I recently stopped at my local store to pick up some goodies when I spotted Rhonda, who works there. As I walked towards her, she immediately walked the other way. When I got closer to her, I could tell by her energy and body language that she did not want to talk me. I said hi and wished her a nice day. She smiled and said, “thanks” and immediately went back to work. I didn’t take her resistance personally because she is in pain – her brother passed away just a few weeks ago and it was obvious that the wounds were still very fresh. I respect her need for avoidance and privacy.
I knew Rhonda’s brother, Dan Robertson, since I was nine years old – we were the same age. He and his family lived a few streets away from me. My vivid memories were our early teen years – he was tall, lean with dark beautiful wavy hair. He always had a big smile on his face when he delivered our newspaper. We were in different social circles but even as a young kid I remember him as always being happy, mannerly and pleasant.
My early school years weren’t very memorable, especially my first year of middle school. I was carrying the sigma of “failure” because I was held back in grade four as the kids my age moved on. By the time I got to middle school, some of the kids I knew from grade school made fun of me for failing – I was constantly being reminded of it for what seemed like every day. Getting on the school bus in the morning with these neighbourhood kids was a nightmare as I felt awkward and out of place. Some of the few fond memories I have during these bus rides were my talks with Dan. He would make a point of sitting with me – telling stories and making me laugh. He made me feel like I belonged.
Fast forward to summer 2005 as I’m new to the community again after being away for 25 years. I joined the local GoodLife gym and was quickly getting addicted to the spin classes. There was one instructor who stood out; he was tough, yet fun, played fantastic loud music, very fit with well-defined muscles and good-looking (what more could you want in a instructor). After a few weeks of sweating it out, I approached this person to get some information and soon realized it was Dan.
He gave me a quick run down of his life over the past 25 years and told me about a situation that threw him into a deep depression when he was in his 20’s. In his depths of despair he became obese and was a very heavy smoker. After living in this funk for some time, he knew he had to make drastic changes in his life – not just for him but also for his young daughter. With hard work and determination, he whipped himself into shape, and in no time became well known for his grueling spin classes. To me, he was a true ambassador of “healthy living”.
Over the last year, Dan was very quiet about his illness and didn’t know what the future had in store for him. Yet, everyday, he arrives at the gym with a Tim Horton’s coffee in his hand and a big smile on his face – ready to kick our butts in spin class. When he wasn’t packing a punch at the gym, he was doing what brought him joy and gave unconditional love to his family and friends – celebrating his life, his way, every day.
“Celebrate Your Life in each and every moment! And while you’re at it, celebrate everyone else’s life you come in contact with, because you’ll never know when their last moment will be”.
In Memory Of My Friend Dan
5 Responses to this post.
Posted by lynncaseyrn on September 8, 2008 at 12:45 pm
This is a great story in so many ways. I cannot help but think of the R.E.M song “Everybody Hurts”. It is so ironic how we think that our pain is our own and everybody else is fine. The irony here is my ‘rock bottom day’ hit me today. I received a letter that I have been refused life and disability insurance on my mortgage! I am only 40 years old but I have pre-diabetes, I still smoke, I am sick all the time! I take a handful of pills everyday. My health is a disaster! I am the heaviest I have ever been and I am sick as a dog for the 3rd week in a row! My body is no longer allowing me to deny reality. Everyone who knows me thinks I have it all together. I give motivational seminars about believing in yourself. After I speak, the audience laughs, cries and come to me with stories about how I have inspired them. Meanwhile, I am a walking and talking hypocrite. How on earth can I do this when I am falling apart at the seems? I do not believe in myself!!!
Isn’t is odd how near total strangers can have such a profound effect on our lives and not even know it? As a nurse I have been fortunate to meet thousands of people during the most stressful and traumatic times in their lives. Some considered minor problems major, and others considered looking death in the face a ‘gift’ or minor. Many times, God has been kind enough to send people suffering tremendous pain into my life, whilst I lost sleep over my dress size and weight, skin breakouts, or losing weight for an event. How minute and ridiculous it sounds out loud…but it is true. I would quickly come to reality and be embarassed. But, slowly over time…my ridiculous weight obsession would climb to the top again.
I am starting to train for a mini triathalon today. I am beginning my 100 pound loss journey today. I am scared shitless!! I am so scared! I fear disappointing or sabotaging myself more than what others think. But I am doing it. Dan’s story is such a victory! I can no longer sit back and wait for life to happen to me, because time is not forgiving. Next time I even think of whining about my health or weight without being proactive about it, I promise to pinch myself really hard back to reality.
Thanks for the soul stew Patty Parsnips!!!
Posted by Chantal on September 8, 2008 at 8:34 pm
That was such a wonderful story. It made me quite emotional. Thank you for sharing such a personal story about Dan. He was such a wonderful happy person who I will never forget.
Posted by Paulette on September 9, 2008 at 2:05 pm
Thank you for sharing your personal struggles about your health. I’m sure the readers appreciate and respect your honesty. Please keep me in the loop as you make you way to acheiving your goal of completing a mini triathlon. I think the readers would love to hear your story. Your journey will inspire and encourage people to get active.
Posted by Gail on September 9, 2008 at 6:11 pm
That was beautiful! I have been so down in the dumps lately and can’t seem to bring myself out of it. I am in great health and should appreciate that, as I have lost my cousin and a dear friend to cancer. I am not working and feel like a failure, but I have a roof over my head, both parents are in good health. Reading your story made me think of what really is important. Family and good friends!
Posted by Brad Stanley on September 25, 2008 at 9:34 am
Great story about Dan – caught his true essence.. he was willing to chat and provide “inspiration” to anyone… he would never leave anyone out. We miss him tremendously but his spirit will live on in the gym forever…