Live an Ordinary, Exceptional Life

Before death takes away what you are given, give away what there is to give.


My dad died almost a week ago. He lived 89 years of life. I celebrate my dad by sharing with you some of the lessons I learned from his life, the way he lived, the person I experienced, the actions he took, the gentle presence he had, the courageous ideas he shared with others, and the pathways of possibility he opened. Know that much of who I am today is because of my dad.

If fathers are here to teach us how to leave a legacy, ways to be in the larger world, than my dad modeled this passionately. He served as a math professor at Ohio Wesleyan University. He coached the summer swim team. As the chairman of the local Democratic Party for over two decades in our community, he bravely took the heat from many who disagreed with his principles, his belief in the worth and dignity of every person, his stand for equality, social justice, democracy, civil discourse, and freedom. He mastered the art of agreeing to disagree. He honored the dignity of other people as he cultivated the ability to focus on ideas separate from the person who spoke them.

Emerging from his own struggles, he learned to be a decent person.

When he lost the chairmanship to another man, he stood up, walked over, shook his hand, and said, “I make this election unanimous.” I witnessed this as I had been elected a precinct representative. With that gracious action, he modeled integrity, strength of character. He became someone others respected even if they disagreed with his ideas. Because he saw people as individuals who deserved to be seen, heard, and valued, my dad gained the esteem of many different people of all walks of life in our community. He really listened to people. I witnessed this in his teaching, activism, and coaching. As best as he could, he listened to me as his daughter. Emerging from his own struggles, he learned to be a decent person.

He’d been bullied as a boy for he was of small stature. He stood 5’6” as an adult. As a boy, he was often the smallest in his classroom. He learned to use his words, to walk away, to run. His favorite childhood book was The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, a story of a bull who preferred to smell the flowers, to sit peacefully in a field. He struggled with his ability to read. With support, he overcame these challenges.  In college at Oberlin, he excelled as a student-athlete. He earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from The Ohio State University.

In his 50s he began participating in triathlons, marathons, and biathlons. He won his age group competition at many of these events. In his 60s he competed in the Hawaii Iron Man twice. The first time he collapsed a mile from the finish line. “I stopped having fun.” Is what my dad said. My mom shared that he’d been taken to the medical tent for dehydration, lack of nutrition. When he returned the second time, he crossed that finish line at 64 years old. For those of you who may not know, this race consists of swimming in the ocean 2.4 miles, followed by cycling for 112 miles, and then a marathon run of 26.2 miles. There’s no napping between each part.

His passion for athletics flowed into his work for the community Parks and Recreation Department as he joined others in creating a sprint triathlon for adults and children. Designed to welcome first time participants, families, and seasoned athletes, this event became a yearly experience open to all. At first, called the Tree Triathlon, this event was renamed The Dave Staley triathlon, in honor of my dad. I was fortunate to compete in the Dave Staley triathlon three years in a row, to be there when the 35th annual event took place.

What will endure in my heart is my dad’s courage, gentleness, deep inner strength, dignity—how he wept openly, laughed loudly, listened deeply, especially when others fiercely disagreed with him, when he often stood alone for what he valued, for what he knew was the right thing to do.

May my life, the brave, unconventional choices I have made, the way I conduct myself with others be a part of his legacy. Dad, I know that you have given away much to our world in how you lived your life. Thank you for living such an ordinary, exceptional life, for inviting others to do the same in their way, in their time. I love you.

  • Exude good sportsmanship. Always congratulate the winner, the winning team. Cheer and support all team members from beginners to seasoned ones. Everyone matters. Compete with yourself. Improve your own performance. A worthy opponent makes for an exciting race, game, competition. Honor your competitor.
  • Participate because it’s fun to do so. Participate in activities you love.
  • Listen deeply to other perspectives. Respect the worth and dignity of each person you encounter. Separate the ideas someone speaks from the person. Create civil discourse about ideas rather than personalities. Remain courageously centered in your truth, your dignity, and values especially in the face of fierce opposition. Shake people’s hands, smile, offer to help, and then follow through with that support.
  • Cry openly when you are inspired or grieving. Laugh from your belly at yourself. Be gentle with a deep core of strength in the center of you that no one can ruffle.
  • Love life fully. Live true to your heart’s passions.


Laura Staley
Laura Staley
The founder of Cherish Your World, Laura Staley passionately helps people thrive by guiding them to a holistic transformation of space, heart, mind, body, and soul. Laura knows that there’s a relationship between the conditions of our homes or workplaces and the quality of our lives. Trained and certified with the Western School of Feng Shui and seasoned by almost two decades of working with a variety of clients, Laura uses her intuition and expertise to empower her clients to produce remarkable results in their lives. Her trifecta of serving people includes speaking, writing, and compassionate listening. As a columnist, Laura writes personal essays focused on self-discovery, feng shui, emotional health, and transformations from the inside out. Laura is the published author of three books: Live Inspired, Let Go Courageously and Live with Love: Transform Your Life with Feng Shui, and the Cherish Your World Gift Book of 100 Tips to Enhance Your Home and Life. Prior to creating her company, Laura worked as a fulltime parent and an assistant professor at Ohio Wesleyan University. She earned a Ph.D. in political science from The Ohio State University. Her joys in life include laughing with loved ones, dancing, reading, meditating, running, being in nature, and listening to music she loves. She resides in Black Mountain, NC with lovable dog, Layla. Laura is a contributing author to the inspiring book Crappy to Happy: Sacred Stories of Transformational Joy

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  1. Laura, your tribute to your father is so touching and I feel like giving you a hug right now after reading your words and your depiction of him. I can feel how healing and honouring for your experience together that writing this must have been for you. Boy oh boy, that strikes me. What also magnetized me as you closed this heart-infused work is your incredible pointers of living. I was so taken by each of your five points and they felt so freaking raw in that I see each of these in you and truly how you are authentically. What an honour to read your father’s life and with your words that you impart – I strive to keep deepening myself and living life as fully as possible. Thank you for being your stunningly, honest and beautiful self and speaking of this incredible man that graced your world! I send you big love today.❣️

    • Oh, Maureen, all your heart-felt words, insights, feedback touch me deeply. Tears run down my face as I read them. Thank you so much. I wish I could hug you, too. All your words hold my heart as I experience much grieflovejoygratitudelovegrief at this time. And know you are most definitely living your life fully and deeply. Your ability to share these thoughts right from your heart remain a direct reflection of your own authentic beautiful self and soul. I look forward to a time when we might meet in person so I could look at you and say, “Thank you.”

    • You are welcome, Laura. You captured your father exactly as you described him. It was refreshing to read about the good memories a child had of one of their parents. Thank you, Laura for the beauty you wrote.o

  2. Oh, my dearest Laura, your writing is not merely words poetically strung together. Your words are an invitation for all of us to experience your open heart full of love and in doing so, we are invited to find the space in ours that may sometimes be hidden away when we choose to believe our own thoughts instead. This beautiful testimony of your father, who I am so thankful for as one of the pair who gave us you, opened up that hidden space in my heart reserved for the love for my own father. My father was the funniest man I will ever know and a very passionate man with many interests including photography, reading and marathons all of which became passions of mine. Not only that, he was a very caring veterinarian who saved the lives of so many animals. Before he died, he came to see me finish my first 2 marathons. He may not have been able to say it, but he was proud of me and though my thoughts lie as they almost always do, I was proud of him too. Thank you for the gift of your heart. Thank you for the deep love for your father.

    • Thank you from my heart to yours, my dear friend, Shelley. I appreciate all your kind, thoughtful, and loving words-poetic in their own right. Thank you for your reflections about your own father as sometimes it can be difficult to drop into our hearts about these larger than life people called our parents, who are often an entire tapestry of imperfectly, pained, healed, sometimes tortured, gifted, troubled, genuinely decent, kind, heart-centered or traumatized souls doing the best they can with what they have or lack inside their own beings. Being able to see ourselves through eyes of compassion allows us to see them through that lens of compassion. And I was fortunate in my childhood to be genuinely loved by my dad in the ways he could. To break free, to fully differentiate for me meant walking away from my family of origin-which included the relationship with my dad. Hardest, bravest, most liberating action I have ever taken to save my own sanity, heart, and soul. Braving the wilderness won’t ever be an easy path for anyone who consciously, graciously chooses it. And love always finds a way.