Goodbye Mom & Dad: My 2017 in Review 

By CJ McClanahan 

As the year ends, I reflect on what took place during the past 12 months and wonder, Did my business do well? Was I A good father, husband and friend? What lessons did I learn? Am I healthier? Etc, etc...

This year-end reflection naturally leads me to look forward and wonder –What should I do differently in 2018?

This is a BIG and extremely important question.

Since December 31, 2003 (the year I started the business), this question has resulted in a thoughtful “goal setting” process packed with ideas, lists and at least a few spreadsheets.

Now, 2018 will be much different... 2017 was not just another year.

April 30, 2017

On the last day in April, my father passed away unexpectedly from a stroke. He was 77, healthy and loved spending time with his family.  

If you’ve ever lost a parent you know that the next few months/years are extremely challenging for the surviving spouse - in this case my mom.

Even though she tried to hide most of her grieving from us, anyone could tell that losing my dad was devastating. He was her partner, loved her unconditionally, and had recently spent a year nursing her back from an ugly bout with cancer.

Despite this loss, mom had a knack for being grateful for her blessings and looking on the bright side. More importantly, her faith was rock solid. She believed without a doubt that she would see my dad again one day.

As summer turned to fall, mom began to settle into a little bit of a groove. I’d finally convinced her that she had plenty of money to live on (she even bought a new washer and dryer) and she had regular lunches with friends on the calendar.

She and I spoke every single day, with my opening line always being, “Did I wake you up (even if it was 5pm)?” to which she would answer, “Yes and thank God you did or I would have slept all day.” (My schtick is not that funny, yet I never deviate from the classics.)

Life was Getting Back to a New Normal

Then, on September 25th, the unthinkable happened – mom passed away unexpectedly from a brain aneurism. More than three months later, I still can’t believe it’s true.

I’ve got a great picture of my parents at Easter service back in March. It was a beautiful sunny day as they smiled ear to ear, standing with the kids in front of the flowering dogwood right outside our church.

Less than 6 months later they were both gone.

I’m still processing the loss and struggling to settle into a routine without them. I desperately want to share life’s little moments like I’ve done for years. I wish I could tell my mom about how much fun Corinne is having in 5th grade and talk to my dad about the progression of Ian’s jump shot.

Every time I pick up the phone to give them an update, I take a deep sigh, swallow hard and fight back the tears wondering if this will ever get any easier. Like any diligent overachiever, I’ve read a bunch of books on loss and even attended a grief support group, hoping to find a magic formula for coping with the loss.

Each time, I run into the same piece of advice – don’t try and control the process, it will move at its own pace and the pain will never completely disappear.

Unfortunately, I’m not great at sitting back and letting anything run its course. Recognizing this personality quirk (others might argue that it’s a full-blown character flaw), I’ve decided to ask a simple question and see where it leads me:

What would mom and dad want me to talk about in 2018 that would properly honor how they had raised me for more than 46 years? As I’ve considered this question over the past several weeks, two words keep coming to my mind...

Love Big

My parents shared a unique quality that unfortunately is far too rare in our world today. They assumed people were good, rarely judged others and loved unconditionally. For example, many years ago, my mom and I were walking to our terminal at the airport and she decided to talk with an older woman who was sitting alone.

Thirty minutes later, she returned to our gate and told me all about her new friend who was “having a rough week and just needed someone to talk to.”

Believe it or not, my dad had an almost identical episode.

Every Monday, he had drinks with a bunch of old guys at a local restaurant. One Monday, he noticed a guy at the bar who was always sitting alone. Guess who became his new best friend?

Making money, having nice things, and going on trips was interesting to mom and dad, but ultimately, not really all that important. They cherished time with us (especially my kids) and opportunities to bring a smile to those around them. They loved life and the people in it.

The best way for me to honor their memory is to live life exactly as they would and love big24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Here’s How I’ll Love Big in 2018:

  • Strengthen the most important relationships in my life will become a priority. I will be intentional about scheduling quality time with my immediate and extended family. My closest friends will see and hear more from me than they probably want – I’m even considering hugging all the time.
  • I will work on judging people less and assuming that everyone is coming from a place of kindness, honesty and compassion.
  • I will continue the practice of never criticizing in public – especially social media. Before I claim that someone is a moron (in private of course) I will be intentional about understanding their position. I will eliminate any media that promotes “shouting down” other’s opinions.
  • Every person who engages with me will be clear that I’m committed to improving their life in some way. This goes for my clients, family, friends and the guy who takes my order at lunch. This practice will require that I listen with my eyes and ears displaying a smile – even when I’m in a bad mood.
  • Random acts of anonymous kindness will become part of my daily routine. There’s always someone who could use a kind word or a helping hand.
  • I will work harder than ever on being content with the way things are and obsessing less about the way I want them to be.

Although I may not see them every day, I choose to believe that my parents are watching over me.

While I can’t eliminate the grief, I can honor their memory in the way I live. I want them to see a son who learned from their example and is committed to loving big and helping others do the same.