Live an Ordinary, Exceptional Life

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

—Rumi

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 Staleyhttp://www.cherishyourworld.com
The founder of Cherish Your World, Laura helps people thrive in the physical spaces where they live and work. She educates people about the optimal arrangement of belongings for comfort, safety, and flow; de-cluttering for freedom; and planning transitions to new or updated spaces for optimal joy in life. Laura knows that the conditions of our homes and workplaces shape the quality of our lives. Trained and certified with the Western School of Feng Shui and seasoned by more than a decade working with a variety of clients, Laura uses her intuition and expertise to help her clients produce remarkable results in their lives. Her own awakening to the power of feng shui came on the heels of a flood and the realization that she could live with beloved belongings rather than unloved hand-me-down stuff. Her trifecta of serving people includes public speaking, writing, and compassionate coaching. Laura is a published author of the books Let Go Courageously and Live with Love: Transform Your Life with Feng Shui and Cherish Your World Gift Book: 100 Tips to Enhance Your Home and Your Life. Prior to creating her company, Laura worked as a full-time 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 loving her dog, laughing with great friends, dancing, reading, meditating, running, being in nature, and listening to music she loves. You are welcome to connect with Laura below.
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Shelley Brown

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.

Larry Tyler

This is truly beautiful and touches my heart deeply. It rings familiar with mi life journey. Thank you.

Darlene Corbett

I am sorry for your loss Laura! What a lovely tribute for a remarkable man!💖

Joel Elveson

This is a beautiful article about your father who sounded like an extraordinary man.

Maureen Nowicki
Maureen Nowicki

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.❣️

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