michael o'hara (1957-2007)
“Never forget where you came from and what the past has taught you. Yet more importantly, seize the present and embrace the future.”
I don’t know how many times I have read those words and still hear my father’s voice in them. Several months before he passed away from multiple myeloma, he wrote me a letter. He was never extremely open with his emotions; in fact, I don’t think I ever saw my father cry. I have read and re-read that letter thousands of times, short and to the point, but filled with so much love and honesty, such was his nature.
I have never encountered anyone who loved life and was so incredibly passionate about seizing every opportunity to succeed and improve than my father. Family, work, athletics, values, you name it – he aimed to master, honor and be the best at each.
A truly incredible athlete, my dad exceled at a young age in football, track, mountain climbing, marathons, triathlons, and so much more. My mom remembers when she first met my dad and he was in the middle of training for the Pike’s Peak marathon, a grueling 26.2 miles up and down a mountain. I remember cheering my dad on as a little girl at his marathons and growing up watching how diligent he was with his health and training. Incredibly disciplined is an understatement to describe him.
He definitely knew what he wanted. As a civil engineer, he quickly moved up the corporate ladder, taking night classes to get his MBA when I was just born to then starting his own engineering fire protection consulting company when I was just entering the first grade and my brother was in preschool. Of course, he could not have done all of this without an incredibly supportive and loving wife who had her own very successful career, but again, I guess he knew that because it only took him 3 months to propose after he met her and they married 6 months after. Knew what he wanted, right?
The ability to make people laugh is such a gift. A mix of wit, sarcasm and a hint of his east coast accent, are what I remember most about his humor. He always had the perfect punch lines, the best comebacks and hilarious stories. I could listen to my dad tell stories for hours. To this day I am still surprised he got away with so much. Lets just say that he definitely was not one to shy away from pranks or a good dare.
Encompassed in all of the hard work, discipline, and humor though, was my dad’s incredible heart. Since he was young, he immersed himself in leadership roles and direct service opportunities for others.
My dad’s passion for life and others, led him to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in 1998 in support of the Ronald McDonald House. I used to ask my dad why he loved to climb mountains so much, why he named his company the MountainStar Group, and he used to tell me that summiting made him feel closer to God.
Although my father had a short life, his impact on those who were blessed to know him is truly astonishing. Through these people, his values, example and memory will carry forward. It is my hope and my daily prayer to seize each moment, and live a life of love, passion and value that will also carry forward. Never forget where you came from and what the past has taught you. Yet more important, seize the present and embrace the future.