I was talking with a chap yesterday who I've known professionally for about two and a half years. A man who has always been bright and cheerful, and very reliable. I discovered another side to him, or more accurately, I learned more about him, what motivates him, and how he deals with one of the shittiest times anyone can face, and I found it a very inspiring and moving experience.
I had tried contacting him back in November about some work that I needed doing, and after he hadn't returned a couple of calls, I started asking some questions because it was so unlike him. I discovered that his wife was very unwell, and so I backed off, not wanting to add to what was obviously a very challenging time.
Yesterday, I walked into the shop and looked at the 'thing' that needed attention, and decided that I'd give him a call and see if he was answering his phone. I had no idea where things were at with his wife, so when he answered the phone I felt a little uncomfortable, firstly for intruding, and secondly because calling someone about a job you need doing when they're going through really tough stuff... is not easy.
I should have known better, having been through some pretty tough times myself, because he made it really easy for me and we scheduled in a visit for later in the day. Before I hung up I asked the hard question and he let me know that his wife had indeed passed away. He then proceeded to apologise for not getting to me sooner about the job and I tried to admonish him for even thinking about apologising, which was rather difficult because talking around a big lump in your throat is not easy.
True to his word he arrived later in the day and we discussed and scheduled in the job. Before he left I did of course ask how he was doing. There was no way I wasn't going to, because thats who I am, its what Inspire Me is about, and I know he would have known that and prepared himself for it.
What followed was one of the most inspiring conversations I've ever had with a Good 'ol Kiwi Bloke. He talked about the cancer journey he went through with his wife over a seven year period, how courageous and inspiring she was, the amazing things they did together, things that were on her bucket list.
He talked about the final trip she made overseas to a Treatment Centre that they hoped would give her even more time with her family (they have five children), about the initial excitement of feeling a big improvement, to the phone call saying that she wasn't feeling good and wanted him there. He talked about hopping on a plane and flying across the world to be at her side; about being with her at the end 'of this particular journey' (those are my words); about organising the cremation of her body so he could carry her home to NZ so she wouldn't be on her own; about the wonderful and respectful treatment he received from everyone throughout that long journey home.
He talked about the amazing support he'd had and the importance of being there for their kids, making this huge transition as easy as possible for them; about building a new life with them, and so importantly, about having no regrets.
As our conversation came to a close I gave him a card, an Apache Tear crystal and a Hug. He could see that I was doing my best to control my emotions and he said "Don't you cry" and I said "I'm really trying". He wasn't to know that I'd been using every ounce of strength throughout the conversation to hold back the tears, because I'm an emotional person and crying just happens when I'm really happy, really inspired and really sad. But somehow I knew he wouldn't be comfortable with that, so I did my best to honour him by holding it back.
Then he left, and Erin was on hand to give me a Big Hug.