Before the deaths of my children I was never the person to have a life mission of helping other people. I never really thought about it, I guess you could say I was selfish from that standpoint. If someone needed help and asked, I was there for them, but I never went out of my way to seek out people in need.
The one thing that the death of Katie and Noah taught me was that there are a lot of hurting people in this world. Most of them you will never know because they keep it to themselves as a way to not burden others. I was that person for a while until I needed help beyond what I could provide myself. Once I opened my mind and set aside my pride, I allowed others to help me. Strangers I had never met before were the first ones there when I needed someone to pick me up at that moment. If it was not for these people, I would have never survived on my own. I decided to make it my mission to help others when I could, especially when it comes to the death of a child.
I got the idea to write my book Grieving Dads: To the Brink and Back as a result of a 10 minute conversation I had with a guy I hired to do some temporary work for me back in late 2009. Come to find out, the guy needed me to drop him off at the bus stop. After further discussion, he shared with me that he lived at the local homeless shelter. I was a little surprised by this since I just so happened to be going there the following month with a men’s group that I joined after losing Katie and Noah. I shared with him this fact and he looked at me and said “I lost my son in 1991”. It was about this time I arrived at his bus stop and he needed to go to catch his bus, but his statement took me by surprise. His comments stayed with me for about two weeks as I kept wondering if this guy ended up homeless as a result of losing his son. I wondered this because I know what it feels like to be in the depths of despair after losing a child and I could see how one could end up in this situation if he didn’t have the support around him to help him. I decided if this was the case, it’s unacceptable and I was going to do something to help others. It took me a few more months to make the decision to start the www.GrievingDads.com blog and start writing a book for help grieving dads (and moms).
The decision to write the book and start the blog has had major impacts on my life. I hear from people almost daily that thank me for creating both of them. I have heard statements like “its people like you that help me live another day” and “your blog helps me survive”. I don’t take these statements lightly, in fact, I am honored that I am able to make that kind of impact in others lives. I have no doubt that the Grieving Dads: To the Brink and Back book will help 10’s of thousands of people around the world.
I say these things because this last week I had a really surreal experience. I had the kind of experience that gives you goose bumps. To give you a little background, about four weeks ago I scheduled a physical with a new doctor since my doctor of 15 years decided to pack up and move to Oregon from Chicago. When I went to this new doctor’s office, the nurse took me into the room and took my blood pressure and other vitals. As we were talking, I told her I was working on my book over the weekend so I can have it wrapped up by end of April. She asked me what type of book it was and I gave her an overview. She said she lost a sister and her mom has always struggled with it and her grandfather lost his son and never talked about it, but has seen the impact it has had on her family. I gave her my business card that has my blog information and told her to give it to her mom and grandfather. This was the last of our conversation.
This past Thursday I started to come down with a cold which kind of pissed me off since I was trying to stay healthy before I leave for a much needed vacation next week. Since I typically get sinus infections when I get a cold, I decided to head to the doctor on Friday to get on antibiotics before my trip. When I arrived, the same nurse came into the waiting room and asked me to follow her. When we got into the room she turned to me and said “I can’t believe you are here”. I responded with “Do you remember me?” thinking she sees patients all day long and I was new to the office. She said “I absolutely know who you are; I have been praying that I see you again.” This kind of freaked me out a little, but I responded with “is everything ok”. She said “No, my boyfriend’s 16 year old daughter was killed by a hit and run driver two weeks ago. When it happened I immediately thought of you, but I lost the card you gave me. I have been praying I would see you again and here you are”. This is when the goose bumps happened. We spent about 20 minutes talking and before I left, I wrote down all my contact information for her and her boyfriend. She then gave me a big hug and thanked me.
I don’t know if I am the right person for all of the work I have been doing, but I will continue to take on this responsibility. I am truly honored by all of you who write to thank me and find some sort of comfort, peace or insight into what I often blog about. I am honored that 100’s of grieving dads shared their stories with me in order to create this valuable and much needed resource. I am honored to be on this same path with all of you. I would change it if I could, but that’s not an option, so we’ll continue to walk together. People ahead of me reached out a hand to pull me along and I must say I am honored to reach back and pull others along with me.