My whole life changed in 2016. The pain I experienced did something to me that cannot be undone. I realized after losing my grandfather, grandmother and brother that year that something inside me had shifted. I became a different person. The pain had stripped my soul bare, and all I could do was take what was left and rebuild.
It was a terrible experience, but one I wouldn’t change for the world.
I had to be honest with myself, because I could no longer emotionally stand for a life that wasn’t making me truly happy.
I needed to find joy to relieve myself of the unbearable pain, so I searched for it relentlessly. This caused me to walk away from the most comfortable things in my life.
My relationships, my home, my parenting style everything had to go. I had to change otherwise I would get lost in the emotional torment of complacency, and I just couldn’t stand for it any longer.
The abyss of grief led me on a journey of self enlightenment that has totally transformed the way I view people, life and coincidence.
No longer are my days full of meaningless moments filled with mindless distractions. It all has meaning now. Every moment, every experience, every event matters. I cannot tell you how it matters, but as time has progressed I find it almost magical to watch it all unfold into a beautiful symphony.
One particularly recent event has struck a cord in my heart and found a place in the book of my life, one which will never be erased.
Let me take you back to the end of 2016. As I said, I had to walk away from many things and one was a long term relationship. After the amicable ending, I immediately decided that I wasn’t going to mourn this loss of the connection we shared.
After all, when you lose 3 loved ones consecutively, you realize that a broken bond is a menial concern in the grand scheme of things. So, I opened up my heart to the idea of meeting someone new whether it be in 6 weeks, 6 months or 6 years.
I scribbled my desires in my prayer journal every morning and thanked God for sending me the man that would match my intelligence, wit, ambition and drive. It didn’t take long for an intriguing gentleman to catch my attention.
The conversation was thick, addictive and full of an unexplainable energy. It led to a friendship, to say the least, but our friendship isn’t the moral of this story.
It is what the relationship produced that has drawn me here, pouring my heart out in sincere vulnerability.
It began on a Tuesday morning in March. This gentleman texted me to tell me that his grandfather, the only father he ever knew, was in the hospital. He had been suffering with ALS for years now and it seemed that the disease was affecting his respiratory system. It didn’t look good.
The next morning the diagnosis was an inevitable end. He was dying and dying quickly. Having just recently lost family members, I was overcome with empathy. Tears welled up and I couldn’t stop shaking.
I was relieving my own experiences and it was painful.
Though I wanted to run away from the situation to protect myself from the pain of witnessing someone go through what had so recently broken me, I ran to the hospital to comfort my friend and his grandmother.
His grandfather had been in a coma and the doctors didn’t expect him to wake. So, my friend and his grandmother were there by his bedside waiting for the end to come.
When I walked in the ICU room their agony was palpable. I was stuck in my mind the first few moments, assessing the situation. “Am I strong enough to do this?”, I wondered. Though minor fear was present, I almost immediately did for them what was done for me in my time of trouble.
I did everything I could to comfort them. I sat with his grandmother and prayed. We began chit chatting which lightened the mood. After a few minutes of building a connection with this beautiful woman, we started to notice her husband trying to speak out through the noise of the bipap machine, a device which was assisting him in breathing, essentially keeping him alive.
These seemingly meaningless moans quickly became sentences. He was awake! Not only was he awake, he was coherent and ready to share the moment with us.
He wanted to meet me, to talk and to get to know me. I thought I was there to comfort my friend and his family through this transition, but I quickly realized that God sent me to this man’s bedside to heal, to learn and to grow.
As we got to know each other, I became aware that I was in the presence of a great man. He was a leader, a teacher, a legacy. Despite his physical weakness, this man’s spirit was stronger than any I had ever known.
I learned that I was there next to a veteran who, after returning from service, created an educational program that has transformed the industrial industry in the Lake Area. Little did I know that I would be in the presence of greatness, but I quickly learned.
There were many powerful moments that we shared within the three days I spent with this man, but a few struck me deeply.
As we were winding down the first night, he asked me, “Do you know how to learn?” “How?”, I replied. “To learn you must listen.”, he said.
Then as I was about to leave he said something that I will carry with me for life. He lifted his finger towards me and said, “You’ll make a believer out of a leader.”
When he spoke those words to me, I was stuck, speechless. I knew what he told me came from some reservoir of wisdom he had gained over his 74 years. I knew it was special. I looked at him as it sunk in.
“I will make a believer out of a leader.”, I thought.
The next day I was given the chance to feed this great man, clean his face and care for him the same way I had my own grandmother.
It was special. I felt like he deserved all of my attention. I felt connected to him. The following day, I was able to say goodbye.
I personally didn’t think it would be the last goodbye I would offer him. I had a glimmer of hope that somehow I could make him better with cell salts, essential oils and a little TLC.
I felt like it was my duty to offer him all I had, but I wasn’t given that opportunity. He passed the next morning.
He refused to allow anyone to sacrifice their time for him any longer. He made it home from the hospital, and it was his time to go.
After his passing, I cried. I felt the loss so deep within.
My friend and I wept as we reminisced on the few memories we shared together with him. When I am alone, I reflect on those three days. They were monumental.
Every moment I shared with this dying man gave me the peace I had been so desperately searching for. In an instant my grief was quenched and my soul was restored. I feel a little stronger now. I feel renewed. I feel like God sent me an opportunity to selflessly pour into another human all that was left in me.
Now, I am left with memories and the chance to give meaning to his definition of my character.
Forever I will be living to make believers out of leaders and only time will tell what an impact that statement will make in my life.
The future holds meaning to the things we cannot understand in the moment, and I cannot wait to look back with gratitude on the meaning he’s helped build for my future.