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Death - The Teacher of Life

Updated: Apr 5, 2021

"The world is coming to an end!" - I'm sure I'm not the only person saying that about this time. I think we can all agree that this has been a "shitty" year. And, when I think it cannot be worst than this, the universe reminds me that I could not be more wrong.

My father has lung cancer, stage four, and I cannot get back home. I am from Vietnam, a small socialist country that has managed to keep their death toll at zero during this Pandemic. They shut down the border, making it impossible for me to enter the country, especially given that I am living in the world's epicenter, the United States. 

Why am I talking about this? You may ask. Well, this is new to me. The whole situation is completely "crazy bananas." I want to share one of the most surprising lessons I have ever learned in my adulthood. This lesson humbles me, puts things in perspective. I am grateful for every bit of it.

A part of growing up is willing to deal with your emotions, properly process them, and resolve the root cause of them. This process is often intimidating due to the uncomfortable feeling that comes with facing the truth. 

When the Pandemic started, I was nervous, just like anyone else. I am an immigrant trying to support my dream of becoming a health coach and working as a lash technician. The Pandemic pushed those kinds of businesses to shut down. I lost my only source of income. I was shocked but thankfully, I got back in track in the most surprising way. Check out my last blog for the story of "how the Pandemic helped me."

I got back on my feet and have been growing my business. I was doing so well. My wellbeing is fantastic. I was saying to myself, "well, it is not so bad after all." That is when the universe spoke to me, "That is cute, but here is what I have for you. Your dad might die." 

My dad walked me down the isle.

I froze. I did not know how to take this. I have experienced death in my family, but I was never prepared for it to be my immediate family. I never thought that my dad could be next. I cried a lot the first two days after I found out.

After that, nothing. I could not feel any emotion. There are moments I questioned if I cared for him at all? I wondered if this numbness was my body trying to protect me from a deep wound within me. I decided to dig deeper, learn more, and face my feelings. I reached out to my community, asking for support, asking for guidance. I finally got to the bottom of it.

My dad and I do not have a healthy relationship. Growing up, he was never around. He does not remember much, not a single birthday, not his nor mine, not anyone else's. There are moments in my younger years, I wondered if he was even my real dad.

I could not make sense of his actions in the role of a father. If he is my father, why would he drink so much and wake us at four in the morning on a school day just to yell at us? If he is my father, why would he spend no time getting to know me? If he is my real dad, why would he leave my mom? If he is my father, why doesn't he loves me?

I have several issues in my relationship with men, and I blame it on my first relationship with men, my dad. "Dady issues" is not new, but it is real. My insecurity in a relationship, how I view myself, or value myself was based solidly on "he does not love me." fact. I spent a lot of time in my life using this as my reasoning factor, and I've recently discovered the whole new spectrum of this emotion because my dad, you know, might die.

Perhaps, when I know that he might die, I numbed myself to avoid the great pain of "regret." I was afraid to confront him about everything that I wanted to talk about. I want to have a relationship with my father and do not feel like I have time. He is still alive, but the possibility of him being gone and I not having resolved my issues with him scares me.

In an effort to build the courage to have a conversation, an important conversation with him, I joined a course about "how to have a difficult conversation." The course is designed by the founders of Dinner Confidential, a community that has helped get me through so much. Dinner Confidential is a community that hosts dinners every month, holding space for women to share and connect. Learn more about this fantastic community and how to join dinners here.

During the communication training, I was focused on how to have this difficult but essential conversation with my father. After going through the "seven steps of the conversation," I am almost ready to share it with him. The host had me and others rehearse the conversation. First, we identify who the person we each want to have the conversation with. When asked, I was surprised by my own answer. I thought the person I want to talk with and resolve is my dad, but turns out it is myself. That tough conversation needed to start with me.

I started to talk and was hit with overwhelming pain. I based my happiness and sense of self heavily on my dad's shoulder. I realized that I am a grown woman now. I can and will take responsibility for my happiness. I can love me as much as I want to be loved. So, my conversation was a "sorry" to my inner child, the younger me. It was not a sorry because I have done her wrong but to show my compassion toward her pains. I was thrilled with this discovery. I feel relieved and light. I think it has made me more loving towards myself and my dad. I was angry at him for so long, or so I thought. I was mad at myself and blaming myself for not being good enough to deserve love.

When I start to soak myself in compassion and loving, I start seeing my dad as a human. Humans make mistakes. There is no doubt that he has done wrongs. He is a person, just like me. We are trying our best with the knowledge that we have. He must have tried and failed badly.

Loving and forgiving him does not make him right, but it will show him love, my love towards him. Now that I know the path to love and compassion, the intention when I talk to him had changed. I am speaking to him not to ask for fairness but to give love. I can show him the path to loving me and, most importantly, loving himself.

Something as serious as cancer brings upon challenges. What if adversity is an opportunity for us all to learn? If I never have to face death or the fear of losing loved ones, I might never find love for myself. I might not find that path to a life full of beauty and uplifting energy. I might be stuck in shame and blame, regret, hateful forever. What if we change the way we look at death, would it change the way we look at life?

I am grateful for this learning experience. My dad has chosen the holistic approach versus chemo. I have been talking to him every day and sending him love.

Thank you, death, for you are the true teacher of life.

Sage Le

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