What happens when you get a phone call at a restaurant?
If you’re like most people you haven’t…unless you happen to work there.
That’s what happened back in October 1992.
At the time I was living in Coral Springs Florida and working in a family owned Italian restaurant called Pontillos.
The phone rang and I picked it up which I did do on occasion…
Except this time…instead of it being a customer on the other end…it was my mother.
And being that she was living in New Jersey and calling me at work I knew something happened.
I was right.
She called to tell me that my step father Carl…the person who was my first mentor and who I lived under the same roof with from age 7-20 had passed away. He died peacefully in his sleep in his parents basement. Cause of death…heart attack.
He was alone when he passed away…as his mother found him several hours afterwards that same day.
My first reaction…a slight lump in my throat and a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
My second reaction…
I got off the phone…walked out the front door of the restaurant (which was about 25 feet away from the counter)…looked up at a 45 degree angle to the sky…and shed a slight tear.
And then I made a promise from that moment forward.
Now you may not have been at a restaurant when it happened to you…maybe you were.
It’s still something you’ll always remember…where you were when a loved one in your life passed away.
All humans are the same in that regard
What did you do when a loved one passed away?
1. Beginnings that don’t end
The first time I met Carl was four months shy of my 7th birthday. Within the next year he moved in with us. And from that point on until a month after my 20th birthday I lived under the same roof as this man.
During that time many changes occurred in my life…
We moved into a house in the Old Bridge/Sayreville part of New Jersey. This was really the first time in my life that we lived in the same area for more than a year or two (we lived there for 9 years). I still consider this area to be my home in many ways…
Little by little I was learning to—as Carl would put it—“hustle.” He would always say, “you gotta be a go getter…you gotta hustle” (as he would snap his fingers).
This was his way of saying that it’s important to be persistent…to go after what you want…and not sit on your butt and expect everything to just come to you.
Over time I learned how to be more outgoing.
Carl’s profession was known then as a “headhunter”…meaning that he placed people in jobs. This required him to get on the phone and negotiate with people…to get a great deal.
This certainly has changed my life…and is largely responsible for what I do as a human potential specialist…because it allows me to be assertive with people in a way that benefits them.
And as a result of Carl coming into my life…so did my younger sister and brother.
Now what’s interesting in all of this is that once it began…from the moment I met him…it’s still going on in my life. Nothing ever went away and no one ever left…including Carl.
And the part that shocks most people…
Outside of that moment when I found out Carl passed away and had that little tear…I never mourned…had grief for…or felt the loss of Carl.
You’re probably thinking why…right?
Well, there was no reason to be because of the promise I made that day after I found out that Carl had passed.
2. Take hold of the flame
It’s been handed down over time and continues to be…and what I’m referring to is the idea of feeling “loss”, “remorse”, “bereavement”, and even depressed when a loved one passes away.
Because after all…it’s been taught and conditioned that if you don’t show any of these feelings that you don’t care about the person…or that you didn’t love them…or that you’re disrespecting them.
Is this really true?
Think about when you found out that a loved one passed away.
Were you told that you “had to” go to their wake and pay your last respects?
Were you told that you were “supposed to” mourn their “loss.”
Did you have family members you knew would get upset if you didn’t show feelings of sadness?
These were some of the questions that went through my mind when I found out Carl had passed…
And I didn’t buy into any of them…and still don’t to this day.
Because of the promise I made that day.
Now you may be thinking, “well you shed a tear that day…this means you showed the loss of Carl.”
Yes, I shed the tear.
It wasn’t because of the loss of Carl.
It was because I made the promise right there on the spot that I would…from that point moving forward…carry on Carl’s spirit in some way…
Whether it was his “go getter/you gotta hustle” mentality…his “Joe cool” nature…his negotiation type of attitude…
I made it a point to keep that flame burning…and to do so in my own unique way.
And I knew by doing this, Carl would always be there.
Yes, the “physical being Carl” may have left…but the Spirit of Carl is still alive and well.
3. Watching over me
The last time I saw Carl alive was one year and 5 months before he passed away. I was visiting my mom in New Jersey and he happened to stop by.
If I had known then that it would be the last time I ever saw him…would I have done anything differently that day?
And the reason is…and this goes back to what I said before…because he’s still there…he’s watching over me.
This is also why I never felt depressed, sad, mourned, or found it difficult to carry on with my life.
Now I know many people react differently based on their relationship with the person they had who passed away.
The same thing remains.
Because when you take the time to see all the different traits you admire (and even despise) about your loved one who passed away…
And you see where you have what you see in them in your own unique way…and how you see it in others as well…
You’ll be able to carry on keeping their spirit alive.
Yes, they may be gone physically but as their spirit is kept alive they’ll be in your heart…their mannerisms…and their presence will remain.
This is what happened when Carl passed away.
I started seeing many of his mannerisms in me…like I mentioned earlier…being a go getter…being persistent…and going after what you want and not waiting for it to come to you.
As for being sad, depressed, and not being able to carry on with life…
I know for sure Carl wouldn’t have wanted me to do any of that…
He would have wanted me to carry on with my life in my own unique way. I knew this…and it’s also one of the reasons why I made the promise I did that day…and one I’m still following through on to this day.
And the same is true for you.
Think about a loved one who passed away.
Would they want you to mourn them, be sad, be depressed, and feel like you can’t carry on with your life?
Ask yourself and be honest.
Also ask yourself…
Would you want others to carry on with their life when you pass away?
It comes down to this…
The people who come into your life…especially the ones you love and care about most will always be there in some way.
And when you realize that and how the different parts of them are in you…in your own unique way…
Not only are they always with you…
But the magnificence of who you are expands…
Because you get to see even more how special and unique of a person you are…
And how those special people that have been in…and continue to be in your life…all contribute to how special of a person you are.