On my walk to and from work today I was listening to a RadioLab podcast, quite fittingly, on the topic of the cash value of life. The hosts wondered, “how much would you pay for an extra year of life” – sparking all kinds of nuanced responses that were steeped in the intrinsic variables that exist in one’s own personal world. As I listened to them pull apart this weighty, meaty, topic, a theme emerged in the caveats of those trying to answer the question – what could they do with that ‘extra’ time.
My brain wandered to this day, January 30th, where every year I take a moment remember my dad and chuckle at that scrappy, annoying, funny, kind dude who made tasty chicken patty sandwiches and gave all the lives of all who knew him just a little more extra…something (a complicated something, the best kind of something). I don’t bemoan the early death of my dad – his own self-proclaimed motto the last year of his life was simply that he was “sick and tired of being sick and tired”, so in the end I’m glad he got to escape the phantom that was chasing him for 20+ years. Yet, amidst it all if he were nab an extra year of time I’m sure he would have – not for himself…but for us.
Existence to my father (or at least existence in his adult life) wasn’t intrinsic; It was for the people around him. And despite his intense perchance for extreme laziness (and off-putting dad jokes) – he ultimately wanted the world to be a funnier, weirder, and all around better, happier place. He hated injustice – you could just feel his heart get heavy with the misery that naturally exists in our world; but in his own special Silfies kind of way he was hell bent of shining a light in some of those dark corners. The kind of guy who (and my grandfather loved to tell this story) amidst the throws of own terminal illness would stand to proclaim himself a caregiver for a family member recently diagnosed (though, not to revise history – it’s entirely possible he misunderstood the question or wanted a smoke; I kid, I kid).
These days I talk less of individual character traits that made my dad, the forever 80’s man he was, and instead think about how he dedicated his life, perhaps even unknowingly, to better the lives of other people. A real, flawed, occasionally broken, sometimes insane man who’s unwavering desire to care for others made this world a better place for 40-some-odd years with such natural and effortless ease.
Another RadioLab podcast I was recently musing to proposed that we never, “Just die”; but instead that we cycle through three deaths that exist for every individual. The first – when the body ceases to function; The next being when the body is laid to rest. The third and final death, poetically, is when your name is spoken for the last time – not a new concept to me as over the past six years I’ve frequently waxed poetic that by telling the story of my father’s life he’ll never really die – and it’s true; but my ‘ah-ha’ moment this year is that I can go even one step further.
In a time when compassion, caring, and understanding are often labeled ‘whining’ and ‘oversensitivity’ – I can continue to make the lives and world around me a better place by being unequivocally, unabashedly, and proudly be myself. I can stand up for those who can’t. I can do everything to make the lives of my friends and family happier and better. I can do what’s right – even when I’m told that’s wrong. With all the sensitivity I can muster in my heart I can simply CARE for this world – even when it doesn’t care back. And when I’m ask how I managed to find the space for it all – I can simply respond “Frank Silfies”.
In that way, he’ll still be alive – and with his ‘extra’ time he’ll still making the world a better place.