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What I Learned When My Old Man Died

I just learned the terrible news that my dad passed away at the age of 63 in his apartment in Montreal.

It was from a heart attack. He’d never had one before.

I was just in Montreal a few days ago but I came back to Vancouver where I now live. I had just seen my dad on Sunday, and we had a great time as usual. It was a sort of tradition to get together on Sunday to go out for a breakfast/brunch at the restaurant.

We went to the same restaurant we usually go to, because the restaurant features a lot of healthy options, fruit and smoothies. That made me happy, although my dad generally chose either the Eggs Benedict or the French Crêpe with ham.

About 5 years ago, my dad collapsed in his apartment as he experienced a sudden blood pressure change.

He was okay then, and agreed to follow a diet of fruits and vegetables for a month, which seemed to completely put him back on his feet. He also gave up smoking and coffee.

However, just a few months after, my dad stopped the diet, and started smoking again. He’s always smoked since the age of 18, and although I tried many times to discourage him, he was never able to give up the habit.

He seemed to think that drinking red wine every day in generous quantities would keep his heart healthy. He distrusted doctors and I suspect it had been a while since he had a checkup.

When I saw my dad for the last time on Sunday, he seemed as happy and jovial as ever. Although it often crossed my mind that I should speak to him more about his health and how to take care of it, I had given up on it many years ago, when I realized that he was not the kind of person that could take that sort of advice.

He’s always been very happy to see what I do for a living, but never read any of my books or fully understood what I teach about health. I was happy that he accepted it and never tried to encourage me to eat meat, or asked me where I got my protein, and that sort of thing.

I’m kind of shocked that my dad passed away so quickly and suddenly. I expected him to get sick first and maybe be in a hospital before he died.

I know I could have done so much more to convey to him the importance of quitting smoking, or taking care of his health. But you know sometimes you feel that certain people won’t change no matter what you try to say to them. That’s how I felt with my dad.

He always wanted to pass on in his sleep and without pain, and I thank God that his wish was granted.

I am reminded that we can never take anything for granted, and that health on the *inside* is so much more important than health on the *outside.* Someone may appear really healthy, but could be falling apart on the inside.

Although I regret not trying harder to keep my dad healthier longer, I know that it’s possible that nothing that I could have said or done would have changed his mind.

It’s fair to say that I feel stronger than ever that we must live our lives to the fullest and to live our dreams before it’s too late. I’m glad that my dad’s wish of leaving this world without too much pain and without seeing the slow decline of old age has been granted, but I also know that not everyone has the same fate.

I will take a bit of time off to visit my family but try nonetheless to keep writing and continuing my work.

We all know how hard it is to convince those closest to us that we know a lot about health and nutrition and can help them. But quite often it takes someone else’s advice, someone they don’t know, a perceived expert to get them to open up their mind and listen to the message.

If someone close to you is seeing his or her health decline, maybe just one thing you say one day can help them turn their lives around. Changing minds doesn’t always work, but it’s always worth a try. That’s what I would have done differently if I could have seen my dad one more time.

I know I could not have forced him to do anything, but maybe if we were a little more open about speaking of touchy subjects he may have seen it from my perspective and understood that I just wanted to keep him around for longer.

Sometimes the best way to help someone you care about is to lead by example and only offer advice when they ask, other times they need a little help and guidance from a notable source and want to learn on their own.

So please spread the message of healthful living to those around you by living a long and healthy life and those you hold most dear to you will appreciate your efforts and value your presence for years to come.

Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude

Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.


Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.