Life can change in an instant.

You see, my dear dad Ray passed away very suddenly on Thursday 6 June 2019. He had suffered with severe heart and lung disease for a couple of years, yet I still didn’t see it coming. It was a big shock and a huge loss when he passed after a wonderful morning out at Men’s Shed with his friends.

And in true dad spirit, he was on his way out to have coffee in the afternoon, even though he was sick. That was my dad; he was determined and never let anything stop him from doing what he wanted to do.

He had just celebrated his 80th birthday with much excitement. We took him to the local crocodile park, because he loved animals and wild life of all kinds; it was exactly the day he wanted. It was lovely to see him so happy and being the centre of attention. We loved making him feel special that day.

My dad was a lovely, kind man with a big heart. He was known well for his cheeky, humorous ways and always enjoyed making people laugh. Even when his illness became severe he managed to retain these beautiful qualities.

Dad lived just across the road from me and had been part of my everyday life for the past nine years. He couldn’t walk more than 20 meters without losing his breath. I would see him out in the mornings on his red scooter making his way to the local coffee shops for a morning of humorous, cheeky banter.

I still see him now on that red scooter in my minds eye each day I go out for my morning walks. I miss him so much.

Over the last few weeks since he passed, my mind has been flooded with memories. I have reflected on the impact he has had on my life, the things he unknowingly taught me, and how this has helped me to be who I am now, living the life I have.

My dad was a hugely determined, persistent man

When he set his mind on something, dad was like a dog with a bone, he wouldn’t give up until he achieved it. I remember as a child getting out of bed in the morning to my dad decorating the lounge room, he had been at it all night and wouldn’t give up until it was complete. He would then put in a full day’s work that day.

Dad was a man of many talents and interests, from painting and decorating through to restoring old cars, drawing, gardening and a whizz with mathematics. He was a talented engineer and had a gift with young people. He was well known for teaching new apprentices and arming them with the skills and qualities to help them achieve what they wanted. He was totally committed to them and to every project he worked on.

Dad would often work long hours to make sure he met deadlines. He was always learning to be the best he could possibly be at his trade, also contributing at night school by teaching up and coming tradesman.

Because he was determined and persistent, it meant he had incredible work ethic and he was much sought after. Each company he worked with never wanted him to leave. As I was sorting through his things last weekend, I found the most outstanding employer references. He was very proud of his work.

In his later years, it is these qualities that enabled him to bounce back after his numerous surgeries. He was determined to get back on his feet and persistent in learning to walk again.

Determination and persistence are qualities my dad instilled in me without realising and because of this, I have always been able to attract amazing work roles. They are also the qualities that have been essential in me successfully building my own business.

He was fiercely independent and strong

This quality sometimes got in his way, because it meant he found it difficult to ask for help. Yet, without this strong quality as he got older, he wouldn’t have lived the happy life he did, enjoying the freedom he valued.

He liked to look after himself and didn’t want to be molly coddled. At times he even refused help from the lovely lady who came to clean his apartment, preferring her to sit down, have a cuppa and a chat instead.

As a younger man he was always able to fix pretty much any problem that presented itself, he would be persistent in finding a way to do it himself. Dad was also a wonderful father, husband and provider. He prided himself on being able to provide well for his family through the income received from his work.

It was his strong sense of independence that helped him cope after losing my beautiful mum to cancer 27 years ago. A hard loss for him to bear, she was the love of his life and he grieved for her every day.

In his elder years, it was his fierce need for independence that kept him mobile and enjoying a daily social life. He had a huge love of people, coffee and humour. Dad loved being out and about and having the ability to do all these things independently. And, ironically it was his need for independence that eventually helped him to admit he needed some help.

Because of my dad and who he was, I am also fiercely independent. It is this quality that enabled me to solely raise my two sons from small boys into the fine young men they are. It is also this quality that enabled me to launch and build my own business as a sole entrepreneur.

My dad taught me that asking for help brings good

It was tough for my dad to admit he needed help, because he had spent his whole life not asking for it. He was determined to stay independent, yet was always grateful for anything we did for him.

I can’t count the amount of times he would end up injured impatiently trying to fix something, because he wouldn’t wait for my son to help him. It would drive us nuts, yet we loved him for it too. We loved that he never gave up trying.

The crunch came for him when he realised that if he wanted to remain independent then he would need assistance. He had resisted having mobility aides for a long time and it was a big exciting day when he eventually reached out and showed us photos of mobility scooters he had found on the internet. We quickly bundled him into the car before he could change his mind and headed off to the mobility shop in town. It felt so good to be able to do something to support him.

A couple of hours later, he had paid for his scooter and booked in a delivery time. Dad was mobile again and it was then that his life once more opened up and became more colourful. He had retained his independence and even more than that, he had regained his freedom of choice. The last two years saw my dad happier and more fulfilled than we had seen him in a long time, yet it was also the time when he suffered the most with his illness.

My dad taught me unknowingly that asking for help brings good. Having been so fiercely independent myself, I had also found it difficult to ask for help and it took me experiencing burnout before I learned to change. Asking for help is an expression of incredible courage, it’s about letting others in and helping them see they are needed.

It wasn’t until my dad passed away that I realised the influence he had in me changing my ability to ask for and accept help. In the last few weeks I have learned even more that it’s okay to lean on my loved ones during challenging times and accept the many offers of love and support that have come to me. This has made those relationships become even closer and more connected, just as ours did with dad when he reached out to us.

Dad showed me the incredible power of unconditional love

Over the years without my mum, my dad continued to live his life never ever forgetting her. It was deep unconditional love.

They had met when dad was 17 years old and mum was just 15 years old. From stories my uncle has told us, it sounds like when they met it was love at first sight. It was and continues to be a true powerful love that never died even when she passed away all those years ago.

My dad used to tell me when she had visited him in his dreams and that she was around and waiting for him. I think everyone who met dad in the last few years, knew about my mum, because he always talked about her.

It was and still is a love that continues beyond the veil and they are now reunited, something he has waited many years for.

I love my dad and didn’t realise just how deep until he passed away. Even through my grief he was able to reach out to me and I have already seen both him and mum in my dreams. They have shown me how incredibly powerful love can be. We can stay connected even when our loved ones have passed.

Both my mum and my dad have shown me through their words and actions what real love is. It’s not about fireworks and electric chemistry. True love is about being there for each other, supporting and encouraging each other. It’s about enjoying life together even through the challenges and hardships, continuing to love even though we feel annoyed or frustrated with each other.

Unconditional love is about the ability to forgive and completely letting someone into our heart, allowing them to really see us even though our heart could be broken if we lost them.

To love like this takes courage and my dad was one of the most courageous people I know.

I am so grateful to my dad for being in my life, for being who he was and is, and for everything he has taught me, both intentionally and unknowingly. I’m not saying he was a saint; dad would also whinge. There were times when he was annoying and there were times when I got frustrated with him. I can imagine he sometimes felt the same too.

But, I will never forget him. I will never forget the strong, determined, talented, loving man he was and the deep love I feel for him. The lessons he taught me will be with me forever and will continue to influence and serve me well. And because of that will also influence the way my children live their lives and their children too.

Change can happen in an instant. It’s so important that we live our lives to the fullest. That we reflect on our most important relationships, on the way we choose to live and appreciate those we love and cherish.

As a family we were and still are truly blessed.