My dad taught me many things over the years, from riding a bike without training wheels to skipping rocks across a still lake. But some of his biggest lessons were ones he didn’t teach me directly, but instead modeled by living his life in his own special way. I’d like to share with you just some of what my dad taught me throughout the years, in hopes his lessons will be of inspiration to you, too.

Support the people you love.

My sister once wrote that my dad was the loudest voice in the stands at her high school basketball games. He was always the most consistent voice in my personal cheering section, too. When I started simplify 101, it would have been easy for him to have discouraged me—as a child his family went from riches to rags when his father’s business faced troubling times. But that wasn’t my dad. Even if he didn’t understand what simplify 101 was all about and would have personally been uncomfortable with the risk it entailed, it was more important to my dad to support the people he loved. When my subscriber list was nearing the 100-mark eight years ago, my dad was thrilled to claim the spot as my 100th subscriber. And he read every single newsletter from that day forward. What I learned from my dad is that when you support the people you love, you give them what they need to flourish, even after you’re gone.

Aby and Dad at Beach

There’s always time to create a good life.

My dad’s life had many ups and downs. Yet each time he encountered a down, whether it was during his childhood when his family lost everything, or later in life when he lost his own beloved job, my dad found a way to rebuild his life and keep moving forward. He knew what made him happy—laughter, toys, the color green, and people to love and laugh with—and he used these things to build a life filled with joy. In the process, his joy spilled over onto everyone else, making their lives richer just by being a part of his. He was the kind of person you wanted to be around—his passion for living was infectious. He took pleasure in the simple things, but didn’t let the small stuff weigh him down or get in his way. One of the biggest lessons I learned from my dad is that even when the odds seem to be stacked against you, when you focus on what fills your heart with joy, you can create a really good life. In the process, you’ll make everyone around you happier, too.

Dad playing in Lake Michigan

A positive outlook makes life worth living.

When my dad was diagnosed with cancer, we learned that people with his type of cancer typically live for six months to a year. The real kicker was that my dad had already been living with the cancer for a full year before his diagnosis was communicated to him! My dad went on to live for more than three more years. And while I’m sure the radiation and chemotherapy treatments helped extend his life, I know his positive outlook extended not only the quantity of his days, but the quality of them, too. He never complained and he didn’t feel sorry for himself for what he was going through. Instead he noticed that he was the oldest guy getting chemotherapy and felt great compassion for what the younger people were experiencing. Whenever I talked to him on the phone, he always found a way to make me laugh. I always hung up the phone feeling better than before I called. My dad taught me that life is much more fun when you look on the bright side and find something to laugh about every single day.

Your true essence stays with you until the end.

In my dad’s final days, his body was shutting down. He was unable to stand. Breathing was laborious, and swallowing was nearly impossible. And yet, his true essence remained. I came to understand that we are not our bodies; we are something much, much more. As his body was shutting down, my dad’s true essence continued to shine. He was still loving and affectionate. He was still thinking about everyone else, thanking his caregivers and making sure we were okay. The day before he died, he told us jokes and funny stories. He lifted us up one last time…by filling our hearts with laughter and love.

In the end what I learned from my dad is that it really is the simple things in life that make it worth living. It is time spent with loved ones, laughing, talking and sharing this beautiful gift called life.

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Aby Garvey is a creative organizing expert and simplify 101’s founder. She has created 14 online organizing classes, which she has been teaching since 2007, helping thousands of people around the world get organized. Aby loves to help people create positive change in their lives through her online classes and organizing eBooks.

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