Today I had a lot of time to reflect on my holiday and 2018 in general. It's been an incredible year for me. I have learned a lot about myself as a person, a coach and a leader. I had a ton of joyous moments that totally filled up my life vials and I had my fair share of challenges that tested my inner self. All in all, I feel super blessed and really grateful for the life I have created for myself.
Today, I donated blood, which is what gave me so much time to reflect. They had a really good turn out (that made me happy!) so it took me a while. The blood drive was at Potawatomi casino. Not one of my favorite places. It's just the right mix of smoke and perfume and bells and whistles that turns me off. And I donʼt really like donating blood. I donʼt like needles. I donʼt like squeezing the red ball. I canʼt even think about it too much or watch the process or I will pass out (which has come very close to happening a few times). However, donating blood is one of the things I do on a regular basis because it is my way of giving back.
You see, my wife required countless blood transfusions during her almost 5 year battle with ovarian cancer. We spent many days in the hospital watching someoneʼs A positive blood flow into her body allowing her to fill up her coffers so she could live to fight another day. Once she got the blood transfusion, I could literally see the life return to her eyes. Someoneʼs selfless gift allowed us to have more time to fend off the disease that would eventually take her life, and I would have done anything, and quite frankly, I would still do anything, to have one more moment to see the light in those beautiful blue eyes. So, I donate blood, regularly.
My love for my wife Ardyth was so profound that I would find myself wondering just how in the heck I was ever going to be able to handle the day when the light in her eyes and the smile on her face would no longer be part of my everyday life. And I will tell you that when it happened, I felt like someone ripped out my heart and tore off my right arm. Ardyth was my best friend and the love of my life. We had 12 beautiful years together. She was the ying to my yang. My tether to the world. The person that showed me the most profound sense of belonging and unconditional love that I have ever experienced. I was terrified of living without her.
Fast forward almost 9 years and I find myself with the unique ability to look at her death as a gift. It sounds absolutely crazy doesnʼt it? How in the world can the death of someone be a gift? Well, I didn't always look at it that way. There were many years that I struggled with the why...why her, why us, whatʼs the bigger picture? Why in the world did we move our family 750 miles to Milwaukee only to be diagnosed with the C word? And ovarian cancer? Of all of the C words, ovarian was one of the worst. This was not in the plan. This happened to other people. This was supposed to be our new beginning, not our end. Little did I know that this was our new beginning. It just looked totally different than I thought it would.
Ardyth's death has taught me that being vulnerable allows you to connect at a deeper level, that worrying will only rob you of the precious time we have to really enjoy one another and that love is the thing that binds us when all else is gone. Love is part of the infinite flow of giving and receiving. Love is why we grieve. Why we hurt so much when we have to say goodbye to people that mean so much to us. It is the reason our hearts break with sadness and overflow with joy. The unconditional love that Ardyth and I shared together is not gone. It is very much alive. And that my friends, is a precious gift. Her unconditional love is still living and breathing years after her death. It surrounds me, it comforts me and it makes my world beautiful. It is part of the fabric of my life. I am truly grateful for the 12 amazing years I had her with me. I was so lucky!
My life today is very different from the life that she and I shared together. I loved my life then. I love my life now. I love myself. I love my friends. I love my family. I tell them all very often just how much I love and appreciate them. I live in the moment and soak up all of the goodness I can. I feel especially connected to my fellow man. I make eye contact. I smile. I talk to people. I make new friends. I have fun. I make an impact as often as I can. I do all of this because in the end, all I have to give is love. Love that will leave me connected long after my physical body is gone.
I could not have arrived at this place on my own. I could not have done this alone. It took a lot of coaching, soul searching, self-reflection, and deep friendships to get to where I am today.
I hope you have an opportunity to take a breath and reflect on your year. I hope you like the life you are creating for yourself. I hope you find your greater why. And I hope you consider donating blood once in a while.