Words are an interesting conundrum. I sit here about to commemorate the anniversary of Colleen’s tragic death and I look for words to equal the beauty of the person and memories I hold. It is estimated that there are just over a million words in the English language. What if the people, objects or experiences that I am trying to portray are more exquisite than any words available? Do you do the subject a disservice? As I sit in the Rocky Mountain rain that completely envelops the imposing mountains, how do I find words to describe to you the beauty of my surroundings? How do I convey the beauty of a love that once was yet will always be? In short how do you describe the indescribable? My desire is to open the canvas, paint the base and let you, the reader, fill the shadows. I want to communicate to you the importance of the ideas I write and challenge you to find a way to live a deeper version of yourself. The ideas may not be new and I pray to God that it does not take a catastrophic event in your life for you to start looking within to become a fuller version of who you are supposed to be.
There are pivotal moments in your life. Those seminal junctures that inexorably change the path of the journey you thought you were on. The sooner in life that we can see these moments for what they are, freedom for expansion, the sooner we can leverage these moments for growth. Whether these occasions cause joy, pain, sorrow or anger we can choose to contemplate on and learn from them. The more we are able to recognize and reflect the closer we come to finding our capital T Truth. Wrapped deep in their core, it is within these moments we find purpose and meaning.
This is especially true, albeit exceedingly difficult, when the event, moment or occasion has soul crushing ramifications. This can often be a difficult reality to accept. I sit here today heart open wide, ripped, torn, broken and bleeding thinking of those saddest of words “It might have been”. I will not however let those words shape my destiny, my future or my message.
On October 2, 2015 I swore that I would not let “her story end here“. I vowed that I would find a way to remain conscious through the teachings I was receiving. I would find some method to turn pain into purpose. It is difficult because I am not the most significantly impacted by the death of Colleen. I do however feel inextricably linked with her. The two of us now indistinguishable. The path that we had begun together forged even stronger by her passing and the manor of her death.
The message left, not one of hate, blame, rage, despair, animosity, resentment or even sorrow. While these are all emotions that need to be moved through, they are not what matters most. What matters most is Love. We need to move through these emotions and find Love and forgiveness.
As a lifelong student of leadership, I look at some of the principals of leadership and look to how we, as human beings can lead with Love. Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner wrote, in their book “The Leadership Challenge”, of the five exemplary practices of leadership.
- Model the way
- Inspire a shared vision
- Challenge the process
- Enable others to act
- Encourage the Heart
Colleen was a shining example of leadership when it came to Love. That is a legacy I intend to carry on. As I sit and reflect on how to commemorate the anniversary of her death, the only way I know how is to do it with Love. To strive to lead with Love. To model all five of the practices outlined above. This can be extremely difficult in a world that tends to put Love very low on the scorecard of success. Perhaps we should move it closer to the top. We certainly hear all kinds of en vogue platitudes about Love all the time. With the amount of memes that get shared daily I fear we become immune to the true meaning and lose the message that needs to be spread.
Certainly in a business world that is built on the hyper masculine traits of being ruthlessly relentless Love is seen as weakness and is typically avoided at all costs. We throw the word around in an effort to create corporate culture but do we truly lead with Love? I don’t know. How do we stand up and be seen? Will that be rewarded or will our competitors walk all over us? Is the cliche “Nice guys finish last” one that rings true or can we take some risks and ‘Model the Way’?
As the anniversary bell tolls, I am left to reflect and ‘Challenge the Process’ alone. It is hard, it is painful but there are also grains of joy sprinkled within the sands of agony. Joy in continuing to explore these concepts together as Colleen and I were prone to do. All I can do is continue to sift through the anguish, searching for the seeds of Love sowing them throughout the furrows I have created in my world.
The most courageous thing that we can do as human beings is to drop the mask of who we think the world wants us to be and stand together in raw, unhidden beauty, ugliness or pain, revealing the true nature of our souls. It is only when we rise up naked, stripped bare, and vulnerable that we can see ourselves for who we are, either accepting, or challenging and changing. We must stand with hearts open wide, accepting and free from casting judgment.
I am left to ponder these questions and while many of the answers still elude me, and likely always will, I come back to the simple truism ‘More Love, Less Hate’. This is an incredibly uncomplicated concept that we should easily come to a consensus on. So the question remains why do we not live like this? Why are we so afraid of living who we truly are?