January 22. For the last 13 years, I have mentally marked on the calendar. As result of an accident that never should have happened, we mourn the death of our father, son, brother and friend. After that day, I was forever changed. Most years we look back on the positive memories. However, other years the tears flow like it’s all happening again. We had some great times together. For instance, watching Hockey Night in Canada, rocking out to 80’s metal, cards at the kitchen table and so many video games.
Then there’s the things that never happened, an empty seat at our wedding, never meeting my kids, not being apart of my growth from a boy to a man. I like to think you’d be proud, maybe even amazed with how far I have come. My hope is you are at peace and know in some way how much you are missed. Leaving was the most painful thing I have experience but at this point I can say it made me stronger.
The intent of this weeks blog is to share my experience in dealing with a sudden loss. How I coped with it, good and bad. My hope is if you are going through something, this might serve as guide to help in what to do and also what not to do.
Dry Mustard & Brown Sugar
I don’t think many of us ever really plan for stuff like this. All we can really do is make the best of it with what we know. Subsequently, I struggled to cope with the new reality. Sunday January 20th, in our last conversation we were talking about whether the Patriots could pull off the perfect season. Unfortunately we never got to dissect the “helmet” catch or if any team would ever catch the Dolphins perfect season. In the blur of days that followed the accident, watching the 2008 Super Bowl was the first normal moment I recall.
One of the few family traditions we had was making chili for the grey cup and super bowl games. After that I have continued this tradition and always make it with a dash of dry mustard and brown sugar (secret ingredients). It never really occurred to me until I was writing this how this was all connected. Looking back on it now, creating this tradition was one of the positive coping mechanisms developed out of this tragedy.
Finding a way to re-invent a tradition was a great step forward. In addition, it has provided a chance for me to share stories with my kids and friends that otherwise might never have been told.
What’s Wrong With Seth?
Seth’s drunk. That was a common theme in the year that followed. Seth’s eats alot. Another common theme. It’s no wonder that 10 years down the road I would end up 310 pounds and riddled with bad habits. I didn’t plan for it to go that way. When the sudden loss occurred, I was 21 and had goals. I wanted to go back to school for Sports Management. The plan was to spend a couple years in Wainwright working so we could afford to buy a house somewhere else and then go back to school.
The road quickly changed and I lost all sense of self or direction. During the next few years, I wasn’t a very nice person. What’s wrong with Seth? a question Katelyn was constantly being asked. I had no motivation to do anything that didn’t end with instant gratification. Under the haze of grief, I made more bad decisions than I could count and slowly became someone I didn’t even know.
It took me years to figure out who I was again. I own all the decisions that I made during this time. My point is, if you were to lose someone really close to you tomorrow, how would you react? Chances are, the habits & vices you have now will be where you gravitate to. Before you know it, they can quickly become destructive behaviors. I wish things would have been different, but learning this lesson the hard way has given me perspective I hope can help others avoid the same fate.
Megadeath. Metallica. Motley Crue. CCR. Hell Yeah. Kid Rock. Alice In Chains. Led Zepplin. Slash. GNR. on repeat, all day every day in the months that followed. I cried buckets of tears. It got to the point where Katelyn couldn’t even handle one of those songs coming on. However, I really think that’s what saved me. From what, I am not sure. But listening to music was and is the most effective coping mechanism for me.
For anyone who knows me, you probably know that I have a very diverse playlist selection. This was 100% influenced by my childhood. As a teenager, we would play cards for hours and listen to every genre. In fact one of the last conversations we ever had was about this new song by Hell Yeah, about Dime Bag Darrell’s death. Thank You. We had no idea in that moment, but there could not have been a more fitting song for how I feel.
Every year on the 22nd I listen to these songs, sometimes I cry but more often they take me to a special place for a few moments.
- Roll On – Kid Rock
- A Toute La Monde – Megadeath
- The Day that Never Comes – Metallica
- Thank You – HELL YEAH
- Rooster – Alice in Chains
- Someday Never Comes – CCR
- Black Dog – Led Zepplin
- Life is Beautiful – Nikki Sixx
- I Wish it Would Rain – Little Ceaser
- Cat’s in the Craddle – Ugly Kid Joe
Firstly, I wish this never happened. Secondly, I wouldn’t be who I am had this not happened. What a paradox. Above all, this experience has taught me so much about life. How precious it is. finite it is. beautiful it is.
As a result, I try not to take any of it for granted. a rainy day is as amazing as a sunny day. sunrises as important as a sunset. death completes the circle of life.
I have often said, that my dad didn’t pursue his dreams and therefore left no legacy. Dead at 38. Leaving 5 kids behind. No statues, buildings, or scholarships in his name. No money, land or material possessions of consequence. This bothered me for some reason. It has been playing on my mind that when he was my age, he was 92% done his life. Which has led me to wonder, what if this is my last 8%?
That’s when it hit me, if this is my last 8%, would I do anything differently? Would I have any regrets? Scramble to change my life? And, I can honestly say no. No, I am living my best life.
I hope that I can live up to that kind of legacy and my kids will feel this way. Thank you for the inspiration.