On Fridays I like to share experiences I’ve had during the week with patients and in my personal life that I’ve found significant. Unfortunately, over the past week I’ve had to deal with the tragic death of my sister at the age of 43. She was extremely healthy and had just run her first marathon in December. She and I were very close, and she leaves behind a husband and two young children. Today, I’d like to share some thoughts I’ve had from that tragedy that hopefully you will find meaning in.
Something that inspired me. About twenty years ago, I talked to a friend of mine about why he became a chiropractor. He told me that he had been spinning his wheels in life until he went to the funeral of a friend of a friend. At the end of the funeral, everyone stood up and gave the man a standing ovation. My friend told me that it occurred to him if someone could be celebrated like that in death, then he should be doing so much more in his life. It became the turning point in his life.
My sister was an organ donor, and in being in such great shape, those organs will be put to good use. At the hospital, they do an “honor walk” when someone donates their organs. This is where people can line up and watch as the body is brought to the operating room where the organs will be removed and then sent out to save lives.
My sister was accompanied by family as she was brought on her honor walk which is common. What was not common however, lining the halls on both sides were over 300 people, all of which were family and friends that made trips from all over the country to be there. The doctors and nurses said that they had never seen an honor walk attended by so many people. Just like that story I had heard years ago; my sister ended her life with a standing ovation. It inspires me to do even more with my own life and the gifts I’ve been given.
Something my sister taught me. As I mentioned, my sister had people immediately come to be near her when they heard what had happened. Few of these people were local and most made long trips to get there. What stood out to me most, was that these people were from every part of her life. Childhood, old dance friends, college friends, law school friends, work friends, old neighbors, and more.
It occurred to me that to keep that close with so many people from her past must have required a lot of effort. To be honest, I am excellent at pushing myself to the limit physically and mentally but have often failed to make effort in reaching out to people.
What my sister taught me was to go the extra mile. Pick up the phone and make another call, reach out to someone you haven’t heard from recently, go the extra step for the people important to you. My sister did that, and as more and more people showed up to see her, I realized I need to as well.
How am I doing? Many people have reached out to me to show their support and ask how I’m doing. Having lost my brother-in-law (and best friend) less than two years ago at the age of 32, people know I am no stranger to these tragedies, and many have expressed worry for me.
I believe in times of crisis; you will fall back to the level of your training. While nothing can fill the hole of my sister’s loss (for me or others), I have spent the last 10 years or more teaching myself to overcome adversity in any form. Though I am deeply saddened, I will continue to move forward with faith, focus, ferocity, positivity, and more. I would never allow this tragedy to serve as an excuse to fall apart. I will continue to become a stronger leader and look to help my family and my sister’s family in every way possible. As I did when my brother-in-law passed, I will live my life in a manner that honors them. This means that I will give the very best I can of myself until one day, it is my time to go.
Something I loved. As most of you know, I coach 11–12-year-old boys in football. Most I have coached since age 7 and they have become like sons to me. On Saturday, I returned to coaching after being in Texas with my sister and family. Before our game, one of my players came up to me with a sealed envelope and gave me a hug. He told me to open it when I got home.
Inside the envelope was a handwritten card with two meaningful Bible verses and a note that told me he had been thinking of me, praying for me, and that he loved me. I cried as I read it, but in 46 years of life, it was the most touching card I’ve ever received. That young man gave me a boost of strength with his words, and I truly appreciated it.
In life, the people that pick us up when we are down are not always those you’d expect. That 11-year old’s card picked me up in a big way and reminded me of some important things. He gave me extra strength when I needed it and it meant the world to me. At some point, you may be that person to someone you would not think and someone you might not expect may be that person for you.
Some quotes my sister loved.
“Be that kind soul that makes everybody feel like a somebody.”
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” – Fred Rogers
“Those we love never truly leave us. There are things that death cannot touch.” – Jack Thorne
“How you deal with the hardest days defines who you truly are.”
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