Fathers and Sons – It’s Complicated

My father, Brian Ahearn Sr., passed away unexpectedly this morning. I’m still pretty numb but writing is one way I try to process my thoughts and feelings. My dad was asked at a dinner party what was the greatest experience of his life. He said without hesitation, “Being a Marine and leading men in combat.” And, I’m sure that’s how he wanted to be remembered. Semper Fi!

The last text I received from him read, “By the way, I came across the letter you sent me on my 70th birthday. It was beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes. I have been around for a long time and have had some wonderful experiences and memories. You and Carey (my sister) are among them. Have a great day.”

I think the best thing I can do to honor my dad is to share with you what I wrote in that letter. Maybe your relationship with a parent is complicated. If so, I hope this helps. Either way, if you can, give them a hug today. If not, I’m sure a phone call will be appreciated. There will come a day when you want to do one or the other but cannot.



Happy 70th birthday! Because I’m fairly good at math I’m pretty sure this one only comes around once so enjoy it to the fullest. I know you’re competitive so if life is a race then every year that goes by gives you a better and better chance of winning.  ;  )

Sorry we are not there to celebrate with you but I’m glad we’ve been making it a point to spend some Christmas’s and vacations together in recent years. I got you the funny card, like always, but also wanted to take time to write you a note.

The more time goes by the more I appreciate what you did for me. I remember taking Jane to Miami University for my 10-year reunion and she was floored because it was so beautiful. I was too because it was even better than I remembered. Like many things in life, that time at college was special but I didn’t fully appreciate it in the moment. Without anything to compare it to it’s hard. I try to teach Abigail to appreciate things in the moment because all too fast the moment is gone and we look back and wish for just one more day. Thanks because I am very fortunate to have gone to that school.

Speaking of school; had I not yielded to your advice about business it’s very likely that I would not have worked for The Travelers, met Jane and there would be no Abigail. What seemed like an insignificant decision was far bigger than I could have imagined.

I also remember you telling me to treat school like a business. Go to class and do my homework from 8-5 and I could do what I wanted with the rest of my time. I don’t know if you knew it but that’s what I did. School work was always done by dinner then the night was reserved for lifting.

I’ve made mistakes in my life but I think more than most I had a strong sense of right and wrong. To this day I never tried recreational drugs. Like all college kids I drank – thus the urination incident – but I steered clear of the potentially bad stuff even though many of my friends indulged. As I said, I had a pretty strong sense of right and wrong and I got that from you and mom.

The discipline I have towards all the things I do came mostly from you. When I tell people about me something I mention early on is that I’m the son of a Marine. That explains an awful lot to them. My friends still tease me and one said, “We lifted weights but you had to be a bodybuilder. We took up jogging but you ran marathons. Now you get your black belt.” Something you may not know but during the time when we were more involved in church as I read through the Bible I began to put down my thoughts. The document ended up being a thousand pages. Whatever I did, I wanted to do it to the best of my ability and I believe that came from you.

Something you shared about your Marine experience that stuck with me was the time the Vietnamese soldier was being kicked by your CO trying to get info as he lay there dying. You said you pulled your gun on the CO to get him to stop then cradled the man till he died. Any time I shared that with someone it would make me tear up just like it did as I typed this letter. Of all the things you’ve shared with me that makes me proudest because that took unbelievable courage. To me that epitomizes what’s at the core of you.

If I had something to do over in life I think I would have chosen to be a Marine. I loved the camaraderie football gave us and that’s why I’m such good friends with Russell, so many other high school buddies and coach Alles. There was something about being under the lights on Friday night with those other 10 guys that can’t be explained. I’m sure basic training and combat multiplied that infinitely. When I see you meet other Marines, especially those who served in Vietnam, I sometimes think you’re closer to them than you are me. I’m not jealous, I admire it.

I’m happy for you that you and Jo have found so much happiness together. It’s been nice to see you grow and change because of her. She’s been good for you. And it’s been wonderful that Jane loves you both too. That’s something Jane and I have been blessed with – each having in-laws we really enjoy being with.

I’m sorry we had some rough times around my 30th birthday. Now that time has passed I hope you can understand from your relationship with your own dad that I hit a period where I had questions and just wanted to understand things. I’ve tried to use mistakes you and mom made to learn from. You once told me, “I don’t care what you or anyone else says I’m not a bad person.” I honestly never thought you were so I apologize if I said or did things that made it seem that way.

As a kid I didn’t dwell on what you and mom were going through, I just immersed myself in football and Janis. But as I got older and tried to figure out why I was the way I was I knew that period had a huge impact on me so I just wanted to get a handle on things. Again, I hope you can understand. Just so you know, I’m still trying to figure out a lot of things but I feel I’ve mellowed in my approach.

So, while you’re celebrating 70 we’ll be in Chicago celebrating what I hope is a new chapter for me with the blogging and speaking. The days in Chicago were good days when you lived there. What stands out to me was taking Jane to meet you then getting engaged. It was a great period so hopefully we can catch a little of that magic this weekend while you catch some with Jo and friends. We’re looking forward to having you up this summer.


Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the planet on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was name one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by Book Authority. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 100,000 people around the world.

31 replies
  1. bobette
    bobette says:

    This is judt beautiful Brian. I can just feel the love between you two.

    Your dad seemed like an exceptional man and an exceptional father as well.

    I’m so very sorry for your loss.

    As always, Bobette

  2. Meg
    Meg says:

    So very sorry for the sudden loss of your dad; what a thoughtful way to honor him here. I loved learning more about him – and you – through your words.

  3. Dennis Stranges
    Dennis Stranges says:

    Well done, Brian Ahearn, Sr. – you did what every good Father does by lifting your Son on your shoulder so that he could reach to higher than you did. Well done, Brian Ahearn, Jr., for taking the best of your earthly and Heavenly Fathers and allowing them to shape the man you are today, a man I am honored (as are many) to know and love.

  4. Lori Taylor
    Lori Taylor says:

    Wow! Brian I’m at a loss for words as I read that letter to your Dad on his 70th birthday. Taking time to live in the moment is a gift. Sometimes we don’t realize the gifts that our parents give us until later in life and some never do. I admire the fact that you took the time and put so much effort in your thoughts when you wrote that letter. I can only imagine the love and pride he felt for you in that moment. Thank you for sharing Brian and I’m sending a big hug your way. I’m so sorry for your tremendous loss. Lori

  5. Melissa Dotson
    Melissa Dotson says:

    Well said Brian. Your father was one of my favorite people because of his brutal honesty. It takes courage to share emotions sometimes and you have done it fabulously. All of your family is in our hearts and prayers. ❤️❤️ Mo

  6. Jeff Jeffus
    Jeff Jeffus says:

    So sorry to hear of your father’s passing. What a great run you and he had. Sounds like you took from the best times, learned from the rest and now your charge is to pass it along. Again, condolences to you and your entire family…jj

  7. James Murray
    James Murray says:

    Sorry for you loss Brian if you need anything give me a call . My Father passed away in 1999. I will pray for you and families health and that you get through this all!

  8. Mark Schwartz
    Mark Schwartz says:

    Brian, so sorry for your loss. Your letter is such an encouragement and reminder to really let our loved ones know how much we love them while we can. Thanks for being so open and vulnerable during a season of personal loss. I remember how blessed I was to see you express your feelings in writing when Kathleen passed as well. Sending our love and prayers to you and the family. ❤️

  9. Rob
    Rob says:

    My condolences for your loss, Mr. Ahearn. Abigail mentions about your father a few times. Beautiful letter to your father. Semper Fi. I lost my father to cancer 35 years ago…he was a 34 years Army Colonel and served in the Vietnam War. I miss him all the times.

  10. Adrian Chong
    Adrian Chong says:

    So sorry for the loss of your dad, Brian. Deepest condolences to you and everyone in the family. Very courageous of you to share something so personal to you and your Dad. I could certainly identify with it as I too had a few rough spots with my dad. So wonderful to see that your Dad certainly cherished the letter. Looks like it was cathartic for both of you. May God bless you and your family with peace and comfort during this difficult period.

  11. Tom Vanderyzl
    Tom Vanderyzl says:

    The Skipper was our S-2 Officer with 1st Battalion 1st Marines I-Corps 66…he was one of the finest Marines I served with…RIP Troop the line has held

  12. Jeff
    Jeff says:

    Brian – My condolences on the passing of your dad. I can see that you have lots of memories that will keep him with you forever. Meanwhile, thanks for sharing your thoughts. The father and son relationship is quite unique. I loved my dad and he was a warrior in his own way and when he had heart surgery, it was devastating for me to see him look so weak and useless. He recovered but many years later, he went on dialysis and watching him look so frail again was difficult for me although I realize it was much more difficult for him. However, it gave him extra years to live and time for many additional conversations between us. I could never talk to my dad enough. I know that I am rambling but just want to add that my son is now a senior at Miami of Ohio and the father / son relationship between he and I has been so much different. I have tried to realize that we are all different and need to accept the different relationship I have with my son. He is a great son, however I hope there is a time when he and I can have longer and more thoughtful conversations as I had with my dad. They were truly special times. Again – thanks for sharing your thoughts and for listening to me and my father / son relationships. Jeff


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] good to know that I had helped in one way or another. If you missed any of the messages, they are: Fathers and sons – It’s complicated and A final memory, finally […]

  2. […] a parent. It felt good to know I helped in some way. If you missed either post here they are: Fathers and Sons – It’s Complicated and A Final Remembrance, Finally […]

  3. […] father, Brian Ahearn, Sr., to rest. In case you missed it, he was the focus on my post last week, Fathers and Sons – It’s Complicated. As you might expect, the last seven days have been unlike any before them. It’s been a […]

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