My Dad, John Meintel, died unexpectedly on May 4, 2013 when he was 50 years old.
He had six children, and needless to say, our family was rocked from the loss. He passed away with no life insurance, and no after death plans, so we were not only dealing with the grief of losing him, but also the reality of what we were financially able to do to honor him.
- They never referred to him by name,
- They constantly tried to upsell us
- And when a smaller headstone was our only financial option, they continually referred to it as “an infant stone.”
I was shocked at how the humanity was removed from the process –– a process that is just as important as meaningful as the day each of us is born.
Finding comfort in research, I went through my own grief journey.
I went to Nepal to witness the River of the Dying to see how the living dealt with loss in the East. I sought out Death and Coffee conversations, read any book I could get my hands on and made a commitment to keep his memory alive and to acknowledge my loss by sharing his life.
The Man, The Legend: My Dad
My Dad was hilarious. He was one of the most positive people I’ve ever known and had a way of making the best of any situation.
He was a bodybuilder and personal trainer and was at his best when he was helping other people achieve their best.
One of my greatest memories of my Dad was when he tried out to be a WWE wrestler. We came up with his wrestling persona, Mr. Earth, and coordinated his wrestling moves around sustainability; my personal favorite being the “pick it up!” and then a power bomb move for those that littered.
He was incredibly active in body building competitions and would make me shave his back and then paint him that strange orange color that makes your muscles look larger.
He always fed stray cats, which drove my Mom insane.
A boy in elementary school used to pick on me, so my Dad showed up at lunch in a white beater and just flexed in his general direction, causing him to run as fast as he could out of the cafeteria, never talking to me again.
When we would go to the beach, he would play with us the entire time and make up games about the waves, or that the sand was lava but he would generally have more fun than the kids because he was just a big kid himself.
When he wasn’t involved in the physical training space, he was a General Manager of a restaurant and would always bring us something special from the kitchen when we’d come to visit.
Christmas time was our favorite time, and although we never had a lot of money, he always would work overtime to make sure all six of us had something special.
His gifts were… unique.
For example, one time he got my sister Katie a candle that smelled like fresh cut grass and WWJD everything else. It’s still something we talk about every Christmas.
I can quote almost every line of Rocky because that was his favorite movie, and will never be able to hear the song Leader of The Band without crying.
Culture Has Death Wrong, and I’m Here to Help Change It
I was heartbroken when I lost my Dad, and our culture stigmatizes loss. You get two weeks of bereavement and then it’s back to business as usual.
When people would ask me about my Dad, and I would tell them he was no longer living, they would tell me they were sorry for my loss but would never ask about his life.
It felt like the more time that passed, the more I felt him disappearing.
My sister Krisstel and I decided that every year, we’d have Death Day on May 4th. We pack a picnic, get a bottle of champagne and a blanket and spend the day at the cemetery. We’ve had our fair share of strange looks from people, but having this ritual not only gave us something to look forward to, but it was healing.
Since then, I’ve lost both my Grandfathers and my Grandmother, and am trying my best to navigate through new waves of grief.
All I know is this: that acknowledging the journey, and leaning into the loss has been the only thing that’s helped me.
I knew I wanted to work in this industry because I wanted to help those living deal with loss. When I found Eterneva, I knew I found a home. Everyone grieves differently, and no journey is the same, but our humanity is our commonality and like Tuesdays With Morrie so eloquently puts it “The truth is, once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”
I hope I can help someone in their own grief journey, and learn a little along the way.