Human Interest

Lessons on Life, Love and Loss

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Over 1,000,000 Viewers


First of all, I have to start with a flashback to this classic MTV video, which has had over 10 million views and 8,000 comments.

“Mike and the Mechanics” have been trying to get us to listen and learn since 1988. “The Living Years” peaked at #1 in the U.S. and became a massive hit worldwide. I was a young teenager, and I remember listening to the lyrics of this beautiful yet simultaneously devastating ballad, somehow feeling completely insulated from this kind of tragedy. My parents were- and will always be – larger than life. I couldn’t wrap my eternally and unwaveringly optimistic teenage brain around this someday really hitting home in OUR lives.

I stumbled across this interesting article that Mike himself wrote…Mike Rutherford: The precious living years with my father:

Here are a few excerpts, although I highly recommend reading the whole article…

As a 60s teenager, Mike Rutherford – of Genesis and Mike and the Mechanics – rebelled against his father. Then, much later, he realized how alike they really were…

“Dad was always punctual, methodical and orderly, whereas I took after my mother, who wasn’t. At 13, they sent me to Charterhouse school, which I hated, and eventually I got chucked out. He believed that the guitar was a symbol of the youth revolution and even banned me from playing it. I couldn’t stand rules and regulations whereas that’s what Dad’s life revolved around – yet the funny thing is that my life and his have ended up being oddly similar.”

“My parents took me to my first gig – Cliff Richard at the Manchester Apollo – and Mum even took me to buy my first electric guitar when I was 10. They never stood in the way of my musical career. By my final year at Charterhouse I was getting terrible reports – the only good thing about being there was meeting Tony Banks, Peter Gabriel and the other founder members of Genesis. By the time Dad decided we should talk about my future I was committed to Genesis. I still don’t understand why he decided to support me after all he’d spent on my education, but he did – he even put up some more money so we could buy equipment and then persuaded Pete and Tony’s fathers to do the same. And when Phil Collins joined the band as our drummer in 1970 my parents let us stay at their house in Farnham while we rehearsed.”

“Then one night in 1986, when I was on tour in America, the phone rang at 3am. Dad was dead. My biggest regret was not telling him what a wonderful man he’d been in my life.”

“My third child was born a year after Dad’s death – that’s when BA Robertson and I wrote the song, “The Living Years”, which we recorded with my new band, Mike and the Mechanics. BA and I had both lost our fathers and his lyric tied into both our lives. The number of letters that we’ve had about that song continues to amaze me. When I write something I never really think anyone’s going to hear it, but The Living Years has changed people’s lives – made them pick up the phone to their fathers after years of silence sometimes – and I’m very aware how lucky we were to have a song do that.”

Mike and the Mechanics suffered another great loss in 2000, when Paul Young, a lead vocalist along with Paul Carrack, suffered a heart attack and passed away at the age of 53 I can’t even imagine the whirlwind of emotions that the Paul Young’s family and friends – as well as the band members – must feel every time they hear this great song.

On a personal note, I wasn’t there that morning when MY father, Tony, passed away this same month just a few years ago. But I have thanked God every single day since then that I DID “get to tell him all the things I had to say.” Not one of us had any idea whatsoever that he was about to suffer a massive heart attack. He was, and will always be, a true gentleman – the strongest and toughest, yet softest and kindest man I will ever know. Dad was in his mid-60’s, an extremely successful entrepreneur since his mid-20’s when he started one of several future companies that would last for decades to come. There was nothing he couldn’t – or didn’t – do in our minds, and I hope he felt the same. He was on the cusp of riding off into the sunset of retirement…and then I got the call. In the midst of the instantaneous shock, disbelief, and inexplicable grief, I realized that it was his destiny to instead ride off into the glorious sunset of Heaven. I have no doubt that my father is already a leader amongst the highest of angels, and he is watching over all of us who were blessed with his unending love, compassion and kindness. His love will live on in all of us for generations to come and will have no end.

These lyrics always stop me in my tracks…

“I wasn’t there that morning, when my Father passed away, I didn’t get to tell him all the things I had to say, I think I caught his spirit later that same year, I’m sure I heard his echo in my baby’s new born tears, I just wish I could have told him in the living years, say it loud, say it clear, you can listen as well as you hear, it’s too late when we die, to admit we don’t see eye to eye”


I knew something was very, very wrong when mom called me from across the country. Not only because my night owl mom was dialing my digits at 6am, but because the very first thing she asked me was if I was sitting down, and if I wanted to get a cup of coffee before she broke some kind of news.

I had never had a cup of coffee in my entire late thirties life, even after having 3 young children and working very common late nights doing accounting work well past midnight when the kids/babies were asleep. So I immediately knew what she was going to say, because it was perhaps the most unimaginable nightmare my heart, mind and soul could be forced to reckon with. He was gone in an instant – right before her eyes. And overnight, she became a widow and I became…well, I still can’t find the words. What I do know is that I told my best friend, Valerie, the next day (via email) that I was “in pieces and trying to understand why the sun still rises.”

But I also learned about what often happens when tragedy strikes. We are reborn. I began to realize my sweet and smiling mom’s hidden strength. I actually found this email I wrote to Valerie and the very first line is “My mom is so strong. I am in awe of how she has handled this tragedy so far. I know the hard times are ahead, but I am so proud of her.” I even commented that my sweet, kind, nurturing mom was suddenly “taking care of business like a machine.” She was, and still is, a true inspiration to all of us and a wonderful example of survival, strength and rebirth. I spoke with her today on the phone, and I hung up feeling so very blessed to have such a wonderful mother. She is truly a gift to all of us, and it makes my heart smile knowing that she has found happiness again.

As for myself, I went from simply overseeing the financial operations of my father’s companies for many years while having the gift and luxury of seeing him at the helm, to an overnight CEO, working for my mom, who had never worked in the business and yet was suddenly the owner/sole director/executrix, to take necessary steps to move forward and ensure that the company would not only survive, but thrive, down the road.  And even harder than that was facing the dichotomy of feeling emotionally obliterated, yet somehow finding the strength to reassure our children that the sun WILL keep rising. And it has…largely because their precious smiles and joyful hearts are undoubtedly my personal sunrise every single day.

These lyrics sum it up well…

“So don’t yield to the fortunes, you sometimes see as fate, it may have a new perspective on a different date, and if you don’t give up, and don’t give in, you may just be O.K…”

My husband lost his wonderful, kind and very thoughtful mom a few months ago. He knows how blessed he is to have spent many of her final days by her side in the hospital. She was always like a second mom to me, since I was a teenager. Our children – and all of her other many, many loved ones – miss her daily as well.

I have had at least 3 close friends lose one of their parents in the past 30 days. And others have lost other family members and friends. My heart breaks every single time because I know all too well the unfathomable pain – and the hole in their hearts – that especially following the loss, just keeps re-opening every time you think you are starting to move forward. The silver lining of the indescribable loss that my family has suffered is that we can try to empathize, support and maybe even soften the pain a tiny bit for them, and help them to appreciate the living years they had with their loved one, and most importantly, to savor and maximize our own past, present and future years with our precious loved ones.

I am extremely lucky that I was so close with my father. But I sincerely hope that if I hadn’t been, I would still find a way to put one foot in front of the other each day and keep my chin up. Because that’s what life is. Sometimes we get knocked down. Sometimes we feel like we are down for the count. But we get back up. And we get back in the game REBORN. We are suddenly wiser, tougher and yet hopefully also softer than ever before, so that we can pay it forward and pick up those around us whose phones are going to eventually ring.

Monarch Butterfly

Speaking of being reborn, my husband and kids and I visited a remarkable sight of nature in Pompano Beach, Florida called “Butterfly World” during a last minute, surprise trip to visit my parents, which ended up being just weeks before my dad passed. The kiddos wanted to buy a chrysalis and watch it hatch. Unfortunately, we had to fly back home before “Mike Monarch” was born, so my dear dad videotaped him fluttering his spectacular yet delicate wings on the flowers by their front porch…and slowly but surely, that little butterfly spread his wings and flew into the blue sky, symbolizing and foreshadowing the upcoming day just weeks ahead when “Pop Pop” Tony was about to spread his angelic wings and fly into the Heavens above for eternity. I still feel my dad’s love and presence every day, and I hope everyone who was blessed to know him can still see his ocean blue eyes and warmest smile, feel his handshake and bear hug, smell that comforting fresh scent that seemed to be all his own, and hear his contagious and truly joyous laugh. My father lived life to the fullest, cherishing and holding sacred family and friends above all else in his life. My biggest hope in life is that we all learn from my dad’s living years….

This Valentine’s day and month, pick up the phone or better yet, head over and don’t be afraid to say “Thank You” or “I am here for you,” or perhaps even “I’m sorry” – and of course “I love you” to the special gifts in your life. And if you are like me, and you can’t pick up the phone and call Heaven, simply reach out and say hello to those you are blessed to still have in your life…and don’t forget to pause, smile and watch the next Heaven sent butterfly that flies beside you, and know that you are loved forever, even beyond “The Living Years.”

As the title of my longtime favorite Florida newspaper says, and it’s more fitting than ever right now because my dear dad used to bring copies of it home to me, I wish you all many, many…

‘Happy Times,”


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