It’s been 2 weeks since my dad passed and I’ve been writing in my journal daily, posting insights here and on social media.
The death of my father has been one of the most transformational events that have ever occured in my life. Weird to say…but true.
In the last 4 years since he had his stroke it was hard to find meaning in his life…considering almost every freedom he had was ripped from his life.
A few months ago I was listening to a book by Viktor Frankel.
You may have heard of his most famous book, Man’s Search for Meaning. A brilliant account from a concentration camp survivor that chose to never give up the one freedom he had left, his ability to choose his attitude in any given situation.
You probably have not heard of another book he wrote titled, YES to Life.
It’s a minor miracle this book exists as it was a series of lectures he gave after WW2, turned into a short book…but it may be the most impactful book I’ve ever read.
Frankel talks about the meaning of life and cites that humans can get meaning from 3 ways…
Fulfillment of meaning is possible in 3 main directions
1. By doing something, by acting, creating, by bringing work into being 2. Be experiencing things, art, nature or loving people
3. Human beings are able to find meaning even where finding value in life is not possible for them in either 1 or 2…namely, precisely, when they take a stance toward the unalterable, fated, inevitable, and unavoidable limitation of their possibilities, how they adapt toward this limitation, react toward it, how they accept this fate. In the course of life, human beings must be prepared to change the direction of this fulfillments of meaning, often abruptly, according to the particular challenges of the hour.
The 3rd part of this changed my entire viewpoint of life. It gave extreme meaning to his life in his most painful 4 years.
This reflection has filled me with gratitude for my dad, not just just for who he was before he had his stroke…but for how he acted when every freedom was taken.
Despite every freedom removed he still smiled, laughed, experienced joy, cared for others and finally…
…he gave that famous thumbs up…even when there was zero reason to give a thumbs up..
That thumbs up changed my life.
No matter how he was doing, when you asked how he was, he gave the thumbs up.
The thumbs up was his universal sign that told the world, you can take everything from me…but you’ll never take away the way I react toward my limitations.
The thumbs up was his signal for how he was CHOOSING to react toward his fate.
He just as easily could have given a thumbs down, right?
A few days before he died, a doctor came in and asked, “Mr. Gabriele, how are you doing?”
Barely able to open his eyes…JPG flashed the thumbs up.
It’s almost like he was sticking up the middle finger at death…but in a gentleman sort of way.
Watching this unfold was life changing…
…it’s taken a tragic event and enabled me to focus on extreme gratitude…instead of grief
At points I keep questioning my reactions and my feelings… thinking am I just being “tough” or not showing emotion.
I’ve written about this extensively and have come to the conclusion that my emotions of gratitude are pure…and while I have my moments of sadness that he’s gone…this event has made me a better man…
…and I feel a strong calling to teach about my insights, hence why I’m posting publicly here.
A few days after he died, I had 50 gym owners coming to NJ to spend 2 days with me.
I had all kinds of people reaching out, wishing me luck about speaking for 2 days….while something so hard was still so fresh.
I took the opportunity to teach the gym owners my insights from dad’s death…from the feedback, they appreciated it very much.
The entire weekend I was a rock…I was fully focused on delivering the best possible mastermind I could…despite the tough event that had just transpired.
I made it 47 hours…then cracked.
I had told the Mastermind about the thumbs up in the very beginning and had them all hold the thumbs up…as a signal to keep going despite challenges in life and business.
At the end, while closing the seminar out…and reinforcing what I had taught them earlier..
They, unprompted, all flashed me the thumbs up.
As I stared at 50 people holding their arms up high …with their thumbs up…I lost it.
I had to back up to the wall to hold myself up…and had this incredible surge of emotion I’ve never felt in my entire life…it was very intense.
I believe the emotion was from realizing that a man with every freedom removed, after his death, had just passed the torch…and impacted the lives of 50 people he had never met.
If that’s not meaning, I don’t know what is.