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I have to write this while it’s fresh in my mind. Where do you stand in this world, in your life? As a property manager, I am responsible for checking on second homes (three and four story luxury beach homes) in a tourist area. My clients are mostly wealthy, very wealthy, and some are average. I love my job. I’m self-employed and I make my own hours. The idea for the job was my husband’s, a landscape designer and manager. I created this job because I have scoliosis and needed to bow out of my 35-40+ hour admin life because sitting and standing for long periods became intolerable. It was a great idea and I love my clients – but not for the reasons you think. While I treat each property as if it were my own, I have come to know very successful people on a different level.
So here we are during the week of the July 4th holiday – roads busy with cyclists, golf carts, beachgoers, and kids everywhere, I get a voicemail from an alarm company that an alarm has lost power. I hop in my car and head to the property. All ok, I unlocked the door and the husband pops out. The alarm failed because there was a breaker issue, my second one today. But the husband, a very successful, wealthy 66 year old man follows me out to my car in his bare feet and keeps talking… Tomorrow is his wife’s birthday, and he winks. He bought her a wine cooler and stocked it, I’ll shoot her a happy birthday text. She told me about his appendix attack and emergency surgery at 2:00 AM last year, but as he walks me to my car, he tells me more, that he’s had multiple strokes in the last year. What??
To look at this good looking man, fit, very successful, tan and happy, he tells me with an Irish twinkle in his eye that his dad passed away of a stroke at his same age, at 66. He himself had multiple strokes within a few weeks. He told me the details of how his doctor friend met him at the hospital and informed him of his dire condition. He kept the symptoms from his wife. He said his arm went numb – he’d dress in the closet, tingling in his fingers, then a lightning bolt jolt behind his eye that went through his body. Wow!
But here’s the clincher; he never lost the twinkle in his eye as he spoke, the smile, the joy of being alive as he described facing near death. His doctor friend gave him a shot that dissolved any clots and he went home okay. It was a miracle, I said! Yes, he agreed and said that man saved my life, as on the weekends you have interns staffing most hospitals, healthcare has changed.
Then he told me with that twinkle, at age 66, looking the picture of health, that he’s told his four kids, “when you reach this age, life is like a light switch – one day you’re on, the next day you’re off.” He watched his dad just drop at age 66. “Just like that” and he snapped his fingers. He told me men don’t talk much about their feelings, including how they are feeling physically. He made a point to tell me that spouses need to talk about how they feel. He’d have symptoms but kept them to himself, hid them from his wife, said to himself I’m ok. He said, “talk to your spouse, and ask them how they are doing.”
The twinkle, however, never left his eyes. He was almost non-nonchalant about it, a smile never left his face. He said “I should have retired earlier. People are shocked to hear that I retired. I got my first social security check recently; I should have retired at 62.”
Here’s the thing: I know they are an Irish Catholic family. I could see he had no fear of death whatsoever – none – he was almost defiant. I know his wife volunteers and goes to court with young women who have fallen through the cracks and have no one to represent them. They donate time, money, do fundraisers, and donate their vacation homes to help others.
Another client, also successful and wealthy, I have noticed is sometimes out of the country on mission trips in third world countries and hard to get ahold of.
Several clients donate their vacation homes to pastors, they are involved in charities, they read volumes of religious novels, I see them scattered here and there, along with the Tom Clancy and the Brad Thor stuff.
They always say thank you and I appreciate you. They all have lots of kids, and some with many grandkids, and lots of pictures scattered everywhere of family. There are lots of old books, classics, especially children’s classics on the bookshelves, along with Charles Krauthammer, and Joel Rosenberg, and plenty of good spy novels. They are conservative, no question, but more than that, they seem happy and grateful. They have kids serving in the military. They work hard, but they seem to never lose sight of what is important.
I feel like I heard today the message that “despite my wealth, success, and these recent health issues, I love my family, I am ready to go – I know who I am, and I know who I am in God’s eyes.” I saw and heard that today – clear as a bell – a joy and confidence that doesn’t come from money, success or position. It is a light in someone’s eyes that I have rarely seen but only a few times, but when you see it, you won’t forget it. I also heard don’t ignore symptoms, talk to your family, your doctor. I was almost shaken as I drove home, but I’ll take this message to heart – I hope you will as well.