Loyalty & Legacy

It’s been almost 4 weeks since I stepped up to be the guardian of my late best friend’s mother, who has Alzheimer’s. I was shaken awake by something that night 4 weeks ago, and I know without a shadow of a doubt it was our friend Matt. I checked my messages immediately and noticed one from our friend Megan, worried about Matt’s brother. We reached out and found out he was safe – but quickly discovered Matt’s mother was not being cared for as she should be cared for while living with Alzheimer’s. We military folks don’t stand by on the sidelines when someone needs help (friend or stranger) – it’s not in our DNA. We jump into crisis action planning mode with relative ease – planning, rallying logistics, organizing personnel, and much more. Through our expansive network of resources and people – we get things done.

And that’s exactly what I did, placing a mass group message call for resources and local “boots on the ground” to go get eyes on Matt’s mom, to find out how bad it was. In mere hours Matt and my friends wired me $1250 to help his mom, the resources keep coming each day from near and far. The power of Matt’s legacy made so many amazing friends step up without hesitation to help! For that I am grateful! His mom says it’s like a “fairy tale” having all these angels helping her. Well it’s what she deserves! A woman who raised three sons as a single mom, one son being her sister’s son she adopted at 18 months after Carol died of cancer. Ralyn Rossi is a woman who persevered, put herself through school to be a pharmacy tech, and deserves this “adventure and fairy tale” in her years now living with Alzheimer’s

The last 4 weeks have been incredibly powerful for my own mental and spiritual wellness. I still remember the last few conversations I had with Matt before his death last December. He had finally reached out for advice and help with his mom and her Alzheimer’s – we started to set up a game plan, support groups for him, local memory care resources. The same resources I sent off to his brother months ago. (Matt’s initial goal was to turn their new home into a smart home so he could do everything from Laundry to keeping her engaged with games on iPads from his smartphone) I found the iPad for his mom with a sticky note of apps to download. So this weekend I set those up and will have them ready for her in her new apartment with 24/7 monitoring and continued companion care from her care angel Betty! (Talk about destiny, Matt’s birth certificate from 1976 showed the two people who delivered him were Dr. Rose and OB nurse Betty! Whoaaaa man!! no way!!! As he would say if he were alive!)

I am sure he was laughing his butt off up there watching me try to hack his washer last Friday, only to realize he put it in child lock mode (thank you Google!) And again laughing at me while I taught his mom how to use her new iPhone I set up for her. (I child proofed that too). We were laughing as we two ladies disassembled what felt like a 2,000 lb hand carved wood and marble king sized bed to sell for rent money!”

Laughter truly is the best medicine and his mom was laughing right alongside me as I had to squeeze through the gate to exit the storage unit because neither of us could find the exit button (Thelma and Louise part 2…I’ll share part one story later.) My heart is full! 💗

I still remember our last conversation a few days before he died. He was sitting impatiently at CVS getting his mom her memory meds so we texted for a few. Later he called me after she was settled in bed and released his day.

I felt the caregiver stress in his voice, a sense of hopelessness creeping in. And then he asked me, “Erin how the hell do you do it all and not lose your mind?” For years he was always one of four close friends I could release both my stress and blessings to without any judgement or “you should do this! You should do that!” So in that moment it was my turn to help him. I said simply “I can do it because I have friends like you here for me when I need support or laughter.”

He chuckled and said “I’ve got one for you! I found out where mom was putting the house garbage – in the trunk of her car!” We laughed for a few minutes and I told him “She’s lucky to have you Matt! She cared for you and your brothers all those years and I’m proud of you for being loyal to her and returning home!”

He switched the conversation back to me telling me how happy he was for my “freedom” and retiring from the Air Force, he sent me a screenshot of his calendar with my “Freedom” weekend clearly marked (he was ready to come see me retire from Big Blue!) he was excited for me to finally (after hundreds of interviews) to get a great job, “Now I really won’t be living in a van down by the river!” I told him. To which he replied, I’d never let you live in a van down by the river. We always seemed to quote movie lines…I now know why (his DVD collection was as extensive as mine) We laughed and said goodnight.

Three days later while I was writing my term paper on Ethical Leadership and thinking “Matt would love this paper and these case studies of mine!” A few moments after that thought crossed my mind, my phone rang.

Our friend Tom who was stationed in Korea called and said “Matt’s dead!” “Matt who?” I said. “Erin, Matt Rossi is dead! I don’t know how, but he’s gone!”

I couldn’t believe it and argued with my friend, No, that’s not possible! I just talked to him three days ago! No!!!! I hung up and immediately dialed his number – an older woman answered, took down my name and said yes he’s gone Erin – a bad car accident.”

Death hurts, but the death of a good person really sucks ass! In the early weeks I looked tirelessly for signs of his presence, read old texts, stared at our conversations, wondered “what the hell is the purpose of all this?” He wasn’t afraid of death! He lived a life of adrenaline, adventure and always as a free-spirit! Hell last year on the thru-hike of the AT for @milesfornolan he called me after surviving a fall from Dragon’s Tooth where some Swedes or Dutch hikers saved his life. I was scared for him but he wasn’t. He lived his life with gusto, love, loyalty, grace, humor and much more!

Since Matt’s death, I have felt his spirit around my kids and I often. His closest friends told me at his wake in April they too felt an energy around them. His deep love, loyalty, and care for us during his short life on earth is now manifesting itself to help us care for his mother – to help me care for her from 1,444 miles away.

Leaving her last Sunday was by far the hardest thing I have faced since 2015 when I had to leave my children for 8 weeks with my ex husband’s parents. Matt knew how hard it was for me to hear them missing me, the fun we had, them asking me why their dad couldn’t keep them that summer, me wrestling with the non-stop verbal abuse (texts and calls) from my now ex-husband who stayed in Mississippi where he worked and had a secret life.

What I didn’t know then and found out this past weekend in Dallas, was my best friend supported me with weekly check-in calls that summer (talking to me almost the entire 122 mile drive every Friday and on most return trips every Sunday) he was present for me when I needed a friend. He talked to me and really listened, interested in my life, what I was learning about myself as a leader among marines, how this chapter would make me a better mother, a better leader, and so much more. He did all this for me (and probably other friends that summer too) all while he was going through his alcohol rehabilitation program.

I had no idea until his close friend Nancy and I started putting together the timelines this past weekend, timelines from his DUI after years of coping with PTSD and more. He was the strongest person I’ve ever met, always problem solving for himself and others, always the altruistic, soul driven, loving friend & man! Far from perfect, but a perfect friend! Sure he made mistakes and as I have discovered, kept reminders of those mistakes as far back as a ticket he received as a teenager. He was a perfect friend to us all!

If you are lucky to find loyalty like that in a friend, family member, or partner…I pray you are lucky enough to repay that loyalty! Hold tight to that person because they are rare! That my friends is a legacy worth having!

The road ahead caring for Matt’s mom has been paved clear and obstacles are removed daily because of Matt’s legacy of loyalty and service onto others! In helping his mother, I’ve gained a great peace over my own soul – I’ve felt love come from so many directions for her and for me!

I never expected my life after the Air Force would be like this. But it’s been something my kids and I wouldn’t trade for the world! As Ralyn said to me again this morning “Everyday is a new adventure!” Her words are both sweet and sad because her memory fades daily, yet her hope remains. Her son was a man of adventure and his mom and I have had some adventures already and there sure will be more to come!

Only LOVE!

Respect & Trust

It’s been a few months since I’ve written on leadership, yet during the last eight weeks or so I have witnessed highs and lows of leadership around me. The highs have come almost daily at in my new career outside of the Air Force where I coordinate safety and emergency preparedness, training, incident command exercises, and so much more for an amazing community college in Northern California. It’s been almost 6 months in this new role and I can say the trust and respect vested in me by my leaders and those I’m entrusted to teach and keep safe is a blessing. The trust and respect was earned yes – it was also given to me based upon my job qualifications, my knowledge, skills, commitment; but also because I give respect to everyone I work with and teach.

Why? Because I truly believe that’s the key to building trust on a team, in an organization and of course in a personal relationship. It’s all about giving respect to others. It’s all about behavior! Does your behavior in life reflect a person who builds trust and respect? Are you respectful of others, yourself and your personal development? Do you honestly look within you to make changes to your habits that hinder you from giving and receiving trust and respect?

Throughout my Air Force career, trust and respect rated high on the list of what followers wanted to receive from their leaders. Even into my retirement, friends and also former troops of mine still reach out to me throughout the week for advice on trust and respect. Thank goodness I have over twenty years of examples of the good, bad, and the ugly when it comes to work and personal relationships where trust and respect was either high or low.

Every person I’ve ever taught or led wanted their leaders to respect them as people first, trust their job knowledge, trust their commitment to the mission and so much more. So why would this be any different in a personal relationship? It’s not, every troop, friend and stranger I’ve listened too the past twenty years (myself included) rated trust and respect up there with honesty when it came to all relationships.

I am going to break from leadership briefly and focus on the other aspect of this blog (love), I’d like you to close your eyes and recall the last time someone trusted and respected you enough to reveal something they struggled with, a fear, overcoming an addiction, personal struggle, mental illness, loss, grief, or anything else they were battling?

What did that feel like? For me it feels a lot like love. The kind of love I want to receive from a best friend and partner one day.

The photo above was taken by a man I care deeply for. A man who true to his words on the phone in May, shared openly and honestly with me when we reconnected in person in June. I wasn’t scared one bit about his journey, his truths and I respect him immensely for having the courage to share with me, to trust me. He was the second man in my personal life to share his raw truths without showing fear. I’m twelve short weeks he also allowed me to share some of my truths with him after building trust. Vulnerability is the key to trust not only in a friendship or personal relationship – It was the #1 thing which brought me great success as a leadership instructor, supervisor and leader in the Air Force. Sharing growth moments, struggles and triumphs without fear – the human side of existing was and still is what those I led seek. It’s also what they give onto others during their career and personal struggles – further nurturing trust and respect.

When it comes to where I am at now with the man who opened my heart to love, I accept that I may have simply been a friend he needed at a pivotal personal growth moment in his life – or maybe more? I presently do not know where I stand with him – and that’s okay, I have patience. I miss him a ton, but he’s on an important journey for himself.

Why am I okay with the unknown with this brave and strong man?

Because I have nothing but respect for him and a whole lot of love (compassion, understanding and faith – faith that he’s honestly seeking to heal himself for himself & his beautiful kids).

He is worthy of respect, trust and real love as all people are. We are all worthy and deserving of this both personally and professionally!

My dad, taught me a lasting lesson in love, trust and respect in his dying days everyone should practice daily while they are alive.

give trust to get trust

give respect to get respect

love and allow love without fear

The best gift I earned from over twenty years in the Air Force, was the love that continues to come my way from my Airmen and tribe. I am their trusted and respected person always even in retirement! They remind me that I am worth respecting and deserve a man (a best friend) who will walk this journey of life with me in mutual trust, respect and love!

Love & Leadership,

Erin

Self-Actualization Is Happiness

Everyone has something that drives them towards a higher purpose – a calling. We all have motives and values for chasing dreams.

Sometimes people quit on their dreams, they settle for the safety of a good job, they stay in a toxic relationship for the kids (I did this myself for 6 years too long, yet I finally stepped out fearlessly and took back my freedom – William Wallace Braveheart style)

Sometimes the people closest to us in our lives become mountains standing between us and our soul’s purpose. We want and hope for a relationship that feels effortless, passionate, uplifting, loyal, and purpose driven (without the Titanic flashback scene and lost love on the bottom of the ocean)

We want a job that doesn’t feel like a job but ignites our purpose, is fulfilling and doesn’t feel like work at all. When we are fearless and driven for the soul’s purpose we become better fathers, better mothers, better significant others, and better in any role we fill. Why? Because this is how true happiness is realized. Happiness is inside our heart and mind…from the deepest part of our soul!

Serving in the military is the highest form of serving one can choose and yet so many never become leaders worth emulating long term.

In my thousands of Air Force classroom lectures, police training classes, and one-on-one sessions with my mentors and protégés over the years, one thing was always the common denominator when we faced career or personal setbacks.

We were not being true to their purpose. Our full potential was not being stoked! Abraham Maslow explained this in his hierarchy of needs as Self-Actualization

Dictionary.com defines self-actualization as

“The realization or fulfillment of one’s talents and potentialities, especially considered as a drive or need present in everyone.

When we feel stuck in careers and relationships it’s because our focus has been disrupted, our drive has been blocked by something.

That something is fear!

Through the years as a leader, leadership instructor and course developer for the Air Force I saw many people who had amazing potential yet something stopped them from the next career milestone, from having fulfilling relationships, something stopped them from chasing their dreams. Fear stopped them before they ever could get started. Why fear? Fear thrives in the mind and will cripple us if we allow it!

When you replace fear with fearlessness (take away the Ego’s power over you) you conquer many mountains to reach your full potential!

Fear can lead to crippling depression, anxiety and much more. Look fear in the eyes and choose a life of realizing your talents, your purpose!

The painter must paint if he is to become a master of his medium.

One of my favorite artists, Vincent Van Gogh painted many masterpieces yet as a man he never reached his self-actualization. He had crippling mental illness and died poor. He died poor in the spirit…his spirit was defeated by his life experiences yet now his paintings are called masterpieces.

His painting Starry Night has been a constant in my life journey of healing and becoming my true self. I stood before his painting starry night in 2001 shortly after graduating from the Air Force Basic Instructor School and I was only a few blocks away from the art school I planned on attending in 1998 after graduating high school. Instead my drive to serve and lead others and not become a “starving artist” led me to a beautiful and purposeful career as a leader and cop in the Air Force. This past weekend a friend from my early years and I reconnected after 22 years. Starry Night and living an authentic life of experiences for our kids and ourselves as individuals. I know I gained a new perspective on many things during our hours of talks on subjects ranging from life’s ups and downs to our personal dreams. We both faced some fears at different points in our lives the past 22 years and I pray the fear becomes fearlessness in his life purpose and endeavors. I know what it’s like to live with fear because I was afraid inside my home for almost 17 years. Yet because I had a solid foundation in the Air Force, an amazing group of mentors and peers who lifted me up from 0730-1630 each day for 10 years. I also knew my purpose and patiently worked towards honing my talents and achieving my dreams despite my circumstances in my home. I had a clear purpose and belief I was living my soul’s purpose as a mother and Air Force Leader.

What many may not know is that Vincent Van Gogh painted my favorite painting from an insane asylum. His mental health kept him from his full potential in my opinion and date I say he lived with fear holding him back. I believe Starry Night didn’t even scratch the surface of his God-given talent, yet it was always the painting that popped up at pivotal evolutions or mountains I was climbing in life. My friend who so reconnected with had big dreams from the first time I met him and My soul was thrilled to find out he achieved one of his main dreams so young!

Each day I meet people at different phases in their lives and so many have dreams of doing work worth something…work that fuels their passion and stimulates their minds. This type of work is not work at all, it’s our talents being used as they were meant to be used. Using my own talents as a teacher and leader in the Air Force (and still today) helped me survive and thrive through the most difficult mountains in my personal and professional life. I was often bruised and almost broken, yet my purpose and willpower to live my dreams always pushed me to know better, do better, and be better for those around me…those who depend upon me.

Leading yourself up the mountains in life to reach the summit (your destiny) is sometimes extreme. There are mudslides, fires and avalanches which try to take us down (homes taken away, jobs lost, marriages ending, finances in ruin, addictions, infidelity, and much more)

When this happens…

-Choose to know and love yourself first! This is the only way to grow outward.

-Believe to your subconscious all the universe IS working to bring you to the other side of the mountain stronger, gentler, happier and LOVED!

-Never quit

-There are friends and family who believe in you – let them in!

-There are people around you ready to align you with your purpose – allow them to propel you forward (six degrees of separation)

When you seek and take action for your true purpose not for selfish gains, but for yourself…

Then and only then will your work and home relationships flourish, you receive and achieve your dreams from the universe, but only if you lead yourself up those mountains fearlessly and honestly! LIVE who you are meant to be!

Then and only then will you gain lasting love, success and most of all happiness.

Love & Leadership,

Erin

Purpose Conquers Fear – But Only If You Climb

There is a line in my favorite book, The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho where the Alchemist says to Santiago…

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams.”

I have spent thousands of hours over the last 16 years with my Airmen, friends, neighbors, students and even strangers helping them through times of great challenges and suffering. As a leader, my job was always to see the potential in people and many times I found they were crippled by the fear of the suffering to see how successful they could be. That is…until they finally believed in themselves and started to climb the mountain, knock down hurdles, achieve some of their short term goals and feel empowered! They realized and accepted the fact that their heart was never going to suffer if they were true to themselves!

I’ve climbed many of life’s most painful mountains as a leader, mother and friend. Both my own trials and I’ve climbed mountains alongside many in my tribe.

For years I would hear senior Air Force leaders say things like “There are peaks and valleys as a leader, embrace them, learn from them!”

Sure there are valleys, but we cannot stay in those valleys! We must have the mental fortitude to climb! Mental fortitude as my best friend said when he was staring at a 4,000ft mountain, his body breaking down in pain from over a thousand miles of hiking on the Appalachian Trail – “Mental Fortitude – just close your eyes and go!” He shared this mantra with me at several valleys in my own life and always made me snap back into Climbing!

It takes a lot of intrinsic motivation and mental fortitude to get to the top of the mountains of life and leadership. But if you don’t start climbing you’ll never realize your full potential as a human being on this amazing life journey. Life is meant to live purposefully, in the service of others to leave them better when you leave. I’m grateful to have made a lasting impact on so many people during my 20 year Air Force career and am excited in my new venture to make an equal if not bigger impact on my fellow humans!

So go out there and climb!!!

Love & Leadership,

Erin

Legacy

Yesterday we met up in Dallas, Texas with over 30 friends to remember our comrade and brother Matt Rossi. We rekindled old friendships and formed new ones. We did it exactly as Matt would have done – with great food, drinks and lighthearted stories, mixed with messages about life’s deeper meaning and purpose. Matt was an incredible leader in the Air Force and like many of us in the room yesterday, he faced trials and triumphs throughout his life. But he never ever forgot what mattered – checking on his buddies, living life connecting with others, being in awe of nature, all while leaving behind a legacy with every person he met on his journey. His legacy as a tough, yet fun servant leader in the Air Force extended into his retirement where in 2017-2018 he set off to find the purpose of it all. His personal legacy and purpose took him back home to what mattered most – family. I could write for years about what I’ve learned as a leader, mother, sister and woman from my best friend these last ten years. But instead as several of us said in the pub yesterday, his legacy – his energy lives on every single day in the way we live! He taught us the greatest lesson of all – Live life purposefully with kindness, compassion, and care for our fellow human always! Then and only then we create the most beautiful endless legacy!

Thank you Matty for all the unconditional love and time you gave to us as your friend and brother! We will see you again one day!

🏞🌄🍀🍻

The Leadership Journey Continues

I am! A woman, mother, daughter, sister, Airman, teacher, mentor, friend and leader. Soon I will be an officially retired Veteran of the Air Force. The greatest blessing I have had in this life is to lead and teach others how to seek their purpose while leading from the seat of compassion and care. Many have become great leaders of character far beyond my expectations. For over twenty years I woke up daily with zeal and duty to do my best leading in any duty the Air Force asked me to do.

On Monday I will start my new vocation wearing heels instead of combat boots for the first time in over twenty years. I could not have asked for a better opportunity then to take everything I learned and gained from my time leading others and serving in Air Force and share it with the state of California in three different areas. Both the good and the bad experiences throughout my first vocation being a Security Forces Airman taught me the incredible power of love and leadership.

I’ve spent my adult years upholding oaths, and serving with integrity, grace and compassion always. My last pair of combat boots have stood beside my Airmen after a shooting, a terrorist attack, suicides, some of the hardest law enforcement responses, promotions, awards, standing up for justice, saving lives, protecting the community, births, marriages, divorces, sending troops off on deployments, and supporting their families. These boots will proudly stay with me as a reminder of the paths my troops and I walked together these last twenty years. For every Security Forces member who feels they aren’t seen or heard – you are and will always be protected in your personal and professional lives by me all the days of my life! To my mentors – thank you for your unending grace and love given to me on my journey then and now!

Wherever you are in your leadership journey keep going! Serve others from the heart and believe in your higher purpose. Be grateful for the lessons you learn from both good and bad circumstances and leaders you serve with. Always, Always always stand up for what is right and just! Never sacrifice your character for a promotion, a job, power, or to stroke your own ego. And above all lead with LOVE.

Love & Leadership,

Erin

When a Leader’s Job is Done

When a leader’s job is done, her time is up, and she moves on – the job is only done if the followers she’s developed and cared for are better off because she was there. Far too often leaders concern themselves with the next promotion or self-preservation and forget it is their sole responsibility to ready their replacements. I knew back when I led my high school track & cross country teams, it was my duty to train the younger runners so they could carry the baton after I graduated. I carried this mindset with me during my 20 years as an Air Force leader. Every endeavor I pursued was to teach others how to be better, do better and know better – how to be a servant leader who deliberately developed their fellow Airmen.

Today I offered to help a new Airmen from my squadron who was lost on base. When I asked her if we had met before, she smiled and said we had not met, but she heard I was a kind leader who taught a lot of great things. She followed up with how excited she was to learn those things from her supervisor. That’s the ultimate compliment – to know my Airmen we’re taking what I taught them and sharing the lessons with new Defenders! They are passing the baton!

I am so proud of the Security Forces Airmen I have been blessed to lead these past three years. They’ve taught me so much about what drives and motivates them. We’ve faced challenges together head on, I have put my stripes to use for what is right, made tough calls, made house calls, I have coached them, guided them, sat with them, treated them with dignity and most importantly believed in them and all they can achieve. Today I am confident they will continue take up the baton and lead with dignity, purpose, kindness and humility. They will protect the force day in and day out – they are already training their replacements and making this retiring Operations Superintendent proud to have been a tiny part of their leadership journey. My job here is done on Active Duty in a few short weeks and I will miss seeing and mentoring them every day, but I’m fully confident in their readiness to take on challenges, lead well, and train their replacements. One day when their job is done may they reflect on the journey that led them and appreciate all those they led and cared for.

Love & Leadership,

Erin

How Grief Shapes A Leader

As I write this entry tonight, waves of grief are hitting me hard and I am letting them flow in and out. I reflected back on the grief I felt in 2016 when my father lost his battle with cancer. Matt was the first person I called to cry to and share my grief with. He listened without a word and was “fully present” with me, his friend. Then at the end of the conversation he reminded me of the grief prior to my dad’s death and how it shaped me as a leader. He gave me specific examples he remembered where I shared with him how my experience with loss helped countless students and troops of my own. Grief is a natural part of life and leaders who go through the stages of grief, reflect upon it, and grow from it are better equipped when a follower comes to their office or calls them with tragic news. As an Operations Superintendent these last three years the grief my troops have faced, far surpasses anything I could have predicted years prior. Grief when expressed healthily as I’ve learned with the death of my best friend, has created an inspiration and gratitude that far surpasses what was in my soul before. The richness his friendship and grace brought to my kids and I will never be forgotten. It will ALWAYS get paid forward. Even though he’s gone from this earth he’s all around us – his friends, family and comrades. His wisdom helped us on earth to be better people, to find the silver lining as a leader – to give hope to those who follow us into the unknown!

The photo above was taken the week I went home for my father’s memorial service. A tender moment with my daughter who crawled over to her mama and said to me “Mama, I’m sorry you’re sad.” These words she would say again a few years later as I cried over Matt’s death.

So many times as a leader (too many to count), I’ve held my troops hands when they lost a child, lost a husband, a sister, father…a mother. I’ve learned the grief we experience does indeed shape us as leaders. But only if we channel it for inspiration and heart-based leadership of our people. Most importantly grief can make us a better person.

Thank you Matt for teaching us what really matters in life and leadership! I miss you my brother!

Love & Leadership,

Erin

Grief Healing – Dear Matt

Dear Matt,

I’ve typed, deleted, typed, deleted and here I am typing again words I have on my heart, but struggle to get them out. You were my closest ally and my biggest cheerleader these last ten years. You were the first person to congratulate me on the birth of my daughter, somehow finding the time from a deployed location to give me a call. You kept me laughing with jokes then quickly switched to Socratic real-talk on my two-hour road trips between Camp Lejeune and Ft. Bragg back in 2015. You kept me focused on the good stuff about life when I was suffering or heartbroken. You listened to me as I grieved the loss of my uncles, my Airman, my grandma, my father, and my friends.

I woke up this morning with a deep appreciation of the gift of friendship and brotherhood you gave me these last ten years. Everything I learned about kindness, seeing others as they are and leading them from the heart I learned from you. Your legacy lives on and will continue to live on in so many people. You inspired us all to know better, do better, and be better. I thank you for all the friendship and compassion you gave 100% of the time to me. I pray I was able to give you 90% of what you gave to me. I miss being able to shoot you a text about something funny or serious. I miss hearing your voice tell me to “go! get after it!” The way you supported me as a fellow human being is a beautiful gift and it’s a gift I’ve been trying to return to others since seeing your personal example for the first time back in 2008. When others were concerned with medals, you had a half dozen medals laying in the back of your SUV…I’ll never forget what you said when a friend asked you about them being on the floor. You said “It’s never about the medals, it’s about doing good work for people!” You were always curious about the world, culture, human existence and self-actualization.  You inspired me to direct my energy towards these things. For all of your friendship, unconditional compassion and care…I thank you my brother, my friend!

Keep watch over us as I know you will. You may be gone from this earth, but nothing can remove you from our hearts. My Anam Cara we will meet again and until that day, we will all honor your life with the way we live ours.

Love & Leadership,

Erin

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