This is going to be a very different blog post than the ones I usually write. I’m going to get personal and I hope that’s okay with you. I’m going to share what I’ve learned and how my perspective has changed since my father’s recent and unexpected death.

So let me fill you in if you haven’t already heard. My father, Gary Garcia, had a massive stroke on Monday, August 10th. After being airlifted to a hospital in Baltimore, MD, he was in the ICU for a week. He was unconscious and minimally responsive the entire time with a breathing and feeding tube in. On Sunday, August 16th, just after the breathing and feeding tubes were removed, my father passed away while my sister and I held his hands. My father was only 72 years old and in relatively good health before the stroke. As I’m sure you can imagine, my father’s death was a complete shock to everyone.

Since my father’s death, I have learned so many things. Many of these things have made me more compassionate, expressive, and patient. I’m hoping ultimately it will make me a better person, as I need some good to come of this. I decided to share just a few of the things I have recently learned with you today as I can’t move on and write about anything else at this point. So here goes…

There is so much more to people than you know.

I have been in touch with so many people who knew my dad that I wasn’t even aware of. Neighbors, doctors, old friends, acquaintances, previous co-workers, the list goes on and on. After speaking with all of these people, I have a much more complete picture of who my father truly was besides “my dad”. I think it’s hard to see people from any other perspective than our own. Knowing that the people you love play different roles in this world beyond the one you are most familiar with is important to remember. I wish I talked with my dad more about his closest friends, work, volunteer duties, and so many other things so I had a better perspective of who he was as a whole.

Very few things are truly urgent.

The week my father was in the ICU and the week after he died, I canceled every appointment I had. I completely ignored my to-do list. For me, this was a big deal as my to-do list basically ran my life. I didn’t doubt for a minute that I needed to drop every single thing in order to focus on my dad and what my family was going through. Once things settled down a bit and I had a minute to regroup, I looked at my calendar and my to-do list. It was easy to see how few things were truly urgent. I was amazed at how easily all of the things on my list could be rescheduled and how nothing terrible happened by ignoring my list. I am no longer letting my to-do list run my life and it’s been a huge weight off my shoulders.

Don’t stress about the “should do’s”.

Let me tell you — I’ve spent a whole lot of my precious time stressing about things that I think I “should do”. One good example of a stressful “should do” was social media accounts for my business. I worried that I wasn’t posting enough, that I didn’t have enough followers, and that everyone else’s account looked better than mine. I wasted countless hours trying to come up with a social media plan that I would actually follow despite the fact that I can’t stand doing it. (Yes, I know I can hire someone to do this for me but I’m a control freak, so I just can’t.) Anyway, the point of this is that I have wasted so much time stressing about social media. I have come to the realization that this “should do” is something I don’t want to do, and that’s OK.

Relaxing and enjoying life is a must.

No joke, I currently have 196 tasks in my to-do list app right now (I know, it’s crazy!). Most of those tasks are in my “Someday/Maybe” category. So these are the things that don’t need to get done but would be nice to do if I had all the time in the world. I have always felt that my to-do list was a collection of items I would one day accomplish. Then once they were all done, I could officially relax knowing all my work was done. Of course, this mindset is ridiculous and logically I know it’s not true. Even so, subconsciously this belief often keeps me from truly feeling relaxed. I have come to realize that rest and relaxation are as important, if not more important than all the other stuff. If I don’t get to everything on my to-do list that’s OK, and honestly I probably just have too many things on the list.

You can say no.

OK, so this is another biggie for me. I am one of those people who will generally say yes to a favor even if it causes me stress or is something I truly don’t want to do. In the weeks following my dad’s death, I got a few requests of my time that I immediately knew I didn’t want to do. Initially, I felt obligated to say yes, because that’s what I’ve always done. Once I paused for a second, I realized that I didn’t have the time to do what was asked, nor did I want to do it. For the first time in years, I actually said no. I started to realize that I could say no if I wanted to and that would be okay.

Be aware of the final wishes of your loved ones.

As much as you think that something like a loved one’s sudden death won’t happen to you, it can. It’s a good idea to know about the affairs of your close family members so you don’t have to try to piece things together on top of the grief of losing a loved one. If you have parents or siblings, check in with them so you know their wishes and that they have things in order. If you have dependents, give some thought to their needs and have something in place so that your loved ones are taken care of.

My father’s birthday is today, October 8th. I know that every October 8th from here on out will be a difficult one, as will Father’s Day, Christmas, and many other holidays and non-holidays. My dad was a big fan of my blog and newsletter. He would always e-mail me after receiving each month’s newsletter to tell me how this one was even better than the last. I know my dad won’t read this blog post or any others for that matter, but I hope he somehow knows how much he has taught me even after he was gone. This one’s for you dad!