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Mentor Lesson #1: Why I Stopped Getting Mail From My Dad

When I was in college, email did not exist. Imagine that.

So if you wanted to drop someone a note, you literally had to put it in the mail and it would get there a few days later.

And every single day while I was at William & Mary in Va, for 3.5 years, I would get a hand-written letter in my mailbox from my father. Every. Single. Day.

Now imagine that. Imagine receiving a hand-written note every single day from someone you love. Some notes longer than others. Some even on the back of a McDonald’s menu. Most having newspaper clippings from the local Asbury Park Press (NJ) on local sporting news.

And all of them used to make me smile. And feel so loved.

Heck, imagine writing a hand-written letter nowadays. And clipping articles. And driving to the post-office. Imagine doing that once-a-month. Or every week. Or even every single day. Wow.

But then it stopped one day.

I received a phone call in February of 1992 that my Dad was having a heart attack. And as I immediately flew home that day, I was able to see my Dad alive one last time in the hospital.

And then he died. Feb 19, 1992. 58 years old.

I was devastated. My Dad was everything to me. For 20 years, he was my friend. My father. My life-coach. My mentor. And now he was gone.

It was undoubtedly the toughest challenge I had ever faced in my life. I never lost anyone that close in my life. Let alone my mentor. Let alone a parent.

For several weeks, I stayed at home and grieved.
I remember crying every night.
I remember early morning runs on the beach in Bay Head in the bone-chilling cold of NJ and just crying as I was running.
I remember long drives around the Shore to visit places we would visit together. The inlet at Point Pleasant. The football stadium at Brick HS. The Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove. And I would just sit at these places that I had such fond memories of with him and cry. And cry. And cry some more.

And I would contemplate life’s plan. My future. My faith. My purpose. And it was downright scary to face this without my Dad.

3 weeks after my Dad’s death, I heard his voice tell me something. “Get up, dust yourself off, get back to school, and I will be there with you.”

So that’s what I did.

And one of the most amazing things happened as soon as I returned.

Guess where I went?

To retrieve my mail at my post-box. And what was in there?

A letter written from my father on the day before he died. I just hadn’t received it yet.

And in this letter, it just happened to be one of the deepest, longest, most profound letters I had EVER received from him. It was all about my future.

It talked about our family. It talked about my Mom. It talked about my 7 brothers and sisters. And it talked about me. My father talked about how “it doesn’t matter what you do in life as long as you are happy. Whether it be a teacher and coach. A doctor. A politician. An athlete. A businessman. Whatever you choose to do, do it with all your heart and might, make a difference in people’s life, and be happy.”


And he said one more thing, “Remember that life is very precious and TIME is the most important asset we all have. Be sure to use it wisely. I will always love you regardless of WHAT you do. It’s WHO you become that’s most important. Love Dad.”

That was it. I remember reading this letter from my Dad in the campus post-office with tears running down my face. And it was like divine intervention. I needed that note…it was like he was talking to me.

As I write this now with tears running down my face, I can’t help but think of the impact he had on me.

He was my friend. My biggest fan. My coach. My mentor. My father. And I would be remised if I didn’t start my 7 “Mentor Memoirs” with the person who had the greatest IMPACT on me.

Thanks Dad. I’m glad you taught me such an important lesson that I can pass along today.

Think of the one person in your life who is closest to you. The person who you would LEAST like to have taken away from you. Who is that person? Write it down in a journal.

And now, do 2 things. First, make sure that person knows how much you admire, love, and respect him or her. And second, and most importantly, go out and spend quality time with that person(s) as soon as possible.

After all, time is the most important asset we all have.

Yours in health and IMPACT!


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