My Father’s Legacy: Navigating Grief and Walking Him Home (Episode 333)
After a bit of an unexpected hiatus, we're back. For those of you already subscribed to my weekly newsletter, you may have heard the news. You know the news if you're part of my father's 48Days community.
On love, life, and grieving...
The Many Life Seasons
Yes, life hands us curveballs, and our family has always been one to roll with the seasons of life and look at life in seasonal increments. We knew we were facing a new season, which tends to happen in 90 Day increments in our world. We've spent the past 3 months volunteering and living down at Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys, and now we're at a state park right down the road from my parents - how awesome.
How perfect - literally 3 miles from my parents' for the first three months, and then we'd move back into our Venice house for a while and get out of the RV that's pretty much been our home for the past 7 years. We've seen all of the mainland 48 states (we'll get to you eventually, Hawaii and Alaska), and we've had some incredible adventures. We've enjoyed the experience of volunteering with the Florida State Parks since 2021, and oh the stories we have to share about all the things we love about these parks.
And then, we got here. And in the span of a month, our world has been flipped upside down. Here is our official family statement:
A Message from the Family of Dan Miller
On December 7th, our father (Dan Miller) was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer, just a week after he was in Vegas with his sons for the U2 concert at the Sphere. The cancer has now spread into his liver, spine, hip, and thigh bone, in just a few weeks. Things are moving quickly.
As always, Ashley, Nathan, and their crew were already here with Mom and Dad, ready to support. Kevin and Jared flew from CO and CA a day later. It’s time to huddle up as a family, to simply be together. We aren’t focused on timelines. We’re soaking in every wonder-filled moment and celebrating Dad’s life and legacy right now, with him.
While our hearts ache… and they do… we are so aware of how blessed we are to be part of a family full of so much love. We’re grateful we can be here together, for all the conversations and card games and food, and each other. We recognize we have the very rare privilege of walking Dad home. For that, we are grateful, and we’ll steward these moments well.
We also recognize there are scores of people who will want to connect with him. So we put something together to honor Dad, to allow him to be part of it, and to create a central tribute location.
And as we honor our father, we’re going to do this our way, just like he would. He always inspires us to ask, “What does this make possible?” and to remember to, “Carry your sunshine with you.”. Dad’s light is still shining bright.
He’s grateful to receive so many kind messages from friends and family and all the people he’s impacted across the world. As always, he’s excited to bring people together for something meaningful.
Dan’s legacy lives in each of us. This is a way for you to share your story with Dan and continue the ripple effect as others are blessed by your story.
We invite you to visit and contribute to Dan’s Tribute website.
If you’ve already sent Dad a message, we encourage you to leave it again on this Love Board (rather than messages getting lost in his inbox and texts).
Dan’s Kids (Kevin Miller, Ashley Logsdon, and Jared Angaza)
We're almost a month in now, and so, so much has changed. My father's health has declined rapidly - while it's hard to see the physical decline, his mind is strong - so like Dad. His legacy is beautiful and we've had so many sweet moments as a family together, just soaking in the memories and the gratitude for a life well lived.
Last week, my father shared the very last podcast that he will ever do. For those of you who don't know, my father is Dan Miller, author of 48 Days to the Work and Life You Love. He's written numerous other books like Wisdom Meets Passion and No More Dreaded Mondays, Rudder of the Day, and his latest one (my most favorite), An Understanding Heart. I have been living and breathing his business, 48 Days, ever since it started.
For the past 20 years, I've worked in some capacity with 48 Days, and moved into managing it. While I'm not my father and won't be continuing it on exactly as he has, he's left a legacy that will continue through my brothers and me, in addition to the many other lives he's touched. There are so many similarities between my father and I, yet as excited as he could get talking about business, I could do the same talking about relationships, especially parenting, and family.
How To Cope
So how are we doing? All of the family, as we navigate this? First, I can say Dad is experiencing magic all around as he floats between his next big adventure and the beautiful chapter that he's seeing the end to.
Mom is handling it as best as she can, considering. They've been together since she was 17 years old - and 55 beautiful years of marriage and continually choosing to show up for each other. She's mourning what was while soaking in right now and taking a step at a time toward her future.
And for us, we seek the tools to carry us, not just "get us through it."
And so we walk. We're fortunate to be camped right next to extensive nature trails, and wow have we walked them. We've taken in the power of family walks, couple walks, or individual walks where you just get a chance to clear your head and grieve your grief. We walk - and sometimes talk - it off as we work through our confusion for clarity on the next step.
Walking is something we've used repetitively to seek shelter from our frustration, pain, grief, anger, and more. There are so many studies on the benefits of rhythm for healing. I just read an article in a magazine about people with Parkinson's disease meeting for a drum circle every week and how it helped them so much with regulating their bodies.
Think about a child on the spectrum, where they may need to "stim" with repetitive movements back and forth. It's self-soothing. As we walk, we create beats with our steps. When our first daughter was an infant, Nathan would pace the floors with her as she cried out her gas pains and then fell into a deep rhythmic sleep.
Finding the beat is a beautiful regulator. It can be through walking, swimming, running...a repetitive activity with the same movements. It could be playing a musical instrument. Maybe it's a song or chant.
Find your rhythm.
Soak In The Music
Music is also a beautifully healing medium. As I'm typing this and going through the heavy of navigating my own grief and sharing about my father, I'm listening to binaural beats for concentration and focus - and the rhythms keep me "in the zone".
Music therapy has a way of reaching our soul, sometimes in a way words cannot. It's not even always about a specific artist or song as much as stripping back to the music and how it makes you feel. It's pursuing the feelings that come forward with music that digs deep and stirs the soul. Have you ever been brought to tears by music? I know it gets to me.
Don't Hide From It
We're talking. A lot. Not just my husband Nathan and me. Not just us with our three daughters. My parents. My brothers. Their families. We're all talking openly and regularly about the next phase. We've had some beautiful conversations, sharing memories, asking questions, and wrapping peace around this transition.
Dad has been able to share his experiences of letting go. Our family has been able to walk with him through this and add the laughter of cousins playing along with the tears of losing what was.
We're not denying what's coming; a part of a beautiful life is death.
Dad has been listening to many spiritual leaders who have walked this path ahead. A few years ago, our whole family listened to Anita Morjanni's "Dying To Be Me" book. Dad just read through it again. We all recognize the insignificance and yet beauty of this life on earth - knowing it's just one part of our spiritual journey.
Dad recently watched Ram Dass's documentary, "Going Home" - an incredible view into the shift of the spirit from human form to loving awareness. He talks about his experiences of going from a thought leader and then having a stroke to his final days.
I asked ChatGPT to share the perspective of Ram Dass on us being like clouds -
Ram Dass often used the metaphor of a cloud to explain the nature of human existence and consciousness. He likened our identities and experiences to that of a cloud.
Just as a cloud changes its form, moves across the sky, and eventually dissipates, our identities and experiences in life are transient and ever-changing. We often identify strongly with our thoughts, emotions, and the roles we play in society, much like how a cloud might momentarily take on different shapes or appearances.
However, just as a cloud is made up of water molecules that constantly change and transform, our essence or consciousness is seen by Ram Dass as something beyond these temporary identities and experiences. He suggests that our true nature is like the sky—vast, infinite, and unaffected by the passing clouds (representing our transient thoughts, emotions, and experiences).
Ram Dass invites us to recognize that while we may experience various emotions, thoughts, and identities, our core essence remains untouched by these transient aspects of life. Just as the sky remains unchanged despite the passing clouds, our inner essence, our consciousness, remains constant and unaltered despite the ever-changing nature of our experiences and identities, even as we move on from this physical world.
We Are Like Water
Ram Dass describes us like a cloud. When I was talking with our children about life after death, we talked about how water takes on many forms. We're like water - we flow through this life. Sometimes as a trickle, sometimes as a massive tsunami. And just like water can shift from vapor to liquid to solid, our souls can change form beyond our physical presence.
So while we may not see Papa in the same way, I have no doubt he'll be around. Clara has already noted how beautiful it is that as Papa, our eagle-lover, is passing into his next journey, we have baby bald eaglets just hatched here at the park. Every Sunday we lead a program to watch and learn about them.
Eagles have been a part of my father's life always. He's been drawn to the bald eagle and it's been at the core of our 48 Days business brand since the beginning. How fitting that, at this time, our whole family and so many others are seeing bald eagles. The other day, one landed on a tree right outside their house - a perfect picture of Papa and an Eagle.
Water is water. There's still that presence, still that soul, that energy that can remain even when we don't see them in the physical form anymore. We'll see him in reminders - the eagles in the air, the feeling in our chest, the motivational statement that seems whispered in our ear we know comes from him.
The Ebb and Flow of Grief
This year has been a hard one. We've already said goodbye to three loved ones. Unfortunately, like so many life lessons, gaining the tools for how to grieve is best done when you're experiencing it. When the sadness is overwhelming, it's going to come out in some way. We talked with the kids about not bottling up our emotions. Just like a kiddo who wants to cram all their clothes in a drawer, eventually, that door is going to get too full and it'll break, or things will fall out.
We need the pressure valve to release our emotions so they don't build up and explode. And I've found that navigating hard emotions - like grief, anger, overwhelm, sadness - is easier managed if we let it out in little "burps" than try to muscle through all the emotions at once.
In the book What Happened To You, Dr Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey talk about "microdosing" - when you allow just a little bit of trauma processing at a time. It's the good cry that only lasts a few minutes, or that ability to talk deeply about your pain - maybe in just a sentence or two - and then you're ready to move on. It's dipping your toe in the pain and acknowledging it, while not drowning in it. It's taking it a step at a time.
Microdosing has helped me a lot. When I'm sad and overwhelmed, I allow the tears to fall. I journal. I walk. I talk it out. And in allowing the pain to come in spurts, it gives me the strength to show up as well. It's not a bottled-up dam that will burst. I'm water, that will ebb and flow like waves as I navigate the ups and downs in my lifetime. Just like you.
Part of my strength is in allowing myself not to be as well. This hurts. It's a transition I wasn't asking for. And it is hard. It's okay to give space for your soul to hurt...and to heal a little bit each time, knowing it's a new different moving forward. It allows us to also find those moments of strength and stamina that allow us to keep going even amidst the hurting.
While we've experienced a lot of loss in our lives, Dad is the first in our core family to walk this path. Between my two brothers and I, there are 29 of us just from this one nuclear Miller family. Nathan talked with our youngest, Juliet, about how Papa is such a brave soul to bring awareness to this special stage for all of us.
We don't go by the illusion that we will always have tomorrow. Dad lived his life with a positive optimism for tomorrow, yet choosing to live in today. He's continuing to teach those lessons now as we move through this journey.
His legacy is not building up the 48 Days empire. We talked a long time ago that I wasn't just a mini Dan Miller, and I wasn't just looking to move in and replace his role. We've talked often about how my passion is so much around family and the relationships and dynamics in our homes that then trickle out and create that ripple effect for the rest of our existence.
Dad's legacy is in the relationships that he has built. The things that he has fostered, the inspiration and the hope in the seeds that he has planted in so many people through his books, through his podcasts, through simply people just meeting him.
My goal is to continue to carry an element of his legacy here in what we do with Mama Says Namaste. I've always dreamed of having a podcast very similar to my father's, answering questions about creating the life you love and sharing inspiration with families across the world.
I love brainstorming and working with people through things that are challenging topics or frustrating things at home. So as we move forward with what Mama Says Namaste looks like for us, we're going to scale back to bi-weekly for a while. I welcome your questions to address on the podcast, and have many topics for families we can discuss.
Questions or comments?
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I like to sum up a lot of it just with one quote, and that's from Seth Godin. He says, "Instead of wondering when your next vacation will be, why not create a life you don't want to escape from?"
Our goal is to help you look and create a life you don't want to escape from. Your life is very different than mine. It's not about you all creating the same story with that Nathan and I have written, But it's looking at all of the different areas of life, your marriage, parenting, your schooling options, and more. It's looking at your work relationships, clearing your home, your head, and your heart from clutter, and understanding the different dynamics of personalities that may be bouncing around in your home. How can you collaborate and work together so that the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us?
Your Weekly Challenge:
Our lives have taken lots of turns, and your life will take lots of turns. There are seasons in your life, some of them desired and anticipated with eagerness, some of them not so much. So how are you going to navigate it?
What does this make possible in your life? What questions do you have? What are you struggling with in your home?
While we navigate what this makes possible in the next chapter in our own lives, we invite you to do the same.
What does 2024 look like for you? What do you want to cultivate and create? What relationships do you want to foster? What legacy beyond money are you gonna be leaving here in this world?
Hold your family close. Tell them you love them. Remember those people and the ripple effect of the impact you make in this life. And remember, the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us. Namaste.