Along my Journey I have been trying to work on quieting my mind and finding some peace, as often my thoughts run wild and continue in a loop. Over and over again I replay decisions I have made, opportunities I have not taken, love that has been lost, failures, family, and on and on and on. Nothing seems to shut these down, but instead it feels like Usain Bolt has a hold of the thoughts in my mind and everyone knows there is no slowing that guy down. In an effort to quiet the mind I have taken to meditation, I am still a novice, but it has been an amazing experience working towards coming to a more peaceful state while trying to clear my mind of the olympic sprinter winning Gold Medals in my head.
I was sitting in peace at Lake Pontchartrain (in New Orleans) wondering to myself, “What the hell am I going to do in this city that is productive along my journey,” Chugging beers on Bourbon Street, while fun, is not what this trip is about. I heard my phone buzz. After I heard the phone buzz my mind would not stop with the idea of who left the message. Over and over in my mind I was like “please be x, please be x, please be x,” damn there goes my peace and there goes Bolt running that 100 again. I finally get up and grab my phone and I got an instant rejection as of course it was not “x” who left a text message (I can keep hoping). Like most things in life, a couple days later it would be this very text that would change my trip to New Orleans.
The text was from my buddy Matthew Olschner. I met Matthew at an event I spoke at last summer during Monday Night Magic with Dr. Jason. Matthew has an energy about him that is undeniable and he is also an amazing swim coach. If you have a swimmer, beginner or competitive, I highly recommend Matthew. He has a way to speak/connect to youth athletes that is not often found with coaches. In the text, Matthew reminds me that he grew up in New Orleans and has family that still lives there and then shares a piece of his fathers story, after I knew I had to go meet him. I had a strong feeling that I was going to meet a special person, but I had no idea what I was in for.
I texted Dave, Matthew’s dad, and he promptly invited me over to their home. I pull into the drive way and I see the garage door open. I walk up and he walks out the side door in the garage: a smaller, older gentlemen, with a big grin on his face (well I guess almost everyone is smaller than me). We walk into the garage and I had interrupted Dave doing some handy work. He doesn’t even bat an eye that he was in the middle of something and we immediately dive into an introduction: I let him know how I know his son and he says “do you want to see some pictures.” YES, I would love too – as we head through the house and go upstairs to his office, he boots on his computer. 30-45 minutes later we have not looked at one picture as we started sharing stories of life, things we are going through, family, God, and more.
This is where the story begins to blow my mind. Dave starts to show me pictures of the house after Hurricane Katrina hit. He stated that often they would just board up and wait out Hurricanes and they had plans to do this again, but as they continued to watch the weather they decided that maybe it was time to head out. They packed up the car, grabbed his work computer, family pictures, the kids, and headed to Florida where his brother lived. After the storm was over they headed back to check on the house and assess the damage. During he hurricane a tree was blown over, hit the roof, and opened up part of the second story which allowed for a lot of rain to enter the home. The home was destroyed, the structure was shot, and mold infested the home throughout. There was no way they were going to be able to move back into their family home anytime soon.
Schools were still shut down in New Orleans, they couldn’t live in their home, and they had to make some really tough decisions on what next steps they were going to take to overcome this obstacle. Mary Ann (Dave’s wife) and their two youngest children stayed in Florida where they enrolled in school. As a Junior and Senior in high school the kids were pulled away from their friends and had to enroll in a brand new school all while living in a home that was not truly their home. Even harder Dave had to stay in New Orleans living in a trailer that was parked outside his work for almost a year. During this time Dave continued to work full time living apart from his family, had to deal with the damage and insurance for his home, and continue to be the amazing father that he has always been.
When I asked him about this he just said “It was tough.” Just simple, you didn’t see him get to emotional or down about it. As he continued to talk he remained positive about the experience. “what was the hardest was seeing it impact Mary-Ann and the kids.”
How did you get through it?
God: I have Faith and a relationship with God and I knew that he was going to help us through this.
They were not able to move back into their home for over 3 years and instead purchased a home that he grew up in across the Riverway (Causeway). For the past 12 years he has been working on his home. A draftsman by trade, he told me that God gave him just enought talent to work on the house and make things happen. Family would come back and help, friends, band members (his son is in a band called FlowTribe), church members, and some contractors. The house looks absolutely stunning inside, but there is still work to be done. When I asked him about the process of rebuilding, he just smiles as he shares stories of the home and why he had to rebuild.
“The second level of this home was used as a church before we moved in. It was also the place that FlowTribe would jam out during high school. There is just to much history in this home to let it go and move on.”
For the next 45 minutes to an hour we looked at pictures of the house after the storm, during the rebuild, and after. You could see the joy he got from sharing all of his hard work in rebuilding what most would have seen as being lost. As I was watching him share each picture, Dave was getting into details that seemed like mumbo jumobo (I am the least handy person you could meet), I could see his excitement as he would point out certain people that came to help and who they were and what they did and how they did it. It was amazing! What most people would have seen as a complete disaster and such a negative event, he saw an opportunity. It was an outlook that I admire and one that I immediately started relating to my own life as we continued to talk.
So as we are going through the pictures Dave drops another bomb on me. Oh yeah during all this I had a cancer battle!
What? Oh yeah, also I had this little cancer battle while I was trying to rebuild the house for my family.
I then learn that Dave is 5 years out of having Cancer (Now considered cured), but this was not just some simple Cancer. They gave him a less than 50 percent chance of survival. When Mary Ann brought this up, Dave stated “I don’t put my life in statistics, I just put it in the hands of God.”
Seriously, can this dude get any more amazing. In the last 12 years he has had to battle Katrina, the pain of having to split from his family, rebuilding his home that was almost lost do to the storm, continuing raising 4 children, and fight through a serious cancer battle. The entire time we are talking he is as positive as you can possibly be and doesn’t seem to waiver from the fact that life is about opportunities and even the bad is often a door that is opened for us that we must not over think, but instead we must just go through.
Dave walks me through the house and shows me all of the changes he has made, often referencing the pictures he just looked at. We walk towards the stairs and my nose is hit with a smell and my stomach says “ahhhhhh…..amazing food.” Mary Ann is downstairs cooking and they both request that I stay and eat and continue our conversation.
The smell did not lie and the food was amazing, but the conversation over the next 60-75 minutes was even more powerful. We started talking about life, kids, the battles they have gone through, and where they are currently in life. I started to feel very very comfortable with both of them and I let out a lot of my feelings, things I have not told very many people. I shared my pain, my loss, and how I am feeling. I shared how I treated the love of my life while I was battling depression and the pain and regret that eats at me each and every second because of that. I had to fight back tears in my eyes as you could see they were sensing my pain. They comforted me with some great words of advice, we talked about faith, how I was feeling, and they offered up some tips on how I can continue to grow along my journey (My pursuit of passion).
As we were finishing up Dave stated that through all the difficult battles he has had in his life, it hasn’t really bothered him, because:
“I was never not able to do what I could do. A lot of people lost everything in the flood and when I was in the hospital I would see people feeling a lot worse than I was. I am just thankful that we have what we have. I have a relationship with God, I have my family, and I am still here smiling.”
Mary Ann compiled some chicken and beans, some chocolate covered expresso beans, and some MAD pickles to take on the road. Ok commercial break – YOU HAVE TO ORDER THESE PICKLES: MAD PICKLES . These are a family recipe that there son-in-law has taken and packaged up and has commercialized. (MAD – Stands for Mary Ann DAVE). They are simply amazing!!!!! Ok back to my story – I think Mary Ann would have packaged up the entire pantry for me to take on the road if she could have. Once again it was just a reminder of how special Dave and Mary Ann really are.
(Bag full of goodies for the road) (Mad Pickles)
As I walk out Dave goes:
“call me anytime you need anything. And talk to him all day, not just when you meditate. God doesn’t care about what church you belong too, he just wants you to have a relationship with him and you might feel like you have failed, but in his eyes you are not a failure. He will love you no matter what. Ask him questions while you are on this journey and if a door opens go for it.”
As I end this blog post – I just need to share this last piece. While we were talking about our Cancer battles, chemo, radiation, surgeries and scars Dave says
“The best thing about the cancer is that I now have a Mercedes Benz Tattoo on my stomach,”As he lifts his shirt and has a massive scar across his chest and stomach that resembles a Mercedes Benz Logo.
I will say that the emblem is similar, but Dave is in a class that Mercedes could never build in their wildest dreams.