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Three Life-Changing Lessons I Learned from my Dearest Father

Almost six years ago on Oct 12th, 2012, we buried my father Rex Liverpool, in Toronto, Canada, where I grew up.

My beloved dad died at age 67 of kidney cancer that eventually spread throughout his body. The end of his life was one of the most painful experiences I have ever gone through, as one random day at the hospital I was informed that my father had only 24 hours to live. Completely devastating, considering the week prior, we were told he still had a good couple years left in him.

Let me give you a quick back story.

In 2009, my dad had surgery where one of his kidneys were removed due to a cancer detection. Dad, a very vibrant and fun-loving man laughed the surgery off and ensured me he would be fine.

Dad lived with my brother so I only hung out with him periodically and never saw any true signs that his health was deteriorating until a few months before he actually died and once he was gone I learned from a nurse that he knew his cancer had returned.

Which meant he had hid his diagnosis from the entire family.

And fast forward to that dreadful Oct 5th day, I stood there in disbelief as a doctor informed me that in 24 hours I would lose my best friend.

The moment I was told Dad’s cancer was spreading rapidly and he would soon die, I told my family I was staying put in the hospital and was going to see this through with him to the end.

Unfortunately the cancer had now spread to Dad’s lungs so he was unable to speak but the doctor’s informed me that he was still able to hear, so I would have small convos with him to calm his nerves and tell him I loved him.

In the wee hours of the morning, I cracked open a book to help me de-stress.

It was T.D. Jakes’ Reposition Yourself: Living Life Without Limits, the first self-help book I had ever bought in my life. The book provides the spiritual underpinnings to adjust to the many changes that life brings.

Who would of thought just a week after I bought this book, it would be the anchor I needed to help me get through a major life change. My father’s death.

During that time, I had the powerful chance to reflect in a new way on my dad’s life and his impact on me. I experienced a myriad of thoughts and feelings that my normal, crazy-busy life and work didn’t allow me to focus on. I thought about life, death, meaning and purpose, regrets, joy, what makes life worth living and what I want to leave behind.

Dad passed the next afternoon, while I held his hands and poured my heart and soul out to him. I told him how much he meant to me and that I was going to do whatever it took to make him proud.

Shortly after, I had the stunning realization in sitting with him after his life energy had left him that no matter how “prepared” you think you are for the loss of a beloved, you’re simply not and can’t be.

You have to learn and experience through time just how to adjust to being who you are in the physical absence of this individual who helped shaped you into being.

I think of my dad every single day and my passion and love for sports is the way I still feel most connected to him. Every game I watch, every sports TV show I do, I feel that his spirit lives on with me and through me.

Father's Day Blog

On this Father’s Day, I bring to mind several vitally important life lessons I learned from being daddy’s girl and from observing how he lived his life, even throughout all his quiet suffering at the end. The lessons he taught me are:

1. Live life fully because it only happens once.

The experience of losing Dad helped me realize even more clearly how important it is to live your life in a way that you will not regret, or bemoan, or wish you had done things differently.

Dad was a very free-spirited and carefree human being. One of his core values included having the freedom to do what he wanted and making sure he lived his truth every single day.

Whether it was through sports, his passion for music, or love for Caribbean culture, he was always unapologetic for who he was.

Throughout my life, I’ve been the exact same way. Always fighting for the right to unapologetically just be me.

“Courage is to be yourself everyday in a world that tells you to be someone else.”

Despite all the hard work to provide for his family, Dad always made sure to enjoy life. From a child he would take me to local Caribbean festivals, the steel-pan yard, and all the local roti shops, to teach me how to embrace my Trini roots.

Every summer for Caribana (the annual Toronto Caribbean festival) you could find Dad chippin’ down the road to soca, with a rum and coke in his hand. Even when he reached his 60’s.

And now, years later, you can also find me doing the same. As for into my 60’s? I don’t know about all of that.

Dad taught me that life is too short to be anything but happy and it is our mission in life to find our joy every single day.

2. If you work hard and do your best, you can do anything.

My dad migrated to Canada in 1972 with a dollar and a dream. He taught me at a very young age that in order to “make it” you need to have an extreme work ethic and an insatiable desire to achieve your goals.

He taught me how to embrace the qualities of discipline, character, leadership, resilience, and excellence all through the beautiful game of football.

Dad instilled into my brain that even if you’ve been dealt a crappy hand in life, you are ultimately in control of your destiny and the way to beat the odds was by being great in everything you do.

And that’s exactly what I did.

I grew up in Malvern, a rough neighborhood in Toronto, where back in my day I was surrounded by a lot of gangs, drugs, and violence.

I remember a time when I was nine years old and was getting dropped off from soccer practice and noticed that a guy was getting jumped by a gang right by the corner of my co-op with bats. He was covered with blood and screaming for his life.

My teammate and her father looked horrified in disbelief and contemplated calling the police, meanwhile I didn’t even blink an eye.

I figured the guy was probably a snitch or was deserving of the abuse and that’s just the way things go down around here. You see, that was my normal.

Girls getting pregnant before high school, watching people get stabbed at the park, smoking weed at recess, was my normal.

And my dad made sure that I worked extremely hard in sports, so I could live a better life and create a new normal.

Dad helped me pave the way to understand:

“You don’t have to let your circumstances define you. You can define yourself.”

3. If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again.

Dad’s mission for my life was to teach me that I was not a product of my circumstances but rather a product of my decisions.

And boyyyy, have I made some stupid decisions in my life.

But again, dad always taught me that it wasn’t how many times I fell down, it was about how many times I decided to get back up.

In 2001, the late R&B singer Aaliyah came out with the hit song, ‘Try Again’ where she sang the infamous line, “If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again.”

Dad loved Aaliyah and anytime I had a bad football game or dealt with a crappy boyfriend he wouldn’t give me no long winded speech, because that wasn’t who he was.

Instead he would just just quote Aaliyah and I knew that meant I had to just let it go and keep it moving.

Now that he’s gone, anytime I go through a hard time in my life, I just remind myself of that line and I know what I need to do.

“There is no such as failure, only learning experiences.”

My dad may have left my life very abruptly but I’m blessed to have spent 26 years with a man who taught me to own my greatness and live my best life.

I live and teach these principles every single day and it’s the deeper why as to who I am and what I do.

Father's Day Blog This Father’s Day, I hope you’ll bring to mind someone who has shaped your life in a positive, beautiful way. If it’s your father, that’s wonderful. If it’s not your dad but another person (male or female) who has made a deep and lasting beneficial impact on you, I hope you’ll reach out to them.

Let’s remember those who have brought more happiness and positivity into our world, and who have made us feel joyful and loved in a way no one else has.

Happy Father’s Day to you and yours.

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