Inspiring Me Now

  • "The Purpose of Life is to Be Happy" Dalai Lama

April 25, 2011


3 weeks ago today, I lost my dad, Christopher Snyder, to a brain aneurysm. He was 51 years old. Within a matter of hours, from the time my stepmom called to tell me he had collapsed to the time she called to tell me he had passed, my life turned completely upside down. 

What has been the hardest to deal with so far is not the fact that I have lost my father (as I think I am still in shock) but the way people have reacted to this event. 

Death, like birth is an intimate thing. It brings out emotions that not everyone is comfortable exposing. There is a vulnerability there that people are not used to feeling or facing. It’s because of that people have such a hard time reacting to death and grief. I have experienced kindness and sympathy from complete strangers and on the other hand I have experienced an utter lack of concern from people whom I thought should care the most.
When my parents divorced, 21 some years ago mind you, my dad was not someone you would nominate for father of the year. He didn’t pay child support, he didn’t send birthday cards. It took a long time for him to come around and realize what he was missing. He met an amazing woman who I am lucky enough to call my stepmom, and his life started to change. My brother and I went out to visit, and he came to see us. He was at my graduation and he walked me down the aisle at my wedding. We went on a family vacation together and we talked regularly about when we would see each other next. He turned into a real father. Better late than never I say. My father was not perfect, but he was always my father.

When word spread about his passing, some of my family reacted in a way I perceived as odd. They called with their initial condolences and a few sent cards, but the reaction was quite subdued in what I actually expected. Keep in mind; I have only one aunt on my dad’s side. I have grown up and been raised exclusively with my mom’s side of the family. I expected more. When my grandfather passed away 2 years ago, the outpouring of grief was tremendous. People came out of the woodwork to comfort my family. I couldn’t quite grasp why many people were so blasé about my father’s passing. Then I went to California for his funeral.

My father lived in California for 17 years. He had an extensive group of friends there, most of whom considered him like a brother. The outpouring of support was incomprehensible.  My brother and I were submersed in love and support from people whom we had only met a couple of times at most. They lifted us up and reminded us what a great man our dad had turned out to be. They let us know that they would not forget our father and they would not let us forget. 

What I started to understand though all of this is that when someone dies, we should not dwell on the person that passed, we should support those that have to go through the loss. And this is why my family and others had such a strange reaction to my father’s death. To them the man that died was the one who divorced my mom, the one who didn’t pay child support, the one who wasn’t there on our first day of school. Instead of focusing on the loss and heartache my brother and I felt, they were focused on the memory of the deadbeat dad that died. 

I am hoping that something can be learned through all this. I am hoping that by writing this and by talking about things that we can open our eyes. Death is a part of life. It is not up to us to judge the person who passed, it us up to us to help the survivors deal with their loss. My stepmom lost her husband, the love of her life. While she should be grieving for herself, she instead texts and calls to make sure my brother and I are ok. My mom lost the father of her children, a man she used to be in love with, again, she should be grieving for her loss; instead she spends hours on the phone with me making sure my heart isn’t hurting too much when I turn off the light that night.

 It’s time for us to look at the bigger picture. This world would not turn with utter selfishness. This world functions on the kindness of others. It’s when we can stop being selfish and start being a part of something bigger, that we will really realize what life is all about. I hope that in my life I can be the ideal version of that type of person. I believe it takes practice and that no one is perfect, but awareness is the first step.

April 13, 2011

In Memory

For those of you who do not know, my father Christopher L. Snyder, passed away unexpectedly last Monday, April 4th. My brother and I both delivered the eulogy at his service. Below is what I wrote. I think it honored him perfectly.

There are certain people who are put on this earth to touch others lives. They do so in such a subtle way that often times we don’t realize what we had until it is gone. This was my father.
My dad with a heart the size of Texas and a bad accent to match. His outrageous stories could make people double over in laughter and the kindness of his actions would leave you smiling for days.
My dad lived his life with vivaciousness. He wasn’t one to let the day slip by without squeezing out some of its goodness. Whether he was cheering for his awful Dallas Cowboys, who by the way were SPANKED this year by my Super Bowl Champ Green Bay Packers,or sitting on Captain Casey’s boat enjoying the sunshine and beer, he made the most of his life. And for that I am thankful.
I am thankful that I had the opportunity to learn such an important life lesson from someone I am lucky enough to call my father. I am thankful for the precious time I had with him.
I am thankful that he chose to share his life with a woman as amazing as Rebecca and I am even MORE thankful that he was smart enough to marry her and never let her go. I love you Rebecca.
I am thankful for the smile and dimples he passed on to my handsome brother.
I am thankful for the wonderful friends he has here. Our California family.
My dad’s passing was sudden and unexplained, but I know he would not want us to focus on our loss. When I spoke with Rebecca last week in the midst of all this chaos, I asked her if my dad had a directive. She laughed and said “Are you kidding Jacqueline, this is your father. He told me when he dies he wants me to drive him out to the desert and when I find a good place roll his body into a ditch. And when I get back into town throw a party”
Thank goodness Rebecca is classy enough to ignore the first part of that request.
I want to celebrate my dad’s life with all of you. I want to hear his crazy stories told by his best friends. I want to honor him as a father, husband, brother, and great friend -and I know this is what he would want too.
So, thank you dad for living your life and not letting moments pass you by. That’s something I all too often forget to do.
Jimmy Buffett said it best: Let the winds of change blow over my head. I’d rather die while I’m living, than live while I’m dead.