My Dying Father Taught Me Life’s Greatest Lesson: What Do We Have To Be Afraid Of?

Joel Eisenberg
11 min readDec 8, 2021
Me and my late father, Richard Eisenberg

If you are in the process of losing a parent, or dealing with the illness of a loved one, maybe you will find some comfort from these words.

My dad died on January 10, 2011, of progessive fatty liver disease. The larger picture is he drank only once a year — one glass of wine during the Jewish holiday of Passover — and though he was overweight much of his life he had no indication of ill health.

And that’s the rub. That’s why we will never be sure exactly how he acquired his illness.

Dad never visited a doctor… until he had to.

From the Mayo Clinic: Fatty Liver Disease, also known as hepatic steatosis, is an increased buildup of fat in the liver. Major risk factors include obesity and Type 2 Diabetes, though it’s also associated with excessive alcohol consumption. It usually causes no symptoms. When symptoms occur, they include fatigue, weight loss, and abdominal pain. Treatment involves reducing the risk factors such as obesity through a diet and exercise program. It is generally a benign condition, but in a minority of patients, it can progress to liver failure (cirrhosis).

Dad was in the minority of those patients. His illness progressed and was only discovered when he slipped off three snowy, slippery steps of a New Jersey Command bus while exiting into a freak snowstorm in late-2004.

The doctors said they saw a “spot” on his liver while testing him. His remaining years were filled with regular hospitalizations, extreme fatigue, symptoms mimicking Alzheimer’s disease and, in the end, a loss of speech.

I so wanted to give Dad a piece of my liver. I had poured over articles online, and read that partial liver transplants to certain patients can be a life-saver. He said he cared more about my quality of life and refused. I spoke to the doctor, regardless, as in no way was I going to lose him if I could somehow help him regain his health. The doctor said for various medical reasons the man I looked up to my entire life, my role model, was beyond help.

A liver transplant in his instance would not be effective.

Joel Eisenberg

Joel Eisenberg is an award-winning author, screenwriter, and producer. The Oscar in the profile pic isn’t his but he’s scheming. WGA and Pen America member.