What Do You Want?
I remember the day I took him to lunch. Dan wanted help to “discover his purpose”. As he sat across from me, intensely complaining about life (purely out of habit), I put my hand over his to pause him.
“Dan, pause.” I said. “Tell me something. What do you want?”
He made a funny face. I could tell I had just thrown him a curve ball so I continued. “If money, time and resources were no object, what would you want to do with your life?”
He thought for only a second, then passionately said, “I want to create clean air. I want to end air pollution so that my son, and all our children, can grow up breathing clean air.”
“Wow.” I said, very surprised as I sat back in my chair. I’m not sure what I expected but I know it wasn’t that. “That’s a very grand and noble cause.” I couldn’t help but notice the spark in his eyes. I could see how intense this topic was for him and for good reasons as I found out later.
“Okay, so do you know anything about establishing cleaner air? And if so, what do you think is your first step?”
He looked down at the stack of papers he placed in front of us, then at his brief case sitting on the floor. He looked back up at me and said, “Get a grant for the city for starters.”
He shared his concern for getting people to listen to him. But I believed with all my heart that if he could turn his passion into focused purpose, then he could make a huge impact.
I emphatically said, “Dan, if you’re meant to do this, God will make a way.” When I said those words – we had no idea what Dan’s “way” would soon become.
We worked on his pitch for an hour or so and then walked to my car. He put his hand on the roof top and I could see something was really bothering him. I said, “What is it Dan?”
He tapped the rooftop a few times and cleared his throat. “What if I need a renewing of my mind? What if I don’t know if I can really make it happen?”
I smiled and understood. I explained that it takes a person of great courage to admit they need a renewing of the mind. Dan knew his thinking was limited. He knew his unhealthy disbelieving thoughts pulled at him more than healthy thoughts did at that time. We all get that way some times I explained. “Finding freedom of the mind brings freedom of the spirit Dan. If your mind is captivated by unhealthy thinking, then you gain nothing except more of the unhealthy. But if you can change your thinking, you can liberate your spirit. If you can liberate your spirit then you can inspire countless people to share your vision. But have to believe anything’s possible.”
He said, “Okay. Then I’m ready. I want to think healthier thoughts and to live in a healthier way for my family’s sake and my own.”
When you believe – you CAN conceive
Dan got that grant and I’ll never forget the day he found out. I saw a man immediately become more confident and more determined to live out his purpose. He wanted to know his next steps. He wanted to start speaking, learning everything he could, and he wanted it now.
We worked together for a few weeks, teaching, talking, praying, learning the importance of clean living. Dan found massive clarity in his thinking. He spoke more often about clean air everywhere he went, and more importantly, everyone listened. He was excited and, as most people get when they find purpose, he often obsessed over it. He had finally become the difference maker he longed to be.
Rebecca, his compassionate wife, has a miraculous story, too, which you can read about here. She was his rock during that time. She could tell his life was changing rapidly, which meant her life was also changing quickly, and she wondered whether it was too much too soon. He was like a fast moving train that no one could stop.
Then The Diagnosis
When Dan was initially diagnosed with stage four lung cancer it pulled the carpet out from under everyone’s feet. After everything these two had been through, with his wife’s near fatal car accident, the severe traumatic brain injury recovery, working hard for the city and all he’d done to better his life, no one could have anticipated such a heavy blow.
Again, determined to overcome, Dan worked hard on;
- a healthy attitude
- surround himself with tremendous love and support from family and friends
- juicing greens
- staying away from sugar
- apply doctor recommended research and treatments
The combination of all this, plus specific treatments, created healthy lungs again in a short amount of time. It was miraculous, but he wasn’t out of the woods yet as the insidious disease spread.
“Dan,” I said firmly over the phone one day, “You absolutely must stay on this regime of healthy foods and a positive healthy mindset. I’d also recommend slowing it down a bit or you’ll wind up back at square one again with this dis-ease.”
He found it hard work to stay the course he said, which I understood. I was concerned he would fall back into old patterns like most people do if they’re not making a conscious effort to stay the course so I encouraged him to pay attention to the little things. I also reminded myself that lifestyle changes are never easy and often come with great sacrifice. In all honesty, I’m not 100% sure I would have done it either had I been in his shoes.
Staying Focused On The Peace Rallies
Four days ago, Dan sent me two thumbs up in a group message that I posted well over a year ago. I was confused by this because we hadn’t spoken in over five months. I kept track of his coming and goings via FB, and knew his mother-in-law had asked for prayers for a journey he would be taking. Since I was on my way to a funeral for a family member when I got this notification, I made a mental note to contact him once I returned home from my own 4 day trip. It would be nice to talk to him again.
Sunday night came and I opened FB to find a notification from his wife that nearly knocked the wind out of my chest. “Dan was in heaven” the message read.
My heart momentarily split in two. I instantly remembered the private message he sent a few days ago and quickly opened it. Dan had placed two thumbs up in a group text, from October of 2014, that said the following:
“In the past 6 years I’ve mentored entrepreneurs, both on line and off line, who’ve been trying to birth something really big. Many go into a different direction, but there are some who listen and rise above because they are ‘called’ to LIVE OUT what’s inside of them. If that’s you, then join me…”
Why did Dan put 2 thumbs up in a one year old message?
I received a voice message from Dan early in the year saying his Cancer was worse and he asked me to pray for him. I could hear the shift in his voice. I was saddened by this but remained hopeful that it was never too late. I talked to him again about staying focused on the path of clean air, healthy living and a healthy mindset, but I could tell something had changed.
Over the next few weeks he put more focus on his public speaking skills and technical aspects of creating a FB support group page for those struggling with Cancer. I’ve lost many relatives and friends to this disease and I’ve sat at the bedside of dozens of Hospice patients who’ve died. Although I understood his change of direction, I also knew this would not have a good outcome. I believed if he lost focus on what he was passionate about, the Cancer would overshadow everything.
In a last ditch effort to shift his perspective from disease to his life with purpose, I explained that Mother Theresa wouldn’t go to a war rally when invited. She knew she had to stay focused on the PEACE rally. I explained that no one can focus on both healthy and unhealthy at the same time because one will ALWAYS overshadow the other. I told him that as his mentor, I loved him but that I couldn’t go down the road of battling Cancer with him.
My words were extremely difficult to say, but no doubt even more difficult for him to hear. He knew I loved him. He understood that my purpose is to teach people how to live in freedom, not die in suffering. He also knew I’m not Mother Theresa. Before hanging up I said, “When you decide to return to the peace rally Dan, you know where to find me.”
That was the last time we spoke. Five months later, on my way to a funeral, I get two thumbs up from him – but why? What was he trying to tell me? Was he resurrecting that old message to encourage others in that group to get help before its too late? Was he telling me to keep showing up for people? Was he saying he understood that its far more important to stay focused on the peace rally instead of battling the war?
These questions raced through my mind. He and I had numerous threads of conversations he could have selected to put those two thumbs up, so I couldn’t help but wonder, why did he choose that specific one?
I suppose I’ll never know, but what I do know is that Dan had plenty of supporters who loved him through his battle of the dis-ease. He didn’t need me there. In truth, I may never know for certain that we have cleaner air or better treatments for cancer today because of Dan, but what I do know is that he inspired hearts everywhere he went to do something about it, including mine. I also know that his beautiful bride Rebecca is as precious as she is wise, and that his son will always remember the stand his father took because he wanted to help him breathe cleaner air.
Dan was brave. Dan was an incredible influencer. Dan was also – a husband, a father and a hero.
PS. I recorded Rebecca and Dan’s love story to shift the energy they were experiencing from unhealthy to healthy soon after they heard the first diagnosis of stage 4 lung Cancer. If you have time to listen to this video, it will make you smile.