By Olaf Krop
On August 9, 2014 my father, Johannes Pieter Krop, passed away. I had been preparing for it with the help of the men in my circle for some time. I have been preparing for it since May of 1998, when I joined my first men’s team.
Even back then, when I didn’t know when or how my father would die, I was listening to the men who were losing their fathers, knowing that this time would come for us, and that it would be my turn to receive the legacy of my name and hold it for my generation. I listened to and consoled the men whose fathers were passing and was aware of how the relationship a man has with his father is most magnified when he passes. I saw men who rejoiced, men who grieved, and men who were simply confused and numb.
As I was listening to those experiences, I was also learning how to lead, and how to “be“ instead of “do.” I was learning the importance of ritual, the power of acknowledgement, and the confidence of being prepared. I was learning what it was to be an honorable man through being mentored by the great men around me.
As my father’s health worsened, he began to be more vulnerable, more loving and a little scared. I embraced that part of him that was afraid to let go, and reassured him that he had done a great job. This too, I learned from the men.
In July, he fell and was hospitalized. In the hospital, he announced that he was no longer willing to be a burden and was ready to come home from the hospital to die.
I did not fear this event. My men had been preparing me for this, and I knew my role. We cared for him as he voluntarily quit food and drink, and his end drew near. I lovingly bathed him, read to him and stroked his cheek him as he weakened. Before having my men in my life, I could not have imagined wiping my father’s ass and seeing it as an act of love and compassion.
Before he passed, I promised him that I would ensure that his wife, (my step mom) was not overwhelmed by the ensuing storm of activity that happens when someone dies: the memorial, the cremation, the cleaning up, etc. My sister, who is a nurse, was instrumental in caring for him in the final days. But even she was overwhelmed by the ending.
My leadership training had prepared me for being the rock, being “no problem” and ensuring that every job was done to completion. As I helped organize the memorial, handled the obituary, made sure that my stepmom wasn’t overwhelmed, I silently thanked my men for all the opportunities they gave me to screw things up, so that when it really counted, it would be excellent. And it was.
As his last day approached, I was moved by his strength and patience as the dying took over. To be fully aware, open and loving as my father lay dying was for me a peak experience. I was so proud of my dad and so grateful that I had made peace with him 15 years ago so we could be in this moment together without resentment, in full acceptance and respect for each other. And I was so grateful to be able to know that this was the moment, the last time, I would kiss my father and say goodbye.
Our last conversation was: “I love you, Dad”… “I love you too, son.”