My father, Brian Ahearn Sr., passed away unexpectedly this morning. I’m still pretty numb but writing is one way I try to process my thoughts and feelings. My dad was asked at a dinner party what was the greatest experience of his life. He said without hesitation, “Being a Marine and leading men in combat.” And, I’m sure that’s how he wanted to be remembered. Semper Fi!
The last text I received from him read, “By the way, I came across the letter you sent me on my 70th birthday. It was beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes. I have been around for a long time and have had some wonderful experiences and memories. You and Carey (my sister) are among them. Have a great day.”
I think the best thing I can do to honor my dad is to share with you what I wrote in that letter. Maybe your relationship with a parent is complicated. If so, I hope this helps. Either way, if you can, give them a hug today. If not, I’m sure a phone call will be appreciated. There will come a day when you want to do one or the other but cannot.
Happy 70th birthday! Because I’m fairly good at math I’m pretty sure this one only comes around once so enjoy it to the fullest. I know you’re competitive so if life is a race then every year that goes by gives you a better and better chance of winning. ; )
Sorry we are not there to celebrate with you but I’m glad we’ve been making it a point to spend some Christmas’s and vacations together in recent years. I got you the funny card, like always, but also wanted to take time to write you a note.
The more time goes by the more I appreciate what you did for me. I remember taking Jane to Miami University for my 10-year reunion and she was floored because it was so beautiful. I was too because it was even better than I remembered. Like many things in life, that time at college was special but I didn’t fully appreciate it in the moment. Without anything to compare it to it’s hard. I try to teach Abigail to appreciate things in the moment because all too fast the moment is gone and we look back and wish for just one more day. Thanks because I am very fortunate to have gone to that school.
Speaking of school; had I not yielded to your advice about business it’s very likely that I would not have worked for The Travelers, met Jane and there would be no Abigail. What seemed like an insignificant decision was far bigger than I could have imagined.
I also remember you telling me to treat school like a business. Go to class and do my homework from 8-5 and I could do what I wanted with the rest of my time. I don’t know if you knew it but that’s what I did. School work was always done by dinner then the night was reserved for lifting.
I’ve made mistakes in my life but I think more than most I had a strong sense of right and wrong. To this day I never tried recreational drugs. Like all college kids I drank – thus the urination incident – but I steered clear of the potentially bad stuff even though many of my friends indulged. As I said, I had a pretty strong sense of right and wrong and I got that from you and mom.
The discipline I have towards all the things I do came mostly from you. When I tell people about me something I mention early on is that I’m the son of a Marine. That explains an awful lot to them. My friends still tease me and one said, “We lifted weights but you had to be a bodybuilder. We took up jogging but you ran marathons. Now you get your black belt.” Something you may not know but during the time when we were more involved in church as I read through the Bible I began to put down my thoughts. The document ended up being a thousand pages. Whatever I did, I wanted to do it to the best of my ability and I believe that came from you.
Something you shared about your Marine experience that stuck with me was the time the Vietnamese soldier was being kicked by your CO trying to get info as he lay there dying. You said you pulled your gun on the CO to get him to stop then cradled the man till he died. Any time I shared that with someone it would make me tear up just like it did as I typed this letter. Of all the things you’ve shared with me that makes me proudest because that took unbelievable courage. To me that epitomizes what’s at the core of you.
If I had something to do over in life I think I would have chosen to be a Marine. I loved the camaraderie football gave us and that’s why I’m such good friends with Russell, so many other high school buddies and coach Alles. There was something about being under the lights on Friday night with those other 10 guys that can’t be explained. I’m sure basic training and combat multiplied that infinitely. When I see you meet other Marines, especially those who served in Vietnam, I sometimes think you’re closer to them than you are me. I’m not jealous, I admire it.
I’m happy for you that you and Jo have found so much happiness together. It’s been nice to see you grow and change because of her. She’s been good for you. And it’s been wonderful that Jane loves you both too. That’s something Jane and I have been blessed with – each having in-laws we really enjoy being with.
I’m sorry we had some rough times around my 30th birthday. Now that time has passed I hope you can understand from your relationship with your own dad that I hit a period where I had questions and just wanted to understand things. I’ve tried to use mistakes you and mom made to learn from. You once told me, “I don’t care what you or anyone else says I’m not a bad person.” I honestly never thought you were so I apologize if I said or did things that made it seem that way.
As a kid I didn’t dwell on what you and mom were going through, I just immersed myself in football and Janis. But as I got older and tried to figure out why I was the way I was I knew that period had a huge impact on me so I just wanted to get a handle on things. Again, I hope you can understand. Just so you know, I’m still trying to figure out a lot of things but I feel I’ve mellowed in my approach.
So, while you’re celebrating 70 we’ll be in Chicago celebrating what I hope is a new chapter for me with the blogging and speaking. The days in Chicago were good days when you lived there. What stands out to me was taking Jane to meet you then getting engaged. It was a great period so hopefully we can catch a little of that magic this weekend while you catch some with Jo and friends. We’re looking forward to having you up this summer.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the planet on the science of ethical influence.
Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was name one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by Book Authority. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 100,000 people around the world.