanted to be perceived and what I could bring to the people with whom I interacted. I crafted a brief manifesto of sorts, about ten sentences long, which is longer than a traditional organizational mission statement. What I wrote could probably be better described as a combination mission, vision, and values statement. I won’t include the whole thing here, but it began by stating that “I value compassion, fairness, and forgiveness,” and it ended with the following sentence: “I want to better the lives of the people around me by comforting them in times of need, lifting their spirits, and inspiring them to do the things they are meant to do.”

Read more