I have a good friend whose career path and mine intersected several times throughout the years as we attempted to make a living. He contacted me several days ago to alert me to the fact that Edward DeBartolo Jr. was being inducted into the Football Hall of Fame.
I had to laugh when I got the email because this DeBartolo thing has been a running joke between Kim and me for years. Kim, in his days as a college student at Youngstown State, had been a driver for Edward DeBartolo Sr. Also from Youngstown; Edward DeBartolo Sr. was beyond rich and owned a bunch of shopping malls. When Kim graduated from college, Mr. DeBartolo Sr. wanted Kim to stay on with his company. Instead, Kim went to work for Kraft Foods selling Birdseye Cool Whip. I know…right?
This career decision to go sell Cool Whip instead of going to work for one of the richest men in America has been a running joke between the two of us for years. Years later, the two of us toss this hot potato around with it normally ending up with me saying to him, “Kim, what in the hell were you thinking when you quit working for the DeBartolo’s?” The two of us would throw out a handful of “What if’s”…I wonder what my life would have been like if I stayed? Kim even joked that he bet he would have been the one making the presentation speech for Eddie Junior at the Hall of Fame Induction ceremonies in Canton on Saturday.
These “what if” moments aren’t confined to just Kim. We all have them. I bet there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t speculate on a decision I made in my own life. If we are being honest with each other, I bet you have the same questions and doubts too.
Over the course of the last few days, Kim and I went back and forth over this “What if” scenario in a half a dozen emails. I shared with Kim several blog posts I wrote in which I commented that as I have gotten older I am beginning to think that my life has pretty much fallen into place…that all the puzzle pieces I once thought didn’t fit into my life’s puzzle, now fit right where they were always meant to be. I have learned to cherish the good times…but more importantly I have come to understand that the bad times were just as important to my journey as the good times. For in the bad times, I learned how to survive, and to grow as a human being. I tell my kids all the time that life is God’s teachable moment with us.
Seven years ago, Kim suffered an aortic aneurysm. Most people who suffer one of these die almost instantly since all the blood being pumped out of your heart ends up pumped out into your chest cavity. The few who make it to the emergency room usually leave with a sheet over their head out the back entrance. Kim, for reasons known only to God, survived. He didn’t make it out unscathed. He lost a leg as a result of all this. He has been unable to work because his strength was sapped from him, and he is now on disability.
I am going to end this post with Kim’s words from this morning. They are so profound that I had to share them with you. Let this be a teachable moment for you, as they were for me.
“The past seven years have been an incredible journey for me. I have met people, beautiful, friendly, enriching people I never would have met if this hadn't happened. And, my relationship with my wife, as a couple, is closer than it ever was. We have been thru a lot, and she has never blinked, not once. I see in her the most beautiful person God ever created. People often ask me if I am mad at God for this, how dramatically and drastically my life changed in the blink of any eye. To say I never asked why would be untruthful, because the very first few weeks in the hospital I did ask God why. That is just weak human nature. But, I was never upset with God, never once, not even for a second, was I ever mad at God. Why, because I love Him, and I know He loves me. The reason, my feelings, my acceptance can be summed up in a very simple statement: six little words say it all, He is God, I am not. “