Father’s Day reminds me of an evening in March 2007.
Sitting in the back seat of our car while driving through Istanbul, I was too mesmerized by the man in the driver’s seat to glance at my surroundings. There he was—my charismatic and witty friend, my compassionate mentor—my father. That was the moment I decided I could never do life without him.
I firmly held onto that belief until the day he passed away from a heart attack.
It has been almost five years since, but grief still oozes from my wound, the pain is too fresh and Father’s Day (which we never celebrated) is just another day I walk through life with a limp. Yet limping or not, oozing or not, I try my best to do life in alignment with my father’s teachings, some of which I wanted to share:
1. Curiosity killed the cat; thankfully you are not a cat.
My father was known for his exceptional ability to hold conversations with anyone and everyone. He could offer on point soccer commentary to a fanatic or hold a stimulating conversation on Beethoven’s symphonies. In reality, he did not need any of this information other than to fulfill his innate hunger for knowledge.
Question constantly and beyond your academic career path. Who was Viktor Frankl? How do wind turbines work? Who won Formula 1 this year? What does adagio mean? Enjoy learning as an act of self-respect.
2. Be love, do love, act love. If what you do does not create, deepen or preserve love, something went wrong along the way.
I admit—this is the hardest one to follow. I am far from fully embodying this lesson, but I made it my daily practice to express love in one way or the other. That may look like running errands for a friend, brewing a fresh cup of tea for myself, writing a love letter or something else equally simple that might mean a lot to someone.
3. When experienced purposefully, brokenness looks and feels beautiful.
A few days before he passed away, my father and I talked on the phone for a few hours. His parents broke his heart once again for reasons all too trivial. He was lonely, underappreciated and broken, but I’m glad he was. Watching him take a break from his superhero duties to weep and grieve introduced me to his beautiful fragility and brought us much closer to each other.
Being broken may move us further along our spiritual path, bring us closer to those with whom we have previously set boundaries and ultimately awaken us to collective suffering.
4. Time is powerful. It bends, lengthens, ends.
I learned to respect time in my father’s absence. Eighteen years with him shrunk over night relative to the days and hours I anticipated spending without him. Time still feels heavy, some days drag more than others, but I learned to appreciate that.
We are not supposed to mathematize or make sense of it. We simply need to be with it.
5. You do not have to be fully effective 100 percent of the time.
My father was one of the busiest people I have ever met. He worked long hours, traveled at least twice a week and had beautifully unproductive days in between. When I don’t seem to have time to be unproductive, I know my priorities are off. If he could do it, we all can.
You are not a machine. Celebrate your “unproductive” days, make them count. That may look like an extra hour of sleep, more sunshine, less internal chatter and no to-do lists.
Author: Betul Tatar
Image: Author’s own
Editors: Katarina Tavčar; Renée Picard