Charles A. Mathis, Jr. was born on October 22, 1953 in Macon, Georgia. In his 57 years on this earth, he was so many things to so many people. He was an attorney, a fundraiser, a boss, a host of the most extravagant parties, and a best friend. To my mom, he was a loving husband, and to me and my siblings, he was the father that would do whatever it took to make sure that we had whatever our hearts desired.
When he passed away 5 years ago, my life and the lives as so many others changed drastically. Not only for my family, but for the whole city of Atlanta, it felt like someone was missing. The life of the party was ripped away from us and it seemed far too soon. I often find myself daydreaming about how different my life and the lives of so many would be if he were still here. This year, on my dad’s birthday, which is usually a sullen day for the Mathis family, I decided to stop dwelling on what could have been and start celebrating what was. My daddy accomplished so much in his lifetime and, more importantly, he enjoyed himself to the fullest. His life is one that should be celebrated.
In the wake of tragedy, it can be hard to see when the pain that accompanies a great loss will end. Anyone that has ever lost a parent, spouse, child, sibling, or close friend can relate and attest to the fact that the grieving process is one that honestly never really ends. Life changes so drastically so quickly, and accepting the absence of a loved one can be a hard pill to swallow. My decision to celebrate my father’s life instead of dwelling on the negative things that have accompanied his death has helped me to cope with life without him.
This year, on the day of what would have been my dad’s 62nd birthday, my mom and I planned an evening of activities in his honor. We took balloons to the park and released them as we chatted and laughed about fun times that we all had. We went out for a nice dinner and enjoyed sushi and drinks (my dad loved good food and good drinks) as we made plans for how we can continue to pay homage to my dad and his legacy. We turned a day that we could have spent dwelling on our loss into a fun celebration that we both really enjoyed, which is just what Daddy would have wanted.
The choice to celebrate life instead of focussing on the bad things that accompany death is one that I wish I had made years ago. It totally changed my perspective and has allowed me to come to terms with losing my father. Celebrating the life of a loved one can be as simple as enjoying a cupcake or champagne toast in his or her honor. Here are some ways my mom and I plan to celebrate my dad’s life in the future:
- Have a star named after him through the Star Registry’s Website.
- Throw a 65th birthday gala in his honor.
- Donate a memorial bench to the campus of his alma mater inscribed with his name.
- Set up the Charles A. Mathis Jr. scholarship fund.
How do you celebrate the lives of loved ones that you have lost?