I was sitting in my garage a couple of weeks ago, as I tend to do after doing yard work (or during a great rain storm – one of my favourite things), contemplating some tough experiences I’ve had as of late. I saw my neighbour across the street, Ricardo drive past and wave as he proceeded to park in his driveway.
A bit of history… I’ve known Ricardo since moving in to my home a couple of years ago as a single Mom. Middle age, english isn’t his first language, lives with his partner and blended family. He’s self employed as a General Contractor so acquiring his skills with a few “handy man” jobs has been a wonderful asset having him so close by. He is always wearing a smile, offering to lend a hand or offering a kind word. He was open about being part of Alcoholics Anonymous, but more so, his accountability and sincere regret for how it effected not just his own life, but the lives of the ones who love him. Being a daughter of a (30yr sober) Alcoholic/long time member of AA, Dad, Ricardo’s candid, vulnerable honesty proved such a strong reflection to his character, also allowed me some insight and validation I never knew I needed. I’ve literally never heard him utter a single negative word about anyone.
So, on this day… I was feeling pretty deflated and down truth be told. I hear a voice from a short distance calling “hello my friend”… Ricardo appeared from the front of my vehicle, walking towards me with a smile. We spoke our pleasantries and he shared a bit insight to a few issues and snuggles he’s experiencing being a Dad, expressing heartfelt emotion of the difficulties that can surface surrounding watching children grow into their own, becoming young adults (a topic I can relate to as most parents can). I allowed him the floor, so to speak, to vent away as he so wished. He looked at me in silence for a couple of seconds – he then shared that in Dec. 2018, he was diagnosed with incurable, end stage prostate cancer. He put off the signs and symptoms and when he had no choice but to see his Dr. the results came back as they did. There’s no treatment or surgery, he’s being monitored and will be provided with management as the disease progresses, ” I was given 3% survival as my prognosis”. I sat beside him, with an expression I can only imagine was complete shock – I couldn’t even process emotion as I was so completely caught off guard. He said he was still working, but knows he can’t for much longer, he’s staying positive and motivated, pushing himself to get up even on the physically challenging days and chose to not share his news with his family until after New Years Eve 2019 as he wanted what could be his last Christmas with them, to be happy, joyous memories…. again – felt like I had been hit in the stomach with a bat at his complete strength and selflessness. “3% , thats what I’ve been given, to make the most of until I’m no longer able. I hold on to hope, love and my will – thats all I choose to do”. His youngest daughter walked across the street following this – so the tone had to change, we said goodbye… those are the only words I was able to provide him, “goodbye”.
2 weeks had passed since I had seen him outside. I had become almost haunted by the guilt that I hadn’t reached out, walked over, expressed not only concern and to offer support, but to let him know how deeply his words effected me that day. FINALLY, last week I was out watering the gardens one night, “Hello my friend”, carries through the night air in my direction – Ricardo. I see him turning the corner on my walkway wearing as always, a big smile. His first words “I haven’t seen you outside much these days, your truck seldom moves and I have the feeling something isn’t ok in your world, I hope I’m wrong”…. Seriously? He came to check in on me? After all he shared, and heard nothing from me following… My eyes welled up, fighting hard not to allow emotion to take over so I could get the words out, I shared some brief insight into my current situation, his faced dropped and tears appeared in his eyes, I stopped him with; “BUT”… and immediately went on to how he, being so open, vulnerable, honest and positive quite literally ignited something so powerful within me that day in the garage. How truly sorry I was & that I didn’t know how to reach out, as feared possibly triggering upset on a day that may have been a happy one, how evey day following I’ve thought about him & his family, how much I admire him, not just as a person, but as a partner to his spouce, dad and friend. How much strength and courage I take from just knowing him, and how our friendship makes me see things so differently and continues my efforts to continosly become a better, stronger vesion of me. I told him he is a Warrior of Courage and Kindness – that touches all lives lucky enough to meet him – and the upset and worry that I may not have ever had the chance to express these things to him – as I hadn’t seen him to be able to share. Needless to say, the encounter resulted in tears and a long tight hug, he leaned back and expressed “You have NO IDEA how much I needed to hear this today, thank you”. He thanked me??? Literally he changed my entire perspective that one day in the garage, he allowed me a life line I desperately needed at that exact moment – without havng a single idea I was strugglng… but he thanked me?…. once again, leaving me so humbled and blessed to know him.
My point here is this… we aren’t given a warranty, for some of us, our time may be up completely unexpected by simply being victims of circumstance. Here is one Man, given a medical hourglass with the sands filled to 3% – and he is choosing to make 100% out of that 3%. Please, don’t wait to “say” all you want to say, express your love, express how much someone means to you, how they’ve affected your life, allow those you may have wronged the apology they deserve, those who’ve inspired you, possibly from afar, in so many cases, they would have no idea. Don’t wait. Push passed possible pride and fear to make the effort. Regret and guilt are horrible, painful prisons we place ourselves in. Crush the “bars” and own your truth. Don’t save these words and actions for a possible podium at a memorial or worse, never allowing them out. SAY whats in your heart, and ALWAYS, please, let vulnerability, empathy & mostly, kindness, win. It may, just be the lifeline another needs. Proof again, that EVERYONE has a story we know nothing about.