THIS IS AN EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK, DANCE WITH THE ELEPHANT: LIFE'S COSMIC EQUATION
DON CALHOUN'S WORDS:
It was my first day back to work since my brother Bob had unexpectedly passed away. My primary mentor in life, the man I considered as my second father, the guy I always aspired to be like, was taken away from me in an instant, he just fell down one day in his cabin and died at age 63. For the first time in my life, I, the professional memorial counselor, was faced with the sobering reality my clients bring to me every day, the fact that death and the loss of loved ones suck! The reality was, I was still suffering a bushel basket of grief and my mental state was in no way ready to handle the emotional anguish of another grieving client.
But sometimes miracles happen and the moment you feel like the storms of life are about to drown you in sorrow, someone throws you a life jacket of hope. That morning, a couple walked through the office door who had traveled a hundred miles to see me. I had never met Kris and Rod before but our coming together that day was surely divine providence. The same week my brother had died, they too suffered a startling loss. Their son Miles, a strapping young man on the high school wrestling team, had suddenly collapsed and died during a wrestling match. He had been born with a rare heart defect that remained undetected until that fatal moment on the mat, in front of all of his team mates. The parents, still in shock and consumed by their grief, were looking to find a memorial that would appropriately represent their cherished son.
We were three weeping souls that auspiciously came together that day and poured our buckets of pain and suffering onto the floor of my office. Normally it's my job to ask penetrating emotional questions to help clients dig deeper into the meaningful stories of their loved ones. I instinctively act out of love and care for the grieving family. But today was uniquely different.
Today, I desperately needed love and support for the loss of my brother as much as Kris and Rod looked for comfort with their son. We were mutual guiding spirits that day and established a trusting bond together that would buoy us over the next couple months as the memorial design process for their son's monument evolved.
It was during our final meeting together that Kris turned to me out in the parking lot and looked directly into my eyes, "Don, thank you for helping me understand and process Miles' death. You, better than anyone inside or outside my family, helped me connect to the loving gift he still is to me." I replied that fortuitously she had done the same and helped me rise from the emotional abyss of my brother's death to understand how his spirit stills lives in me. Together, we remembered the gifts, lessons and stories that both Bob and Miles gave to life. We gave honor and respect to the legacy of their lives and recognized their unending spirit within us.
Death is just a reality of life and it is a gift that helps us anchor understanding, appreciation and the value of living in the moment. For the past 30 years, I have built my career around helping people connect with the stories that represent their loved ones and finding ways to represent those legacy memories on a granite memorial.
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