Grief: How I Learned to Navigate Death and Loss

This is an anonymized letter I wrote to a friend who lost his girlfriend. I hope this may help you with whatever you are going through.

Dear Friend,

I can only begin to imagine the pain you are feeling right now.  While I have known monumental loss, loss of a proportion previously unfathomable, only you can now know what personal hell you are going through.  I can try and offer you guidance and share with you what things helped me cope with the feeling of utter helplessness.  I can try and assuage the feeling of despair.  I can empathize with the lens of pointlessness that will likely shroud your world for a time.  I can try and do all of this though, ultimately, it is you that will have to make the choice to endure what you have to in order to become the man you are meant to be.

I am grateful to be able to call you a friend and can only hope that the lessons I learned through my loss can help you bear yours.  The ability for me to be here even in small measure today helps to add meaning to my lived experience.

Make no mistake you will have to bear the unbearable and I am sorry to say that this is not a burden that can be avoided.  I did at times find solace in sharing with others but at times found frustration with well meaning individuals who simply did not, and likely never would, fully ‘get it’  I don’t think it was a lack of understanding that frustrated me, more the lack of empathy.

My advice here is to surround yourself with those that ‘get it’ and find forgiveness for those that do not.  I recently did an interview where I was asked for my top values.  It was for the reasons above why Empathy was at the top of my list.  I believe that the quality of being able to feel what others feel gives you the greatest insight into who they are allowing you to find ways to make the greatest impact in their life.  Examining, absorbing, and enduring what you are feeling right now will allow you to grow substantially.  While this is of little comfort now it is the truth.

There is no easy road.

At least not one that I was able to find.  For me I swore that her story would not end with her life.  That I would continue to ensure her legacy lived on.  I carry her with me daily.  I resurrect her in my memory as often as I can.  A song, a smell, a view, a memory or a conscious tug on my ear lobe like she used to affectionately do, brings her to life even if just for a fleeting moment.  There is not a day that goes by that she is not still alive within me.  I don’t know if this helps or hinders but it is the choice I have made.  Everything you have ever experienced, everything that has made you the man you are today has prepared you for this.  You will survive and you will adapt and it will fucking suck.

You will learn more in these moments than ever in your life.  I encourage you to practice staying open to the lessons.  The line in Ram Dass’ letter to Rachel that spoke to me most was when he said “Who among us is strong enough to remain conscious through such teachings as you are receiving. Certainly very few”  I made a decision to remain conscious.

While this is not an opportunity you would wish upon your worst enemy it is an opportunity very few are afforded.  Even fewer courageuos enough to receive the lessons.  There will be times when you are not strong enough to stay conscious.  Don’t.  Retreat when you need to.  For me it was yoga.

Maybe for you it is a walk.

They will tell you to “Be Strong”. I love them for their intentions but curse them for their ignorance.  There can be no strength without weakness just as there can be no light without dark.  If ever there was a time to be weak, this is it.  Sometimes I would curl into a ball and weep softly, other times I would wail loudly cycling through grief and anger beating my hands violently on my steering wheel while driving.  I would let the emotions envelop me completely, simply observing them.  I think this allowed me to detach, so as to not become completely overwhelmed, while still letting the emotions flow.

There is no ‘right way’ to do this.  Only your way.  They will try and tell you the right way.  Nod and acknowledge them but find your own intuitive way.  Your heart will know.  There is no time frame for this.  I believe I moved through, and continue to move through, my emotions because I did not and do not fight them.  I feel.  Even the sadness has become a friend.  Sometimes I will weep alone, holding her in my mind.  They will ask “Don’t you find that painful?” To them I say no, it is more like having a coffee with an old friend.  A quiet comfort held close.

Finding something ‘spiritual’ to grab onto helped immensely.  The only way through is to have faith on what is on the other side of this.  I believe it was you who said “Just about everything awesome is on the other side of something shitty.”  I know this seems impossible today but have faith that tomorrow it will seem just the tiniest bit more possible.  Run this marathon one step at a time.  Keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Fuck I hate cliches.

You didn’t lose 100 pounds overnight, you lost it one pound at a time.  Narrow the lens of the world to as short a time frame as you need to survive.  Maybe you just need to get through the next 30 seconds.  Maybe you can picture making it through an entire day.

I do not have any of the answers my friend but know I love you.  I will never forget saying goodbye to you in the parking lot of the restaurant when we went for dinner just two days after Colleen was killed.  You hugged me goodbye and said “Keep it together” I replied “Nope, I’m going to go home and lose my shit”.  You looked at me, cocked your head and said “Don’t confuse the two. Sometimes in order to keep it together you need to lose your shit.”

I see you, I feel you and I am with you.

“For a good life
we just might have to weaken
And find somewhere to go
Go somewhere we’re needed
Find somewhere to grow
Grow somewhere we’re needed”

Tragically Hip

Much Love,


Colleen Yoga

Why are we afraid to live our Truth?

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?

Redefining Badass

When you think ‘Badass’ what do you think of?

If you are like most, you conjure up images of Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Pink, George St. Pierre or Rhonda Rousey.  There is a real attraction to ‘Badass’.  Let’s face it, we all want to be a little ‘Badass’.

For me, I have always been more nerd than ‘Badass’.  In the last several years I have been striving for challenge, change and growth.  I have adopted a “default to yes” mindset and tried many things I would have thought beyond my scope of ability.

I’ve done an iron distance triathlon, I’ve taken up yoga, crossfit, rock climbing, ice climbing and travel. I have made an effort to expand my reading, get in tune with my creative side, expand my writing and get more in touch with who I really am.

Much of this prompted some good natured teasing from my girlfriend, Colleen. She would often joke about how “‘Badass'” I was becoming. As a photographer she took every opportunity to snap a pic or two of me in “‘Badass'” poses. “For your fans” she’d say.

I have to admit, the title felt pretty damn good. Let’s face it, any of us who are, or were, more academic than jock would be proud to wield the title “BADASS”.

In August of 2015, Colleen and I took a roadtrip to Penticton, BC. I had registered for the Challenge Penticton half-iron distance triathlon.  You see I had done the Calgary Ironman 70.3 in July and decided since I was already trained up I may as well also do the Penticton race.  I grew up taking my summer vacation in Penticton, and I had lived there for a summer with my Aunt Sharon in my teens. Penticton was home to her, my uncle Jerry and cousins Susan and Lynn, so it has always had a special place in my heart.

Although the main purpose of the trip was the triathlon, Colleen had a passion for climbing and I had asked her to look into climbs in the area.  It turns out there was some spectacular climbing at Skaha Bluffs, just 15 minutes outside of the city.  We only had one extra day in Penticton after my race so I knew we did not have a whole lot of options about when we would be able to climb.  This meant my first outdoor climbing experience would come directly on the heels of competing in a 6 hour half iron distance triathlon. This made me a little bit nervous.  Scratch that.  This scared the shit out of me.

It was important for me to give Colleen the chance to get some climbing in, knowing how important it was to her, so I decided I would suck it up and just make it happen.  Of course this prompted more appreciative teasing from her about how “Badass” that was.

Monday morning after my race, we headed off for Skaha Bluffs and I’ll admit I didn’t feel very ‘Badass’. I could hardly walk, let alone climb 20 to 40 meter cliffs. I let Colleen know that I may have to simply belay her and not actually climb.IMG_0254

My mother and Aunt who had come out to cheer me on for the triathlon decided to come out and watch the beginning of our climb and carry on for a walk of their own.  It was an absolutely magical day.  We parked at the trail head to the bluffs and started to walk together hand in hand.  I had that nervous excitement that you get when you are:

A) in love and
B) about to try something new for the first time.

Colleen had her trademark little smile playing at her lips that let me know she was extremely grateful.  I could tell she was so pleased that we were able to enjoy this time together and equally excited about the prospect of climbing outdoors, something she had not yet done on Canadian soil.

The mood can best be described as ‘contentment’.  We walked together, my mother and Sharon ahead on the pathway.  If you have ever ‘walked’ with my mother before you will know it is more like a sprint than a walk.  She is usually a few hundred meters ahead of everyone else.  This day was no exception.

Fortunately she paused to take a photo of Colleen and I together walking down the hill.  We walked far enough down the trail without seeing any rock faces that we actually stopped and consulted the trail guide book to make sure we were still on track.  After confirming we were indeed on the correct path we started seeing the rock faces open up as we descended into the valley.

Soon we began to come across other climbers who had set up camp at the base of a face here and their and marked their territory with an array of climbing gear strewn about.  Some at the bottom of the vertical, and others high above the ground, testing both their mental and physical abilities.

We made our way to a particular face we had identified in the guide book that had a variety of different climbing levels. Everything from a 5.7 (beginner) to a 5.11 (moderate to advanced). I will never forget the look on my mom’s face as she eyed up the 30 metre section of rock. Colleen was flaking out the rope getting setup for our first climb.

Mom’s expression was nothing less than astonished terror.  “You’re going to climb that?” She asked.  I nodded with a giant smile.  Mom sidles over to me and in true motherly fashion looks at me and says “You know, just because she’s doing this doesn’t mean you have to.” Yes, even at 46 years old a mom is still a mom.

Colleen and I ended up staying there exploring and climbing a variety of faces, crags and routes, enjoying each others company in the solitude of the hills until about 6pm.

That night Sharon had Colleen, my mother and I over for dinner. It was during our dinner conversation that I realized how un ‘Badass’ I was.

Sharon is a proud Pentictonite who is active in the community. Sharon has recently started doing small triathlons and is always looking to improve. In the lead up to the full Challenge Penticton iron-distance triathlon there are a number of events including a 5km fun run. Sharon shared with us the story of how that race went for here.

She opened the story stating that “I knew full well I would be last so I started at the back of the group of 60 or so participants”.

This is where my reality check on “Badass” came into play. You see finishing, even an iron distance race, in the middle of the pack is easy, it doesn’t take any courage at all.  You actually cross the line quite inconspicuously and can proudly state that you competed and completed.

What does take courage however, is to enter a race knowing perfectly well that you will be crossing the finish line dead last with all eyes on you.  Sharon continued her story.

With about 1 and a half kilometers left in the race a young man, Lorne, starts pacing her on a bike.  Sharon looks over her shoulder and says “You’re here because I’m last aren’t you?” He answered “I’m afraid so…” pause… “But you’re doing great!” he shouts.

Lorne continued to encourage her along and when she was within a few blocks of the finish line he said that he was going to ride ahead and let them know she was coming in. He rode off.

As she gets within a few hundred meters of the finish line she can see that they had already pulled down the P.A. system, they’ve lowered the finish line and the started dismantling the announcer tables.  When Lorne came in and told them that she was still out on the course they scrambled to set everything back up so they could announce her in.

They also sent an athlete out to run the final few hundred meters with her. One of the individuals that ended up running in with her is a local professional triathlete named Jeff Symonds. Now if you don’t know who Jeff Symonds is you Jeff won the 2013 Challenge Penticton full iron distance race and is also is the winner of the 2015 Ironman Melbourne race. A pretty nice touch to keep her spirits up as she crossed the finish line.

So when I look at the strength, tenacity and courage it took for Sharon to complete that 5km race it puts a whole different shine on the word badass. Chuck Norris may be badass but he’s got nothing on a 65 year old woman who is determined to improve herself even at the risk and vulnerability of finishing dead last. The vulnerability involved in that endeavor is massive and not likely a situation most of our stereo typical ‘Badass’es would put themselves in.

When Sharon finished the story and got up to clear the table Colleen and I just kind of looked at each other with a knowing gaze and a wry smile. Colleen leaned over and says “Now that, my friend, is what I call Badass!”

It got me thinking pretty hard about what it means to be ‘Badass’. The more I thought about it the more I liked the handle. From a presentation branding standpoint it is a word that stands out and as I said earlier, admit it or not, we all want to be a little more ‘Badass’.  I decided to look up the definition online. According to Google the definition is: “A tough, uncompromising or intimidating person”.  Huh?!  I could totally be ‘Badass’.

So how do I reconcile the inner nerd with my new found desire to be ‘Badass’?  I have always been one that has been fairly comfortable with his tender side.  I do not always feel the need to live up to the stereotypical, societal version of “manly”.

Yes, my alpha male friends, let the mocking begin.  In fact, trying to live up to that stereotype can be quite dangerous.  In my article entitled “Men, it’s time to Woman Up” I published in October 2014 I explore this topic in detail.  The premise is that if we accept the typical view that men should suppress their feelings, we then become less emotionally intelligent which can ultimately affect our behaviors.

So how does this relate to being a ‘Badass’?  Well, again I think the societal norm for a ‘Badass’ male is one who does not show a lot of his emotion, one who sucks it up and puts on a hard outer shell.  This definition did not bode well for me being a ‘Badass’.  On our 10 hour drive back to Edmonton Colleen and I discussed what it means to be “Badass” in great detail.  It was then that we were listening to Brene Brown talk about vulnerability on the Tim Ferriss show where Tim asked her about the perceived notion of the “over feminization” of boys these days.  They then got into a discussion similar to what I wrote about in my article and Brene talked about Tough and Tender not being mutually exclusive.  Then she said something that brought it all together for me.  She said something to the affect of “To me the co-existence of tough and tender is the equation for baddassery.”  BOOM!  Right on the money!

On October 2, 2015, Colleen woke up at my place around 5 in the morning, got dressed and ready for her day.  Off to teach a yoga class at 6am.  She came around to my side of the bed and leaned in for a kiss and said goodbye.  I murmured “Have fun at Yoga” in a sleepy haze as she left.

Those were the last 4 words I ever said to her.

Colleen left my house at about 5:20am and for whatever reason decided to stop in at her place on her way to the yoga studio.  There, in her driveway, one of the most ‘Badass’, beautiful women I have ever met, my best friend, soulmate and inspiration to many was abruptly yanked from this stage called life.  In a cowardly act of domestic violence Colleen Lois Sillito had her light snuffed out in a murder/suicide.  Taken by an ex-boyfriend who likely fancied himself a ‘Badass’.

I cannot even fathom what had to be happening in someones mind to take the life of another.  What kind of twisted, mixed up reality do you have to be living in to do something like that to another human being.  What kind of misguided notion of what it means to be a ‘man’ do you have to have in order to believe that 2 lives must end because you cannot possess what you want?

Could our societal propensity to encourage these macho, bullshit, unhealthy masculinities have contributed to this event?

Clearly this was the work of an individual who was not in touch with, nor in control of his emotions.  We make decisions based on emotion, justified by logic.  Clearly this was an emotional reaction that had permanent consequences.

Could this have been prevented by a society that actually teaches, respects and values virtues like empathy, compassion and kindness over domination, conquest and victory?

In the wake of this tragic event I am often faced with questions around how I feel about the ‘system’ that failed her.  Questions about how do we stop men perpetuating violence against women.  Questions about how do we build a better restraining order?   How do we improve the justice system to protect people like Colleen who so desperately needed it.

All of these are valid questions that need answers, however I feel like these are akin to putting a band aid on ruptured jugular.  We need to address the root cause and not simply build a bigger band aid.  One of the most important things we can do to achieve this long term and for generations to come is to teach, encourage and allow men to examine their tender side without fear of vilification by our counterparts.  We need more men that will speak up and embrace compassion, empathy and kindness and show the world that it is in part a combination of those characteristics that embody what it means to be a ‘real man’.

In short we need the world to embrace the notion of redefining “Badass”!

“Something Needs to Change” maybe it’s you

Today marks five months since Colleen Lois Sillito had the tapestry of her life cut short in a cowardly act of domestic violence.  Imagine the unimaginable.  The life of someone you love extinguished in the blink of an eye in their very own driveway.  I tell you certainly six months ago this is not something I could have ever imagined.

On October 2, 2015 the world lost one of the most compassionate, caring, kind, loving, badass women that I have ever met.  In an instant a mother lost.  A sister taken.  A best friend and inspiration to many.  A yogi, an artist, an individual that truly made the world a more beautiful place for her presence.

Since she has been gone I have tried to honor her beauty in as many ways as I possibly can.  I have told any that will listen tales of the lessons she taught me and that which we had learned together.  I made a promise to her that day that her story would not end there in her driveway.  I made a promise that I would find some meaning in what had happened and continue to do my best to honor her spirit.  She is with me always.  I can feel her presence and I draw strength from the woman she is.  Colleen made things beautiful, I made shit happen.  I will continue to do my best to make beautiful shit happen for my Colleen.

Inevitably when I tell the story of how the threads of her life, in the midst of weaving a most enchanting pattern, were abruptly cut short, I hear the oft heralded refrain “Something needs to change”.  Believe me when I tell you that I have pondered this phrase relentlessly for the last five months.  I have met with a number of different organizations at both government and non-profit levels who are committed to making ‘something change’.  I am dually impressed by the actions being taken and yet staggered by the statistics.  The impact that this issue has on our world is astonishing.

  • In Canada, over 1.14 million people reported they had been either physically or sexually assaulted by their partner or spouse in the last five years. 1
  • It is estimated that the total economic impact of spousal violence in Canada in 2009 is $7.4 billion, amounting to $220 per Canadian. 2
  • The percentage of self-reported spousal violence in Alberta was 7.6 per cent, compared to 6.2 per cent nationally. 3
  • Alberta has the second highest rate of self-reported spousal violence in the country. 4
  • Nearly ten per cent (9 per cent) of Albertans find it acceptable in at least one situation to be physically violent towards their spouse. 5
  • In Alberta, “having to address ongoing domestic violence, even after women have left an abusive situation, has cost more than $600 million in the past five years, with $521 million of this tab being picked up by Alberta taxpayers.” 6

The excerpt above was taken directly from Shift: The Project to End Domestic Violence

The first reaction that most people had to the tragic news of Colleens death was to talk about how the ‘system’ let her down, which it undoubtedly did and trust me, I have had many conversations on the subject of ‘How to Build a Better Restraining Order’.

Unfortunately patching the system, while necessary, is really akin to putting a band aid on a cancerous flesh wound.  You can patch it, mask it, create a temporary fix, but unless you address the underlying root cause the cancer will continue to spread and envelop it’s host, band-aid be damned.

I could easily spend all of my time and energy railing against the justice system that surely failed her, but I believe my personal resources will be better served, not trying to protect women from the evil that walks among us, but ensuring that future generations will not tolerate the existence of such evil.  That our successors will propagate a culture of equality, respect and zero tolerance for anything less than reverence for the worthiness of all humanity regardless of gender, orientation or beliefs.

One of the greatest barriers I see to making this happen is that men like me, who do not perpetuate violence, tend to nod, put on our most sympathetic look and firmly agree that “something needs to change” when the issue is brought up.  We somehow believe that this problem is not ours.  We do not own it because we, after all, are not the problem.

I am embarrassed to say that six months ago I, albeit unwittingly, would have fallen squarely into that category.

Let me assure you that if this issue can touch my sheltered, privileged, protected, upper middle class, white ass living in the affluent bubble of Sherwood Park, Alberta, it can certainly touch yours.  I can give you equal assurance that you do not want to wait until you or someone you know is devastated by it’s reach to make “something change”.

We never think that these type of horrific occurrences can touch our lives.  That the toll of these monstrous events will never rear their ugly head within the sanctity of our blessed lives.

I had the exact same thoughts while sitting in the back of the police car being interviewed as to our movements the previous night after abruptly hearing the simple statement from the officer “Colleen’s dead”.

This can’t be real.  This doesn’t happen in real life.  This certainly doesn’t happen to me.  This kind of thing only happens in the movies.  Clearly there is some kind of mistake.  This is a cruel joke or a viscous nightmare that I am sure to awake from drenched in sweat.  It was not.

So many of these thoughts raced through my mind as the officer was trying to take a statement from me.  When he handed me the business card for “Victim Services” and encouraged me to “talk to someone” I think it was then that the reality of it really set in.  How was this possible?  She had left my house with a kiss and a smile on her face only hours earlier.

If you think it can’t affect you, You. Are. Wrong. Period.

So if you think, as I do, that “Something needs to change” then let’s stop making the statement “Something needs to change” and start asking the question “What can I do to make it change?  What can I do today?  How can I make a difference to someone in my world?”

Now I am not suggesting you all need to quit your day job and volunteer full time for a non-profit organization somewhere but I am suggesting is that there are things that you can do today to make a difference.  Maybe today, it was as simple as reading this article.  Maybe today it is as simple as starting to change your viewpoints about whether this matters or not.  If you are unsure, I can introduce you to a five children to whom this issue matters a tremendous amount.

For me it starts every day with my 15 year old son, and 13 year old daughter.  For me it starts by having the conversation with you.  Every day I learn a little more.  Every day I talk a little louder.  Every day I look for ways that I can make a difference.

Sometimes that is as simple as trying to lead by example and show those around you a path of compassion, caring, kindness and tolerance.  Sometimes this is hard.  Sometimes you succeed.  Sometimes you fail.

Sometimes you just have to take all the shit in your life and set it on fire so that you can be a beacon for others.

Whatever the ‘issue’ is in your life, stop saying “They need to do something” or “Something needs to change” and start asking yourself the question “What can I do?  What can I do right now?”

“I Love You” is Bullshit

For many years I have explored the phrase “I Love You”.  You see I am a fairly romantic man and have always had a belief in the blissful existence of “The One”.  You know, your soul mate, your perfect match, your true love, that one person that completes your heart’s desire.  That individual that will give you those tummy butterflies for the rest of your life.

Yes, I believed in love, but I had yet to find it.

You may also enjoy this article. How to Find the One

I think it was when I started to realize that my marriage wasn’t ‘it’ that I really started to question.  When my marriage finally dissolved and I was faced with the fact that my wife was not ‘The One’ for me, nor was I ‘The One’ for her I was forced to tackle this question head on.  This is an article that has been brewing for about a year now.  I have had these discussions with many of you.  It has been interesting to hear a variety of conflicting opinions on the subject.  Many still believe in ‘The One’, the ‘Soul Mate’, which is wonderful and a beautiful thing.  Given the way I am wired, I always like to push the question, challenge and ask why.  Why does that belief exist.  Is it simply blind faith in a romantic notion or is there some logic behind it?  What evidence do we have to support that belief.

When I first wrote my article “Embrace the Suck” I talked about ‘The Suck’ being temporary, that emotions are fleeting. The more we embraced and experienced the negative emotions the faster they would dissipate. They came and they went.  Adhering to this idea allows us to more easily get through setbacks in our lives if we can look at those times as temporary road bumps and not permanent obstacles in our path.  While this notion is useful when it comes to dealing with negativity in your life, it becomes problematic when we use the same theory in the context of love.  This dilemma really had me stumped.  Is there truly “The One” or is it simply “The Next One”?

Let’s assume that we can agree on the concept of there being a soul-mate out there for you.  That there is in fact, The One.  What happens when The One is taken away from you unexpectedly?  Does this mean that you are done?  That you are doomed to never love again?  That, I refuse to believe.

So my ‘conclusion’ thus far?  Keeping in mind that this is a journey not a destination and my ‘conclusion’ could in fact be dead wrong.  Does this mean that we should love less?  That we should become more guarded and careful with who or how we love?  I would argue that it means the exact opposite.  That we should love more, not less.

This was one of the things that Colleen and I discussed at length, and I think it was actually on our first date.  I asked her this very question.  Did she believe in “One true love”.  Like me she wasn’t sure.  She too had had many events in her life that lead her to the same questions.  It was during this conversation that she said something simple, but something that will stay with me forever.  When I asked her about her philosophy on Love she replied that she believed in “Loving with an open heart, and with open eyes”.  This spoke to me.  As someone who had closed their heart for close to three years after the dissolution of my marriage I recognized this phrase as the answer that I had found only a short time before our meeting.  To me this phrase summed it all up for me very eloquently.  Despite your past, despite your fears, despite the risk to your heart, simply Love.  Boom!

Love with an open heart and with open eyes.

So do I believe in “The One”, my “Soulmate”?  I don’t know.  I do know however that I am going to Love with an open heart and with open eyes.  That I am going to treat everyone in my life that I love like they are “The One”.

So why do I think “I Love you” is bullshit?

Well, I want you to imagine this with me.  If you have someone you share that romantic love with, if you are fortunate enough to have found your soulmate, think about how much you love them.  How does that make you feel?  How does the love that you share with them make them feel?

Now I want you to come with me to a world where the phrase “I Love You” does not exist.  Your feelings haven’t changed but you do not have those three little words to use as your crutch.  How would that change things?

You see I was married for 13 years and pretty much daily said “I Love You” to my ex-wife.  “I Love You” is bullshit.  Those three little words are meaningless.  I’ve taken them away.  What will you do now?  Will your loved one know that they are loved?  Will they know it any more or less than they do now while you have those words in your vocabulary?  What about your children?  Same applies.

I fear we live in a culture where we always look for the easy way out.  Where we are always looking for shortcuts and trying to find the path of least resistance.  When it comes to Love, “I Love You” is the easy way out.  Love is the most powerful emotion in the universe.  Why would we let ourselves take the easy way out?

I feel fortunate that I was able to experience Love.  Love without words.  That I had the opportunity to show Love not just speak it.  Please don’t misunderstand.  I did a lot of things wrong that contributed to my marriage ending but like any failure I try hard to learn from it.

When Colleen was taken from me I could at least take some solace in the fact that I said I love you without words on a number of occasions.

Here are a couple of examples of how I ‘said’ “I Love You”.

On the Tuesday before she left us she stayed overnight at my house.  I was fast asleep but she got up at about 3am, came over to my side of the bed, kissed me and told me she was going to drive home because she had not been able to sleep for the last little while (she had to be home early anyhow).  I sat up, moved over and made room for her and invited her to lay down for a minute concerned that something was bothering her.  She lay down on her stomach beside me and I sat and gently rubbed her back simply being together.  She eventually fell back asleep and we finished the nights sleep together.  She did not hear “I Love You”, she felt, sensed and knew “I Love You”.


In late August we went to Penticton together since I had a half iron distance triathlon to participate in.  Colleen was an avid climber.  Penticton has some fantastic climb sites 20 minutes out of the city.  Given her passion for climbing it was an opportunity I could not pass up.  The problem?  My race was Sunday and we had to leave on Tuesday which meant the only window for climbing was Monday the day after my half iron distance race.  Needless to say my body was not in prime shape for climbing Monday.  I made sure however that we got out to Skaha and had a fantastic day of climbing.  Her soul was alive that day, as was mine.  My body hurt but my soul sang.  As I was driving during our 11 hour ride home the next day, out of the corner of my eye, I caught her gazing at me with that soft, gentle smile and hearts in her eyes.  I looked over, caught her eye and cocked an eyebrow with an inquisitive expression.  She beamed, smiling widely  “Don’t think it’s lost on me what you did yesterday.”  She reached over, squeezed my hand and nuzzled her head into my shoulder as I put my eyes back on the road in front of me.  I felt my body melt, smiling contentedly and as the Eagles so aptly put it, I let “that peaceful easy feeling” wash over me.

I can assure you, that day screamed “I Love You” louder than any megaphone, PA system or amplifier I could have ever engaged.

On Colleens birthday I was a little stumped on what to get her.  I mean this was a woman that did not value material things.  Knowing that her primary passion was climbing I setup a date for us to go to the indoor gym early afternoon with later plans to go out for a nice dinner.  Now I was still relatively new to climbing at this time and did not have my “belay check” at the local gym.  This meant that she could take me up the wall but I couldn’t take her.  So I decided to arrange my schedule such that I could make a trip out to the gym on my own and get “belay checked” without her knowing.  When we arrived at the gym she was resigned to “bouldering” (climbing low without a rope) and belaying me.  Imagine her delight when we checked in and my profile popped up with a big green check mark beside BELAY on the system.  It was a very small gesture but one that I know moved her.   Once again, I said what I needed to say without using any words whatsoever.

I could give you a number of other examples but I think you get the point.  So do I know if there is a “soulmate”, “The One” or a “Forever Love” for me?  I have no freaking idea but what I do know is that the words I love you are bullshit.  If you need them to convey the message of how you feel to those you love then I am certain you are going to have a problem.

So for me, until I can find a better way, I will do my best to “Love with an open heart and with open eyes”.

How do you say “I Love You” without words?

Forgiveness: The Hardest Thing I Have Ever Done

There is an evil in this world. A darkness that threatens to choke out the light.  It lives among us and very few would even imagine that it exists.  It forces some to live in fear.  It is the schoolyard bully we thought we had outgrown.

There is evil in this world and I have met it face to face.

When my wife and I split up after 13 years of marriage, 2 children and 15 years together we had to tell our children the news.  It was a soul crushing experience.  I will never forget the moment.  Me cuddled up with my son on our nest chair, her on the couch with my daughter. As I explained that Daddy was going to go live somewhere else for awhile because we could not get along under the same roof, my son started softly sobbing while I held him in my arms.  My heart broke.  I continued to do my best to explain what was happening.  How are a 12 year old and a 10 year old supposed to understand adult problems?  I knew in that moment that this would be the most difficult thing I ever had to do in my life.

I was wrong.

On October 2, 2015 I was introduced to a malevolent  evil.  A demonic presence with no regard for human life.  A man who would take the life of the woman I loved.  A man so cowardly that he took his own life so that he did not have to face the consequences of his actions.  A man whom I could never hope to understand.  A man so vile that it sickens me to hear his name.

Once again I was faced with devastation and heart break.  Once again I knew that this would be the most difficult thing I have ever had to face.

Once again I was wrong.

Shortly after Colleen was murdered I was directed to a parable.  A story called “The Little Soul and the Sun”.  This parable came at me from 3 different sources.  If there is one thing I have learned through all of this is that when the universe speaks you should listen.  So I did.

You can read the full story here.  The Cole’s notes is that there is a little soul who approaches God excited to tell God that he “knows who he is”.  God asks “Who are you”.  The little soul goes on to say “I am the light”.  God concurs.  Soon after though the little soul realizes that knowing who he is is not enough.  He wants to BE who he is.  He wants to feel what it is like to be the light.

God goes on to explain that the only way for the little soul to know what it feels like to be the light is for God to surround him with darkness.  He goes on to state that there is no light without dark, no up without down, no warm without cold.  In order to experience anything, the exact opposite must exist.

Being “The Light” is very special God went on, explaining that it was OK to shine his light through the darkness.  That it was OK to be special, keeping in mind special didn’t mean being better.  God went on to ask the little soul what part of ‘special’ he would like to be.

After some thoughtful deliberation the little soul declared that he wanted to be “forgiveness”.

“That’s wonderful” God said “There’s only one problem.  There is no one to forgive.  I made everything perfect.”

It was then that the little soul realized a large crowd of souls had gathered around to listen to the conversation.  When he looked around at all the beautiful souls he realized God was right.  They were all perfect.  He started to feel sad because he would never be able to experience forgiveness.  It was then that a friendly soul spoke up.  “I will help you” he said.  “How will you do that?” the little soul asked.  “I will come to you in the next lifetime and give you someone to forgive.”

When the little soul realized what it would mean for the friendly soul to give up his perfection in order to do something forgivable he asked him why he would do that.  The friendly soul answered “Because I love you.  I do however need you to promise me one thing”.  The little soul was so excited at the prospect of experiencing forgiveness that he shouted “of course, of course.  Anything, just tell me!”  The friendly soul said “Always remember who I am. Remember me in my perfection”.

I am paraphrasing and do not do the parable justice at all, so please read it in it’s entirety.  It is fairly short.

As I read the story for the first time, and realized what it meant, I felt like I had just been hit by a freight train.  I sat there reading, heart shattered, tears streaming down my face, as the enormity of the task at hand hit me.  I had to do the unthinkable.  I had to do the unimaginable.  I was now, for real, faced with the most difficult challenge of my life.

I had to forgive the man that took my love away.  I had to forgive the man who was sent to teach me forgiveness at the cost of the woman I loved.  There is no doubt through 20 plus years in business, my failed marriage, a car accident that almost took my life, a fraud scheme that almost bankrupted me and many I loved, a lifetime of good, bad and ugly with all the obstacles life had thrown my way, this is by far the most onerous task I have ever been given.

If I am to have even a whisper of equanimity, any hope of lasting peace, then I needed to release my heart of the hatred that threatened to consume me.  So I shall.

Paul Joseph Jacob, I forgive you.

Many will not understand this.  Many more may even criticize me for writing this.  I know however that everything I have ever learned, everything that Colleen and I ever shared, every discussion we ever had has led me to this.  Has helped me become the man I am today.  The man that can forgive.

You see, as hard as this is, the truth is I am grateful. I am grateful that I get to be the Light.  That I get to choose to be the Light and not the Dark.  That I get to be Love and not Hate.

This is a crux in my life.  A crossroad where I get to choose that which I want to be, the Yin or the Yang.  In a world where one cannot exist without another I am glad that I get to represent good and not evil.

I will love you forever Colleen Lois Sillito and you will never leave my heart.  I am grateful for what we had together.  I am grateful for everything you have taught me and for everything you continue to teach me.  I am a better man for your presence and the world is a better place because you were in it.

I Love You.

Make Beautiful Shit Happen

Embrace the Suck – Revisited

“The difference between a good race and a bad race is how you manage the (inevitable) pain” Chris ‘Macca’ McCormack on triathlon.

Just a little over a year ago I wrote an article entitled “Embrace the Suck“.  The premise was based on the statement above.  Macca was then, one of my favorite triathletes. He emphasized no matter how much you prepare for an Iron Distance triathlon there is simply no way to avoid the inevitable pain that comes along with it.  In the article I equated that sentiment with life in general.  I talked about how we need to learn to lean into, and embrace the suck rather than fight it.  You can’t avoid the suck..

Well here we are a little over a year later and I am living proof that you cannot avoid the suck that life is going to throw at you.  Who could have predicted just over eleven months after writing that article, the woman I loved would be murdered in her own driveway.  Who would have thought her light would be extinguished as we were just starting to explore this crazy, beautiful, twisted, and unpredictable thing that we call life, together.

No amount of preparation could steel me for what might happen on the morning of October 2, 2015.  A murder/suicide by an estranged ex-boyfriend.  Inconceivable.  It’s been 7 weeks, 5 days and it is still extremely difficult to believe.

“Our rational minds can never understand what has happened, but our hearts will find their own intuitive way” – Ram Dass

The reality is I have been forced to Embrace the Suck on a level that few could ever fathom.  I made a couple of decisions very early on in this process

  1. Most importantly, I wanted to ensure the beauty of Colleen Lois Sillito lived on.
    Make certain her story did not end here.  Commit to share the sheer and unadulterated beauty of the woman I loved with as much of the world as I possibly could .  A woman who forever shaped who I have become and taught me to see the world through the eyes of love.  Colleen will forever be with me.
  2. I wanted to ensure that I did not, and do not squander this experience.
    I know that may sound callous, and hard to understand.  I can assure you, remaining conscious and aware through this is exactly what Colleen would have wanted.  We often talked about the lessons life threw at us and how it continued to throw them at us until we “got them”.  I became determined to fully taste, feel and embrace every moment of the grieving, mourning and healing process.

I have been given an opportunity to experience something that very few others will ever get to experience.  I have been given the gift of knowing true love.  Of finding my soul mate.  Many people will never have in their entire lifetime what Colleen and I had in our short time together.  For that time I will be forever grateful.  I will cherish those moments, memories and feelings for the rest of my life.

Now that she is gone she has given me another waypoint on my journey most will never see in their lifetime.  An experience I would not wish upon my worst enemy, and though a sad hand, it is indeed a hand those who loved her have been dealt.  If I had any option to turn back time, any chance of rewriting history, any chance of making things different I surely would.  Alas, I do not.

Since I do not have that luxury, all I can do is savor the taste of the bad medicine that life has prescribed.  Soak up as much of it as I possibly can without drowning.  The joy of the memories.  The pain of the loss.  The despair at the thought of never finding another true love.

I honestly feel like everything I have ever done in my life has prepared me for, and brought me to this point.

I will not numb myself with chemicals, alcohol or drugs.  I will not harden myself to the cruelties of this world.  I will not curl up into a ball and die, withering into oblivion.  I will not close my mind nor harden my heart.  I will not give up hope for humanity.

On the contrary, I will allow the experience, and the time I had with this amazing woman, whom I hope you have all had a glimpse of by now, to soften my heart.  To open my mind and make me a better man.  Make me a better man so that I can serve this world in a manner befitting the angel she was on this earth and continues to be now.  Allow me to become the man that can serve the world in a manner that would make her proud.  I will use this time to learn to become a better version of myself as I continue to sing the song that we started writing together.

Hers is a story that needs to be told.  The world needs more Colleen.  As I stare at a blinking cursor, with my fingers idle and my brain lost in thought, I can feel her nudging me.  Feel her whispering “Don’t let me be your resistance.  Don’t let me be your resistance.  Tell my story, tell it well.  Together we will change the world”.

For her, I will once again embrace the suck.  I will take the gifts she has given me and I will not let them waste.  She made things beautiful, I make shit happen.

For her I will “Make Beautiful Shit Happen.”

So no matter what you have going on in your life, no matter how much it sucks, the next time life throws you a curve just remember, it is on the other side of suck where the magic happens.  Embrace it, experience it, live it, and learn from it.  Take from it what you can, leave the rest.  Use what you have gained to make the world just a little more beautiful than it was yesterday.

Embrace your suck, grow and make beautiful shit happen.

Much Love, Mike

Mortgage Forum 2015 Recap

Wow!! Where to start with Mortgage Forum 2015.  This year for me was certainly a different experience than ever before.  First off let, we have one of the most incredible industries on the planet.  

On the heels of the greatest tragedy I have ever experienced in my life, I knew Mortgage Forum 2015 was going to be interesting to say the least.  I am so grateful to have so many wonderful people in my life.  

Those 5 days in Toronto reaffirmed what I knew about the people in this business.  Freaking AWESOME!!  The amount of love and support that I received made me feel like a small child wrapped in a warm blanket nestled in a mother’s arms.  If you could imagine what it might feel like to have a long, drawn out, 1,200 person group hug, that is what I experienced at Mortgage Forum 2015.  I will do my best to capture some of the actionable take-aways from the conference however, this year was more of a working conference for me than I have in the past.  This is my third year on the Board of Directors and first year as Treasurer.  We have had many changes this year at the association and there was much work to be done around the conference.  I was also selected to present this year which was a first for me at this event.  

Wellness Component

This year we introduced a fitness component to add options for those that would like a different kind of networking opportunity.  The activities were hosted by yours truly.  On Sunday and Tuesday of the conference we hosted a 5km run.  Monday morning, before the opening ceremonies, we hosted a beginner yoga class for those that would like to get their Zen on.

Opening Ceremonies

We have been alluding to a “big” announcement for several months leading up to the conference and did not disappoint on the big day.  On Monday morning we announced the decision to rebrand the organization.  We changed the name and freshened up the visuals of the association.  We are now, Mortgage Professionals Canada.  You can see the opening ceremonies video, where we made the announcement here:

A brand new Mortgage Professionals Canada YouTube channel has been created and includes our new Value of a Mortgage Broker videos for you to use and share for your consumers:  

Broker Panel

As I mentioned, this year was hard for me to take in all of the sessions as I was presenting as well as my board duties.  I did not see the broker panel though you can see it in the webcast of the opening ceremonies.

Breakout Sessions

This year Mortgage Professionals Canada went with broker based breakout sessions.  These sessions were largely by broker for the broker.  My session went at 10:30 and I was drained after it so did not stay for the next sessions.  You can see all of the sessions that were presented here:

Overall the feedback I heard was extremely positive.  A lot of “feet on the street” information that was directly and immediately applicable to your brokerage business.  

Badass Brokering: Proven Keys to Sales Success

I had my session professionally video recorded.  I will let you know as soon as I am able to get the footage up for you to viewCAAMP 0850-small.  I will try and write a full recap of my session as well but the coles notes was this.  We discussed the art and science of sales and looked at providing a framework for you to build your sales process.  The three major points that we discussed were illustrated with a variety of real life stories to demonstrate their application.

The framework is very simple:

  1. Ask Questions
  2. Tell Stories
  3. Be YOU!

Ask Questions

There is science behind how asking the right questions can actually change an individuals way of thinking.  It is our thoughts that control our actions.  If we want to change a client or referral sources behaviour we need to first change their way of thinking.  Questions can do this for us.

Tell Stories

Stories create a connection, a neuro-coupling, between the speaker and the listener.  Our brain activity actually start to mirror.  Using this knowledge we can effectively deepen the connection with our clients, referral sources and lending partners by telling relevant stories.

authenticBe You!

If you are your authentic self you have no competition.  Find your style, find your talent.  Be true to that and build your questions and stories around that.







  • Build a list of the behaviours/thinking you run into that you would like to change
  • Build an inventory of questions related to each one
  • Experiment, Rehearse, Repeat


  • Create a list of objections and points you need to illustrate
    (Bank matching, Term length, Payoff sooner)
  • Build a repertoire of stories around each of them


Be unapologetically you.  Find your unique style and run with it.  Do not try and present like anyone else because the people around you will feel it.  Be you no matter how quirky, different or similar.  Just be you.

Monday Lunch

This year’s keynote at lunch was Randy Bachman and he absolutely killed it!  He brilliantly demonstrated both the art and science of storytelling as he wove tales of his songwriting between performance of the songs themselves.  He was masterful and a delight to watch.  I was worried my presentation early might have gotten emotional.  It did not.  Watching Randy did.  He was amazing and a performance Colleen, as an artist, would have loved!  I could have listened to Randy all day long.

I had meetings to attend after lunch so was not able to attend the afternoon session with Dr. Sherry Cooper.  The reviews I heard however, were very positive.

The Art of Leadership

Tuesday was the Art of Leadership.  You can find the full roster of speakers, their bios and their messages here:

I will not try and recap them all but I really enjoyed Amy Cuddy.  I understand Captain Phillips was amazing although I had to leave for the airport so was not able to see him speak.

The Parties

If you have ever been to Mortgage Forum in any city you know that the social events, the parties are second to none.  This year did not disappoint.  While it was impossible to get to all the events, the ones I did attend were spectacular.  Certainly part of the beauty in the social events is simply the quality of individuals in attendance.  I thoroughly enjoyed reconnecting with many from across the country.  I particularly enjoyed experiencing the conference through the eyes of someone who had never been before by hanging out with some of our WIMI winners.  Reminded me how particularly blessed we are in this business.

Jim Cuddy, of Blue Rodeo fame, at CAAMPfest was a particular highlight on Monday.  I’ve listed as many of the social events as I could recall below.


Mortgage Professionals Canada (formerly CAAMP) Cocktail Reception
National Bank Cocktail Reception
TD Bank Reception


B2B Broker appreciation event
Mortgage Hall of Fame Gala
CAAMP After Dark Party
CMLS After Party


D & H
First National
Scotia Mortgage Authority

Bottom Line

This years conference had more energy than any that I have ever attended.  The staff, conference team, Board of Directors were absolutely jacked about the big launch of the new branding of Mortgage Professionals Canada.  This one was an absolute high for me.  Having the opportunity to hang out with seasoned veterans to brand new associates was simply wonderful.  The opportunity to speak this year was a highlight as well as you likely know, speaking is a passion of mine.

I look forward to getting feedback from our own Julie Cooper, Sandra Forscutt and Krista Rumberg for their take on the conference.

Of all the words of mice and men…

Colleen Lois Sillito was a mother, an artist, a photographer, a videographer, a yogi, a climber, a fitness enthusiast, and an inspiration to many.  She had an innate ability to make you feel like the only person on the planet.  She had a knack for allowing you to see yourself through her eyes.  Eyes of love, kindness and acceptance.  She, was the love of my life and my best friend.

One month ago to the day, the unimaginable happened, Colleen was taken from us in a cowardly act of domestic violence.  I refuse to dwell on how she died but I promise you, the story of how she lived will not end here.

Grief is a funny thing.  I don’t mean funny ha-ha, I mean funny as in that little son of a bitch sneaks up on you and kicks you in the nuts when you least expect it.  It’s like a ninja throat punch hitting you hard while blindfolded.

Grief comes in waves.  Sometimes it is a 3 inch tide lapping at your feet.  Most of the time you can feel it slowly building, moving to envelop you.  Other times it is a 30 foot swell crashing into you so hard that it knocks you on your ass and leaves you gasping for air.  There are occasions when it becomes difficult to breathe and all you can do is wait for it to pass.

I don’t share this with you looking for pity, sympathy, sadness or even comfort.  I share because I want you to understand.  I share because this is my journey and I hope you can learn from my experience.

There are so many lessons that Colleen taught me.  There are many that I taught her. And many more that we learned together.

Good Morning Mike!It is the learning together that I think I will miss most.  Ha! Who am I kidding, I miss every ounce of her equally but I know that she would want those lessons to carry on.  Ram Dass, an American spiritual teacher and author of the seminal 1971 book Be Here Now, writes to grieving parents in his Letter to Rachel:

“Is anyone strong enough to stay conscious through such teaching as you are receiving? Probably very few. And even they would only have a whisper of equanimity and peace amidst the screaming trumpets of their rage, grief, horror and desolation.”

I am determined to stay conscious through this experience.

Colleen and I discussed a lot of philosophical concepts.  We would read books, and articles, listen to podcasts and audio books together and discuss them at length.  One of the conversations that we had was around the subject of talent.  When I asked her what she felt her talent was she replied simply “I make things beautiful.  What is your talent?”

I hummed and hawed a little over this and ended up saying that I wasn’t sure I had one specific talent.  There wasn’t any one thing I felt I had ever been especially gifted at.  I asked her what she thought my talent was and she said “You have a much more useful talent.”  “Oh?  What’s that?” I said.  “You have the ‘make shit happen’ talent”.

There you have it.  She “Made Things Beautiful” and I “Made Shit Happen”.  Together we were going to “Make Beautiful Shit Happen”.

So it goes.

Those three words are the ones used throughout Kurt Vonnegut’s most famous novel “Slaughterhouse Five”.  A mantra used every time there is a death in the story.  Colleen had a bias for beautiful prose.  She loved all things beautiful.  As such she was an admirer of Vonnegut’s work.  She cited several of his quotes during our time together over our discussions on philosophy and literature.  One of the most apt quotes of Vonnegut’s, which truly summed up the way she lived, was from Cat’s Cradle…

Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are ‘It might have been’.

Believe me when I say I have pondered these 15 words more in the last month than I would have ever thought possible in my lifetime.  Colleen was never one to let ‘it might have been’ linger on her lips or in her mind.  She lived life fully and loved with all of her heart.

Life is short.  You never know what it has in store for you.

I for one, will not let ‘it might have been’ become a phrase in my vocabulary.  I can assure you that I fully intend to “Make beautiful shit happen” for my Colleen.  My hope is that you will help me do the same.  Stop waiting for ‘the right time’, stop waiting to get ‘all your ducks in a row’.  That thing that you wanted to make happen?  Take this post as your sign, your omen, your call to action.  Whatever you need it to be, this is it.

Help me make beautiful shit happen for my Colleen.  Tell me what you will do so that you will never have to say or think “if only” or “it might have been”.

If you want to learn more about Colleen and how she lived I did a little photo montage here: and Global news did a nice piece on her here:

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