Forty Days

You fought the good fight, you were tired.
You carried your burden for so long.
You seldom complained after a life of selfless service.
We always knew you were so strong.
A family’s love you showed us in many ways.
Your love lives on, in our hearts today and always.

The number ‘40’ is wrought with historic symbolism in religion.   It has been identified as being symbolic with a period of testing or trial.  Personally, the last forty days have been a period of reflection- a redefinition of purpose.  Am I on track in my life?  Are the people around me the people I want to be surrounded with?   Are the causes I support important, am I making a difference?   I have taken copious notes on my life as I’ve searched for the meaning of whether in the grand play of life- all of this will matter.   Is what really matters slipping through my very fingers?

While I’ve not identified a real answer to those questions, It has given pause for much thought and reflection.  As I look at my father’s life and the impact it had on mine- who he was, what he stood for, what was important.   Perhaps I’m overcomplicating things- in its essence life is pretty simple.   The value’s dad instilled in us- Faith- Family and work ethic.   Faith- First and before anything man needs a spiritual compass to guide him.  There will be dark times in our lives- we need to lean on our faith to make it through.   The fact that dad choose five days before Christmas to leave us provides a prelude to his last unasked request- remember what is truly important during this time.   Family- my dad would often remind me that it was family who would always be there for you in your darkest of times, but also in your success.    As I went through my teen years he would remind me that it was Family first, then friends and then everything else.   I’ve always taken that collectively as family.   My immediate family has always been a priority.   During the weeks after my dad’s passing- I’ve seen some great acts of friendship and an outpouring of support from many of our circles of ‘extended family’.    In some cases, individuals from whom we would remotely not expect anything have graciously expressed and showed their support and condolences for our loss.   It is humbling to say the least.  

Being heartbroken is tough.  When you suffer a loss- there is awkwardness both on behalf of people around you and with yourself.   The pain of the loss relays a perspective for impatience.  My first day back into the office, I found myself losing patience with a person on the other end of a phone conversation.  As the conversation turned to a discussion of trivial things – first world problems of a sort- I found a voice in my head thinking, “If you found out this afternoon that you only had 90 days to live- would this really matter? Would it be that important in the larger scheme?”   I caught myself and called the individual back afterwards to apologize for tuning out in the conversation.  “Perhaps it is me” I said, “I just want to apologize for tuning you out”.  “It’s too recent Lou”, they said. “You should rest”.    The world around you continues on.  Yet you are somewhat stuck.  Feeling the loss and wondering how you can get through it.   As people encounter you and learn of what has happened, each mention of the experience brings the loss into consciousness.   You catch yourself becoming emotional, tears streaming down your face for no reason sometimes.    You struggle to identify the ‘triggers’.  At first it is everything to do with your lost loved one.   The sleepless nights, the apathy- I’ve been told it is all part of the healing process.   

Elizabeth Kubler Ross best summarized it in her stages of grief and loss in her book “On Death and Dying’ - Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and acceptance   I can’t say that I’ve experienced them all, but I’m working through it daily.   I totally respect the Jewish religion for how they handle it.  Through Shiva- they mourn for seven days.   It is customary for family and close friends to visit the family of the deceased.  It is the great expression of community and support which aids the transition for the surviving family of the deceased.   While the grieving process can’t be confined to seven days- It sort of gives you a safe space in which to be alone with your emotions.

As the forty days comes to a close, I’ve had a lot go on in my life, completing decisions that had been in play since the beginning of December, It has been a rough few weeks.   It has been a blur that has been truly tiring.  I had no awareness of what today signified when I took a razor to the goatee I had grown since dad’s funeral.  I stopped focusing on appearance, I was inside my head.   I had let it grow.   When I woke today- something told me it was time to shave it.  A few friends have told me that they feel that I’m in a phase of my life where I’m creating once again.   Perhaps, but the pain just keeps me moving forward.    It’s what dad taught us, his work ethic.  Play hurt, don’t give up.   It’s ok to fail- so long as you learn.   So many lessons running through my head, I’ve always been present to them- now I catch myself hearing them in his voice in my memories of him.

Dad- I know you are there, I know you are looking over us.   I know you are at peace- in pain no more.  That is what you deserve.

Thank you pop, I’m so indebted to you for what you’ve done for me.   If I never told you enough- I hope you knew it.  I really do.  Love your son. 

~Lou Sandoval is a business owner with over 17 years Fortune 100 experience. In 2002, he left a successful career to pursue his dream of business ownership. Lou believes in giving back to his community and has also been involved in the Boy Scouts of America and serves on a few non-profit and professional boards. Opinions expressed here are solely personal and not a representation of any of the organizations with which he may be affiliated.


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