Sitting at my father’s deathbed, watching every breath, wondering if it would be his last, my family and I were totally present and vigilant. We talked to my father as if he could hear us, attempting to comfort him, although we were really comforting ourselves. Already, he was in another world. His eyes were glazed over and his body was becoming rigid. With tears streaming down my face, I whispered to him, “I will always remember you every time I step onto a sailboat.”

At the early age of four, my father introduced me to sailing. I remember being on summer vacation at the Stanford Family Camp, near Lake Tahoe in northern California. Surrounded by pine trees, we sailed in the middle of a beautiful alpine lake aboard our 22-foot Catalina sailboat. Every time the boat heeled with the force of the wind, I was afraid it would tip over and capsize. Although, my father reassured me that this would never happen.

Sailing into the wind, on the San Francisco Bay in our 31-foot Pearson, the swells were large. The boat teetered and tottered like a toy horse. Grasping the helm with both hands, I anxiously held the boat steady into the wind as my father raised the sails. Feeling greatly relieved as he climbed back into the cockpit and took over the helm, I let out a huge sigh. I was only twelve-years-old.

Despite my earlier trepidations, my love for sailing grew. So much so, that my husband, John, and I, while taking a year off to re-invent our lives, decided to crew a 46-foot sailboat traveling from Fiji to Singapore for six-months. On our first ocean passage, sailing into open sea, away from the sight of land, I felt like an explorer, heading into the unknown. Dolphins playfully swam at the bow of the boat, as if to escort us on our great adventure. Satisfied, I smiled and felt fortified with a deep sense of knowing that all was well. Growing up sailing with my father, not only did I develop a passion for adventure, but I learned to trust in life.

Shortly after his death, John and I made a commitment to follow our hearts and pursue a vision we had during our one-year hiatus…to own a cabin in the mountains and a sailboat on the ocean.

Sitting in the cockpit of our 30-foot Catalina in our Oxnard California marina slip, leaning against a pillow resting, I noticed the sound of sea gulls; sea birds darted into the ocean attempting to make a catch; boats glided past on their way out to sea. A feeling of peace washed over me and then a thought surfaced, “I would not be experiencing this wondrous moment if it were not for my dad.” I began to cry, missing him. But as the tears rolled down my face, a deep feeling of gratitude welled up and a profound insight developed…”I would not be feeling this much grief if it were not for the depths of love I have felt for my father.” It occurred to me that my grief was in direct proportion to the amount of love that we shared. I realized how blessed I was to have experienced so much love in one lifetime. In awe, I was transcended, as my grief was transformed into a deep well of joy that bubbled up to the surface of my consciousness. In the moment, I was overcome by God’s amazing grace.

Author's Bio: 

Karen Mehringer, MA is the author of Sail Into Your Dreams: 8 Steps to Living a More Purposeful Life, a speaker, psychotherapist and grief counselor. She offers powerful solutions for healing grief and living fully through private sessions and group events. If you frequently find yourself feeling tired, depressed and stuck in your life, you may be experiencing unresolved grief. If you are ready to experience more joy, vitality and purpose in your life, call or e-mail Karen today to schedule a FREE 30-minute phone consultation to determine if her services are a good fit for you at (831) 359-2441 or For more useful information about this topic and to receive a FREE report on How to Heal Your Grief and Move on with Your Life, go to: