Today marks the 40th anniversary of my father’s death. Not a day goes by where I do not think of him, but 40 years? Hard to believe.
When Daddy died, he was not much older than I am today – and as I reflect on the absence of this amazing man, it also reinforces the importance of legacy and the memories we leave behind. So, I share a few of the indelible lessons he imparted, not only to memorialize his tremendous character, but also to document for my children.
Make people laugh – Daddy knew how to get a room crying with his unbelievable wit and sense of humor. I love that I see this wonderful trait in my boys – and I’m convinced my youngest channels his grandfather some days.
Demonstrate love and respect – Daddy’s relationship with my mom was so strong – they loved each other deeply, respected each other’s viewpoints, and taught me that it is healthy to agree to disagree. This love was never greater than in the end. Daddy worked tirelessly to ensure everything was set and well organized, so that we were well cared for when he left us. And Mom’s unrelenting devotion to care for him up to the very end gave me an understanding of what selfless caregiving is all about.
Be honest and humble – Confidence to make statements like “I don’t know”, “I was wrong” and “I am sorry”. Own your actions. And given the stubborn child I was, he worked REALLY hard to have some of those lessons sink in with me…
Be disciplined: work hard and achieve but have your priorities straight – Drive to excel, but family is always first. Despite Daddy’s constant travel for work, when he was home, he was fully engaged with our little lives. He made us feel like we were the most important people on the planet.
Play even harder than you work – life is short – be passionate. Get after it. He taught me to tackle big mountains, to love travel, and to be inquisitive. To love reading, good music, the roar of the engine of a German sports car and the art of a good take-off and landing.
Enjoy the fun of a splurge – When Daddy came home from a trip, a trip to the supermarket yielded things that were never allowed when he was gone – Mallowmars, Breyer’s Butter Almond Ice Cream, and root beer. And he also taught me about buckling down after one of those feasts, as he was a patient of Dr. Atkins….
Life doesn’t owe you a living – deal with it. He never complained even when he was in tremendous pain and dying. He still maintained his ridiculous humor and all the doctors and nurses would tell me how much they loved my dad.
Tell those you love you do – I still hear his voice daily. I never have to doubt it.
Multiple Myeloma, the horrible disease that took my dad’s life in 1980, 18 months after diagnosis, can now be treated like more of a chronic condition. I am thankful I got to be part of the incredible ride at Celgene Corporation and bring drugs like Thalidomide and Revlimid to market. There have been major treatment advances and because of this, other little girls get to experience more important milestones with their daddies.
Joanna Gordon Martin