Believe it or not, I do write about other things besides death, even if it doesn’t seem like it. Yes I have written a lot about one of the two inevitable’s in life, and since taxes is not an interesting topic, I usually stick to the one that makes me step back and think very deeply. Elton John made a fortune singing about the Circle of Life, but I believe there is a circle of death as well. The month of August has not been very kind, and has left me thinking deeply several times now. What I have found so unique about this go round with the Reaper is that I have been affected personally and for different reasons. The conventional wisdom seems to be that if you are close to someone that passes, then you are effected more deeply than perhaps someone you don’t know. Aside from the well publicized tragedy where the masses are effected, for the most part, if we don’t have a connection, we may not feel the loss. This has not been the case over the last couple weeks with me. Let me tell you about 3 particular deaths, and how they have each left me feeling shaken.
Many of you may have seen that a young pastor in Chino Hills, CA took his own life last week end. The story became a national event, mainly because it involved a pastor, who was a young man with a young family. The location of this event was about 25 miles from where I live, so certainly there was a lot of talk about it locally. The pastor, Andrew Stoecklein had reportedly been struggling with depression & anxiety, as well as a recent bout of physical issues. I did not know this man in anyway, nor had I even heard of his church until this event happened. Yet I have felt a significant loss with his passing because of the circumstances. I have seen the effects of someone who struggles with depression, and how everything seems just fine on the outside, but terrible on the inside. Depression is not a topic that people want to talk about, mainly because no one really understands it completely. While not a popular topic, it is more prevalent than you might think or wish. Each of us knows someone who is struggling with depression, we just don’t know that they are, and in some cases, it can be right in front of our faces. This event has triggered a wide range of thoughts and sadly, unsolicited opinions. Religious zealots are flooding social media with their interpretation of suicide and its meaning as if only they have the true answer. The only true answer is that this young man was struggling with something that even those closest to him could not identify with. It’s not enough to tell someone with depression to ask for help, you have to be the help.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a tribute for a lady who I knew through my Toastmasters speaking class. Cindy Carpenter passed away from Cancer in August, and while I really only knew her on a professional level, she still managed to have an impact on my career and growth. It wasn’t just me, but hundreds of people experienced Cindy’s influence with her professional speaking and coaching work she did. I felt the loss of her passing in the notion that there are so many people out there, that will not have the benefit of her teaching them how to be better speakers, and to build a confidence level that makes their goals that much more attainable. I was one of the fortunate ones to have benefited from her willingness to share her skill sets, as many others were too. However, the number of people she helped pales in comparison to the number that she would have helped if not for her passing.
Once we enter our middle age period, it becomes much more commonplace to lose someone that you have known for a long time. The last day of August was no exception as I learned that Kathy (Sullivan) Mulder unexpectedly passed away. I knew Kathy for over 30 years having met her one night at a restaurant when she handed me a phone number of a girl who would become my wife and mother of 3 incredible daughters. In that very fleeting moment, the course of my life was changed for the better, and yet as I write this, I don’t even know if I ever thanked her for that. She was right there to be a part of our Wedding, and when the kids were born, you were there as well. This loss is very tough on my family, especially Mary who has lost a life long friend of 40 years. Like so many friendships, people move away, life throws curveballs, and you may not always talk as much as you once did, but memories will always remain. For me, I remember the fun we had going out as young couples, the amazing Christmas party at the Sullivan’s house every year, and the gusto Heineken’s at Louie Louie’s. I won’t soon forget the 15 minute laugh we had in the ski lift line at Heavenly when you thought the guy in front of you farted and chased everyone away. Followed by the 20 minute laugh years later when I finally confessed that “it was me”. Through all of the years, you were indeed a true friend to my family, and especially to Mary. So let me now say thank you for the profound effect you had on shaping my life, that allowed me to receive the two greatest gifts, my wife, and my children. R.I.P Leila.