Entrepreneurism is a monster.
It will eat you whole and spit you out into tiny pieces—that you then get to pick up and reconstruct into what (hopefully) turns out to be you again. I have become pretty good at this—really, I have. Bad business deals, angry customers (angrier employees), frustrating systems—the list is endless, but these things have made me resilient in the face of the toughest of monsters. I had built an army of lawyers, accountants, and doctors that could stop them.
At least so I thought.
Cue the car headlights at 4:57am on April 10th—my Mother died on impact.
“Sweetie, your Mother is deceased.”
In one moment, the longest relationship I ever had was over. My Grandmother called me in the morning, “Sweetie, your Mother is deceased.” This three-time combat deployed veteran cried for five hours. In lightspeed I was on a series of four flights that would carry me from Georgia to Washington State. It’s impossible to explain the feeling of being on an airplane with total strangers trying to act normal while completely falling apart on the inside. Somewhere on the third flight I finally cracked, and an older woman rubbed my back as I sobbed silently into the sweatshirt I used to hide my face. I didn’t even tell her thanks.
Things weren’t better when I arrived at my childhood home. My younger brother and sister were broken, my family falling apart. All the glue that held my body parts and mind together was instantly deteriorated. No fun tweets, no podcasts, no witty quips. My life was The Wizard of Oz in reverse, going from technicolor to greyscale.
My life was The Wizard of Oz in reverse, going from technicolor to greyscale.
I had never had someone so close to me pass away before. It’s a big shock to the system–but what was even more shocking is the work that one must go through when they should be grieving. I found myself (and still am) working on solving my Mother’s estate, directing what should be done with her remains and writing her obituary. I always liked writing, but this wasn’t something I could write. What words do you choose to sum up the life of the person who worked three jobs when you were a kid to keep food on the table? How do you tell the story of someone who sacrificed everything they had to make sure you had a shot in the world?
The director at the mortuary had to do it for me. I couldn’t put words to paper, I couldn’t really do anything. At the time of my mother’s passing I was taking online classes full time—I couldn’t even get myself to email my school to drop my classes. Instead I took two failing grades.
A few weeks later I was somewhat operational—although at this point I had lost both of my podcasts, and all headway on my book.
“It’s okay,” my Wife said, “just take a break, you can always get started back on this stuff.”
She was right, these things are just things, it’s people that matter. I focused on that, I got out of my house, spent time with close friends—and I started to think not all was lost… but I was wrong, again.
Exit stage left: Joey’s hope.
“What do you mean he’s gone? Where’d he go!?” His lifelong best friend asked.
“I mean… he is deceased.” I couldn’t help but think about my Grandmother’s call to me about my mother as I told him about our friend who just took his own life. I hated that phone call. I still hate it—I don’t want the memory, I don’t want those feelings. If all the world is a stage, why don’t we get to hit backspace on the bad parts of the script?
If all the world is a stage, why don’t we get to hit backspace on the bad parts of the script?
It was less than three months since my Mom passed and now one of my best friends was gone. I became a shadow; I don’t know really what moved me anymore, but whatever it was, I was attached to it and followed it from place to place. Food was flavorless, thoughts empty—there was nothing.
I was lucky—we had built a strong fellowship between friends. We leaned on each other, just broken pieces holding up broken pieces. Usually, I attribute a song to certain points along my life, but when I remember these moments I just remember quiet. I remember the stir of the trees as my friend and I took a walk and discussed the events that unfolded that day. I remember seeing the strongest men fall apart together.
There is no way to prepare for these things.
I had no leave left to take from work, I used more than I should’ve going back home attempting to get my Mom’s estate in order, moving my brother in with me to help him get on his feet, trying to get away from the issues to get my head straight. I couldn’t run into a corner this time, I had to be there, roaming the same halls that my friend and I used to walk together. I was just talking to him about dealing with my Mom’s passing. He was helping me plan a party.
Now I was writing his obituary.
How does this happen twice? PS—this isn’t something you get better at the more you do it. I felt the same as before, I forced myself to scribble something together. It was so bad. It didn’t do justice to someone who was foundational to helping me discover the purpose to my life. One of those friends who you could always go to for advice that actually looked out for your interests. I did what I could, but I felt like I left out so much.
“They say we have to put him down.”
“Are you sure? Should we get a second opinion?” I asked my wife while looking at our 10-year-old cuddly mastiff, Bear.
The second vet agreed, it was his time to go. Bear was put down two days before my friend’s memorial service. It doesn’t seem real right? Someone has got to be asking: how could this guy go through all this in a matter of three months? I wish it wasn’t true—that this was just some made up story to hype up a slump in life. The thing is it’s not. Not only that, but there are people going through worse than this right now.
I guess before I just pretended that this didn’t happen to people. I mean you heard stories, but they were just stories right?
It’s been a month since I could even bring myself to “move forward.” I have mostly just been focused on day-to-day tasks—doing the dishes, going to work, heck—showering. These were my goals now—and I didn’t always accomplish them.
This is the part in a post where I inspire the reader to make a positive change or have a realization from the stories shared.
Well, I got nothing. The thing is, the hard thing is, there is no answer. There is no fun conclusion. All I got for you is the last thing my Mom ever wrote to me, just hours before her passing:
My Mom had a hard life—but she was trying to make it end up in a better place. Even though she believed life wasn’t easy, she did always have hope. I’ve stared at this message for hours. Thanking God that I was able to get the book published before she passed, that she was able to read the acknowledgements to her in the back. That she got to see her son use her sacrifices as a springboard.
It’s through this last message that I realized how special hope is and that it is built on the helpfulness of others. I had hope for a future out of poverty because my Mother gave me one. In turn, my Mother had hope for retirement through some ideas a mentor of mine once shared.
So, I guess that’s the message. Go, to the ends of the Earth if you must—and find hope. Keep it in a safe place and don’t forget where you left it—because there may be a day where everything crashes around you. You might lose the longest relationship, you might lose the wisest of friends, maybe the gentlest of giants, but you will always have hope.
Hope can defeat any monster.