In finalizing the storyboards for my seventh Kathryn the Grape book to send to my illustrator, I was searching though my folders to find a specific photo of my Dad for a tribute I’m doing for him. When I scrolled through to this photo, I paused.

Many people don’t know my Dad played piano and guitar when he was growing up. He was good at music but he wasn’t passionate about it, and he stopped pouring any energy into it as the responsibilities of life took over. He married my mom in his early 20s and started his career in insurance right away. With six mouths to feed, he put his head down and worked hard to provide for our family.

He got up every day and worked — and worked. He never complained. I came to understand in my adulthood the depth of honor he felt providing for our family.

Even though we didn’t have much money growing up, I never knew that. Our bills were paid and my budget-savvy Mom stretched dollars to ensure my brothers and I had the opportunity to do extra things. When we didn’t have the money to pay for something, we all worked for it together. To fund my Dad and my brothers going on national Boy Scout Jamborees, we along with Father Joe and the other boys in their Boy Scout Troop, conducted hot dog and Pepsi stands outside grocery stores to raise the money on the weekends. This was many moons ago, before food courts outside warehouse stores were the norm.

My Dad not only demonstrated to us the importance of being a hard worker, he and my Mom also taught us the importance of helping others and volunteering as a natural part of everyday life. Led by my parents’ examples, I’ve always had some level of volunteer project active in my life and the companies I’ve founded all have an altruistic foundation for helping others at their core. I don’t align with the “what’s in it for me” mentality or “inner circle” exclusive mindset because I believe wholeheartedly in our unlimited ability to be inclusive and expansive for the greater good. My Dad helped me understand that through his example.

The late Dr. Wayne Dyer was often quoted as saying, “Don’t die with your music still in you.” His wisdom coupled with major life lessons I’ve learned through personal experience has helped me fully understand that since none of us know when our time is up, we need to live each moment to the fullest and passionately express ourselves through living our unique purpose.

My Dad’s “music” – his passion and purpose – wasn’t to be a musician. My Dad’s purpose was apparent in his passionate expression of God’s call for his life to lead by example by helping others and providing for his family.

I sat with my Dad the final week of his life holding his hand and helping him through his transition. There was nothing left unsaid. While I was able to hold space for him and do what I knew I was there to do, I was still just a little girl watching her Daddy dying in front of her eyes. The weight of holding space for him and my family is only hitting me recently. At one point when he was still able to verbally express himself, we were talking about my books and songs and how I was helping people. I can still see his face smiling as he said, “Keep going, Mitzybell. You’re doing it.”

So, that’s what I’m doing. I keep going.

I’m not going to die with my music inside of me.

My life is my song.

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