Destination Happiness —

Alli Schaper
10 min readFeb 17, 2023

Lessons From My Dad’s Death

My Dad died unexpectedly 2 months ago. While inexplicable and heartbreaking on so many levels, death is the ultimate teacher. Amidst the chaos, I believe she has many beautiful gifts if you lean into what she’s trying to tell you.

Death forces us to pay attention. Death is arguably more impactful than life, because it commands a collective consciousness to the lessons that your life represented. Often in a far more effective way than you could have conveyed whilst still breathing, no matter how good you were with a microphone.

In my understanding there are three things that wake us up to the reality of our own mortality in a more abrupt way than any other:

1) A near death experience, a brief visitation of where you’re going, where your life ‘flashes’ before your eyes.

2) You “die before you die” AKA experience ego death, most commonly through a psychedelic experience.

3) Someone you love dearly dies suddenly.

If you’re lucky you’ll experience #1 and #2 and emerge unscathed physically and transformed spiritually. Yet it can be easy to slip back into old patterns.

But when #3 occurs and someone you love passes without warning or preparation, their physical absence from your 3D world creates an immediate void that shocks the system in a more permanent way.

The sudden halt of a life forces a new reality that takes the bumpers of your lane at the bowling alley, necessitates new understandings, and requires matrix-level speed implementation of further waking up to realities we’re normally disconnected and distracted from.

On Dec 17th I was in Costa Rica after a 7 day juice cleanse about to be dropped off at the Liberia airport to fly back to LA. I was FaceTiming with one of my best friends sharing how vital I felt, and that my zest for life had returned full force after some challenging events wrapped up in a messy personal relationship were completing their season. Mid-sentence I received an emergency message from my brother’s fiancé that I needed to call my Mom. Seconds later I was on the phone with her and she shared that my Dad had stopped breathing. He had no health concerns that neither him nor any of our family were privy to, and I had just spoken to him an hour earlier.

The following minutes consisted of a full mental breakdown in front of hundreds of people inside the terminal and chaos in attempting to book a flight to Georgia to get to my parents’ home as quickly as I could.

Thirty minutes later, I was back on the phone with my Mom as she confirmed news from the doctor that my Dad didn’t make it. She shared this with me in complete shambles while I took off on the runway and my cell service cut out. I then found myself on a 5 1/2 hour plane ride alone with no wifi.

It’s surely one of the most unique experiences of my life to find out that someone who was such a beautiful part of my world — stopped breathing out of nowhere. Its even more bizarre to then to be planted in the sky on an aircraft full of strangers with no connection to the outside world, completely immersed in my own shock and mind.

The first thing I did is put Somewhere Over The Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole on my headphones. This was my Dad’s favorite song, and he always said he wanted me to play it at his funeral.

Someone told me once to pay attention to sunsets on the day people you love pass, and his was glorious. This song looped on repeat for hours and I looked out at the most beautiful sunset as his soul transitioned.

I wrote him a letter on that plane ride, and the following is pieces of that letter and excerpts of his eulogy, along with some of the strongest lessons from both his life and death that have flooded in over subsequent weeks.

Dad —

Death is something that we talked about often, it was something that you planned for and welcomed, but with the understanding that it was multiple decades away.

In an attempt to make sense of this heartbreak I know you’d want us to see how we can turn it into something beautiful.

As I reflect on your life here are my top lessons:

  1. It’s a shame that the best things we tend to say about people are at their funerals. I’m grateful that there was a constant verbalized understanding of the love between our family — although spoken, it was understood without the necessity of words.
  2. “Destination Happiness” does not exist. Much of our relationship in my adult life was Facetime conversations bantering about this concept that I believe in so wholeheartedly. You always reflected you could fully relax & stop stressing after you retire. You worked harder than anyone I know, logging on average 75–80 hours a week for 5+ decades. God has a sense of humor, because he decided to end your time here on earth 5 days before your retirement, which is both tragic and comedic. Living every day like its your last has become a really loud message. They say cliche becomes wisdom through experience.
  3. All we have to show for our life is who is around our death bed, and who’s at our funeral. We misunderstand wealth, its the people you love that make you rich. This landed fully for you especially towards the last years of your life.
  4. The physical form of our connection to is gone but your spirit is not. A friend reminded me that energy can never be created nor destroyed only transferred in form. You took up a LOT of space, but as big as the physical hole feels in our hearts, your energy has simply changed form and is accessible to us in any moment.
  5. A lot of people move through the world with the intent to collect or manipulate power for personal gain. They lead with fear, try to hack the system, or cheat the code to accumulate more of everything. Your compass took you the opposite direction, and you played the game of life the way it is meant to be played. Your life wasn’t designed for quick wins, you were a slow burn, and a product of the process of doing the right thing, every day, over and over again.
  6. I immediately wondered if you got to reap the benefits of the integrity and love you lived with, and then realized that wasn’t the point. You never lived your life to reap the benefits, you lived so that others could. Your legacy for me and hundreds of others who knew you is to give generously and expect nothing in return.
  7. You made everything better, for the sake of making everything better. It is easy in the world we live in to forgo integrity for social capital, but you never ever did even when the path would have been easier. Justice for when you were wronged was uninteresting to you, and you just moved onto the next thing, and proceeded to make it better, for the sake of making it better.
  8. Magic in simplicity. Knowing what to give a damn about. When I’d tell you about my LA life, you’d tell me I may be slightly overcomplicating things. There’s so much nuance and drama that we spin about in our minds, but your brilliance both in work and in life was a distillation of the complication to beautiful simplicity.
  9. You were in love with Mom. Madi, Jack, and I saw it and felt it. It’s such a rare privilege to witness your parents being in love after 36 years of marriage. I loved looking at you two cuddle on the couch, hearing you banter, or the way you defended her and spoke so highly of her both inside and outside of the home. I hope every person gets to experience the reverence and respect in partnership that you had with Mom.
  10. Reputation takes decades to build, and crumbles instantly. You are a result of what happens in the micro appearing in the macro, an accumulation of thousands of interactions being a truly kind human.
  11. You relentlessly believed and supported me, no matter what. Your unwavering belief enabled me to take bigger risks because the fear of failure wasn’t something you allowed for me to cloud dreams with. You gave me a paperweight when I graduated grad school that said “You know all those things you wanted to go do, you should go do them.” This simplicity in empowerment was the ultimate gift for all of your kids.
  12. Probably what feels the most important to share is that you wanted what you had. Versus having what you wanted, a subtle but important difference. By nature of wanting and fully reveling in the magic of wanting what you had, you had what you wanted. I hope to live more like this because of you.

Life always exists in dualities, but what’s been particularly fascinating have been the moments of joy and sorrow coexisting as the world continues. There’s no pause button on the life remote for grief to run its course.

I spent the first 4 weeks after he passed with my Mom in Georgia. On January 5th, we launched a new product for my company. In the moment we made the product page live on the website and did all the normal launch-hype things: posted on on instagram, sent around to all of our community to create buzz on the internet…

I sat in my Dad’s office chair, listened to my Mom cry on the phone with one of her sisters in the room behind me, and looked at his ashes in a box on the kitchen table in front of me. My immediately thought — this is life at its rawest.

Moments of celebration sandwiched perfectly between moments of tragedy. Opposite of the spectrum feelings can not only coexist, but can synchronize in a single moment.

The reality is, none of us no when we’re going to stop breathing. Death is the only thing that connects us all, the only thing we truly have in common.

We’re all hurling towards it, and slowly but surely people in your inner circle are going to take their last breath. I’m trying to remember in every conversation I have with someone I love, there’s a 100% chance that one of us is going to leave earth before the other.

Safe to say, departure from life has been on my mind a lot. I don’t want to live in constant fear of death, rather in constant awareness. There’s freedom in the steady awareness, and that freedom creates a sense of urgency to live fully.

One of my spiritual teachers shared with me last year “Every time you take a breath say thank you.” This postulation is the first thing that ran through my brain as I sat on that plane and looked out at my Dad’s sunset.

My relationship to this experience has largely been informed through years of working with psychedelic medicine, primarily psilocybin mushrooms. One of the things that I’m the most grateful for and has given me solace is that both my parents we’re open-minded enough (after a multi-year education process) to explore with psychedelics.

Mushrooms were transformative for my Dad. Via both larger consciousness-altering “macro” doses as well as microdosing. He was microdosing on a supplementation protocol all year and called them his “happy pills”.

My Mom has shared with me that her understanding of his sudden passing and personal will to continue living would be radically different and severely impaired if it weren’t for her transformational experience with psilocybin.

Culturally, we’re taught to understand that heaven is above us, and that somehow when our soul transitions out of our body we ascend into the clouds and look down on the earth.

I believe psychedelics open your visual cortex to the heaven that is all around you. Mystical and deeply spiritual experiences and connection with a divine force greater than ourselves is accessible at any moment. We’re just typically blinded to it due to the duties of being plugged into the matrix. But as many friends have shared with me — death makes “the veil” thin. The place between the seen and the unseen, our 3D world and the spiritual world.

My sense of the urgency to help increase safe access to these medicines has solidified tenfold given my parents transformational experiences, they never would have been exposed to the world of mushrooms if not for the field I happen to work in.

The overpowering lessons in my Dad’s passing have been vast — but what feels most present is that “destination happiness”, the concept that floated through so many of our conversations, does not exist. The disease of “if this, then” is seemingly creating an endemic of daily postponement of joy — for future payouts that may or may not ever come.

Destination happiness does not exist, so here’s to wanting want you have. Not to breed the type of contentedness that creates stagnation or apathy. Quite the opposite, the type of contentedness that induces your nervous system to relax into the beauty of your life so that you can train your mind and body to open to the heaven that is all around you.

Our worries are all under the assumption that we’re going to make it to next Monday.

Closing this stream of consciousness out with my favorite thing to say to my Dad when either of us would be stressed about anything:

“We’re on a spinning planet in the middle of nowhere, we’re just here to visit for a while. Enjoy the journey, tomorrow isn’t promised.”

Dedicated to my father, Martin Schaper

66 years old, 6 foot 6 ❤️

December 14th 1956 — December 17th 2022



Alli Schaper

Enthusiast of all things community, health, and mushrooms 🍄. Passionate about bringing psychedelics to the mainstream wellness conversation 🌈.