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A Leader Is Best #2

Tuesday, February 14

Dr. D's last blog was about the 1999 bonfire tragedy that happened on the Texas A&M campus. In that writing, she chose to address the traditions of the university and the grieving of the students after the accident.

For over a year, writing about my mother was my outlet in therapy. It still happens every time I write. I'm conscious of it, and I try to change the record, but it comes up and aids me in relating to different topics. I'm going to really try not to make this a watery eye read, so stay with me.

Whenever I blog these days, my thoughts tend to drift toward the trauma of losing my mother, and how I allowed myself to cover up those emotions because at that time, the entire family needed me, and they all relied on me. Mom had three brothers and five sisters in the U.S. But still left me as the person to choose what should happen if she couldn’t make a decision to continue living.

In the first 10 days, I was home, my entire life was changed. I unpacked a U-Haul from DFW in Canyon, took my mother to the hospital, took her computer to the hospital so she could grade papers, cooked Thanksgiving dinner in anticipation of her recovery, and set up the Christmas tree thinking she would be back any day.

Then 22 days later, the doctor called and said she had a 3% chance of surviving the day. It was the absolute worst day of my life. I remember calling family members on the way to the hospital; calling family members afterward. Being a fully clothed 41-year-old man curled up in a ball in bed, at that moment, my life was over.

In the days afterward, I was called upon to make funeral arrangements, write an obituary, make space in the home for people to stay, change utilities, and find a casket. When the family came with me to look for a casket, I had chosen a bright red mahogany casket (the same color in the photo above). Everyone overlooked it and ignored me. I asked my 14-year-old niece what her grandmother's favorite color was, and she instantly gravitated back to the red mahogany casket. Everyone was so proud of her for picking it, and I was able to give her that win. She needed it and in a way, I needed someone around me to win too.

Writing the obituary was rough because there was so much history that I found was made up, and even more that I simply didn't know. I had to dig deep to write one of those, between collectively losing my mind, having an unexpected house full of uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, stuff breaking, running out of almond milk, and let us not forget our brutal the Texas Panhandle winters can be.

Looking back on it, I think mom knew that I wouldn't know how to grieve in the right way. So she left me tasks to organize and execute to help me find balance for my time. I think she was continuing to show me leadership techniques even during that time of planning. Without those tasks, I probably would've just chosen to be quiet for the rest of my life. For me, that part of leadership is the worst way to learn, but the best way to implement the techniques that build worthwhile traits to guide a leader.

Being forced to be a leader in times of crisis or grief, makes a person see what they are made of to others, and more importantly, to themselves. For me, helped me rid myself of uncertainty and needing time to think through a decision. At that point in my life, I learned that making a decision on the fly wouldn't be as devastating as I would argue in my mind. In that grief, I also had many disagreements with family members on how to do things. In those moments, I would stop, listen, and ask myself how this be done if the roles were reversed. This thought process led to me understanding how others' grieve can be stressful, but in the end, we were all called on to serve at this point in mom's life.

After that entire process, I was able to take the experience and apply things that I learned in life. I learned that taking things too seriously in life isn't worth it if it brings overwhelming stress. I learned that being prepared for the end is the best thing you can do for your family in the future, and it allows a freedom that sometimes can't be described to others. Having your funeral plot, Last Will and Testament, and even your life insurance policies in order allows for a burden to be lifted off your shoulders to live a life of servitude that can truly benefit others. It was through that moment I was able to find my own path of leadership. But I still wish mom was here to see it.

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