Life Lessons from my Father

Life Lessons from my Father
Written by Jonathan Burston

In February this year, my Father sadly passed away. He was 90 years old and had Cancer.

Whilst his death wasn’t totally unexpected – losing someone so close is never easy.

He was my Father and my best friend.

Roy Burston

Dad at his 90th birthday, October 2016

That might sound a little odd, but he was always there for me. He was there with me during the good times and saw me through the difficult times too – of which there have been a few.

He was a good man – in fact a great man. Someone I admired greatly.

We would talk about anything, and I mean anything. His mental agility, even at the age of 90, was amazing. He was wise and always had the right advice for you. We use to speak in the morning (on my way into work) and on my way home from work too, seven days a week. I miss those chats now more than I ever realised at the time.

So 5 months on, I thought it appropriate to write an article about what I learnt from my Father.

Life Lessons from my Father

1. Competitive & Determined

He was a very competitive and determined man.

He was determined to do his best in everything he did – whether that was at Reardon Smith’s, Macmillan Cancer Support or in the community with the School and Community Council.

He would always put his whole into it. Whatever it was, including building sandcastles on the beach.

He was extremely competitive – in both his business life and his personal life too.

If you were unlucky enough to play any sport against him, he always played to win, even against us – his children. Whether that was snooker in the dining room after tea or cricket in the garden. He played to win. (I now play to win against my daughters – I wonder where I got that from?)

That was until one day, at a company cricket match, some 30 years ago, when I was bowling to him.

He was whacking everything I bowled at him. It was quite demoralizing. That was until one ball. One ball that he, and I don’t know how, misjudged and missed.

And his middle wicket was gone.

It was one of the best days of my young life. I bowled my Father out!

Whilst he always wanted to win, he was gracious in defeat. He came up to me and said ‘well done’. I was so proud.

He then turned and said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t tell your Mother – I’ll never live it down.’

Life Lesson 1: Be competitive and determined, but gracious in defeat.

2. Resilience

The word resilience personifies Dad throughout his life.

No matter what he faced, he faced it head on. And when he got knocked back, it wouldn’t be for long. He’d get back up and move forward.

He was extremely resilient and rarely moaned about his woes.

He just got on with it, no matter how hard it was. He kept going, where others may have given up before him.  He battled against the odds to prove to himself that he could do it and to take care of those that mattered so much to him.

Life Lesson 2: Never give up – face everything head on

3. Generosity

Generosity is another word that can be associated with Dad. He was an extremely generous man.

And that at times was a nightmare. He always wanted to pay a bill in a restaurant. And if he couldn’t, he’d get grumpy.

So if you wanted to pay you had to go to the toilet and pay for the bill away from the table. But, he cottoned on and started going to the toilet before you could so that he could beat you to the bill! What a nightmare.

Years ago he gave me these words of advice:

“Never owe someone, always be owed.”

That might sound harsh but I think it should be interpreted, as he would rather ‘give, than receive’.

His generosity went beyond just paying for meals.

He was always there to help you, to listen, to give words of encouragement and advice to help you along the way.

He was there when you needed him as a guiding hand. He was the original Google. You could call him for advice on any topic and he somehow knew something about it.

He was a good friend and always there when you needed him. He always wanted to help you. He wanted to you to believe in yourself.

Life Lesson 3: Be kind and give to others

4. What-If

The two words, ‘What-If’, provide in my opinion my most valuable lesson.

He used to say to me:

“Never wonder what if.
Hindsight’s a great thing but you can’t go back and change things.
It’s pointless wondering ‘what if’.
You can only change the future.”

And in my opinion he is right.

We all make choices in our lives that we think are the right ones or the best options at the time. Then when we look back we sometimes realise, with hindsight that they weren’t.

But, as Dad, would say there’s no use ‘wondering what if’. You can’t go back and change the past. All you can do is to change today, to change your future.

Final Words

In the weeks that led up to Dad passing away, he wrote the words below. My Sister discovered them on a piece of paper, which my Brother read at his funeral.

“Ill health is like a lottery – you buy your ticket and wait for the luck of the draw. When your number comes up, you’re either out or in for the next one.

Whatever – you are on your own, rather like a cricketer. A batsman soon loses his wicket if not playing well. A bowler gets hammered if he’s not bowling well. All a case of one against the odds.

If you are able to take the punishment, survive, and get on with life you are one of the lucky ones. The cemetery is full of those who were not so!

Regardless otherwise, anno domini will win because we are not immortal.

Best advice: Play the game as well as you can – be grateful in defeat and thank God for those who helped you through your journey on earth.”

He certainly played the game well, was gracious in defeat and was thankful to all who helped him.

He was a special man, a great friend and my hero.



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About the author

Jonathan Burston