"Why POSITIVE > negative = Better Life" continues the four part blog series is entitled: “The Point of it All”. Every morning Exavier Pope broadcasts a series of messages on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. This blog series is why the messages are sent and the deeper meanings behind them. Part I in the series appear here , Part II here, and the most popular Part III here. Please allow each post to uplift, inspire, and bless you. Thanks for reading.
“He’s really dead,” I thought in a nondescript, vanilla-bland, matter-of-fact, formal way to myself.
Seconds earlier I had walked into a peaceful room. The room’s four walls were full of pictures and ornamentation in such abundance they became a three dimensional wallpaper.
Off white carpeting’s soft, cushy bristles hugged my feet with each step as I slowly walked across the room to my destination.
A boom box style radio sat on the matching off white dresser drawer hanging slightly off ledge as to announce its duty as watchman over the hospital bed before it.
Out of the boom box continuous melodies of gospel music released seemingly invisible angels to dance about and play trumpets of peace and calm into every molecule of air in the room.
I finally reached the hospital bed and the picture which initially seemed as fuzzy as looking through a translucent bathroom window came into full view.
Sheets clasped feeble, thin legs and an emaciated torso as if they were vacuum sealed. I finally viewed the face of a man of medium brown complexion, cheeks sunk in, and eyes closed with the deepest sense of sleep I have ever witnessed.
His eyelids and lashes had the appearance of an inanimate doll of which could never be opened by the power of the being himself.
His mouth remained opened from the agonizing hours concentrating his tumor stricken lungs to chase every atom of oxygen to replenish his dwindling existence.
Alas, his efforts had been in vain. He was no more.
Who Was This Man?
Reverend Wallace Sims, Jr. was my mentor and one of the greatest men I have ever known. He was married to his wife Beatrice for 53 years and served on the Board of Directors of his church for almost 20 years.
He was a loving husband and father, a man dedicated to ministry, and a pioneering businessman. Reverend Sims special knack for mentoring young men set him apart.
Reverend Sims did not care from what station in life a young man came from.
He took crackheads, gangbangers, preachers, students, financial consultants, and lawyers (me) and poured into their lives the principles of faith, service, responsibility, and achieving big endeavors in life.
He was a “man’s man”. He told it like it was and he never pulled any punches.
As a matter of fact, he had a habit of walking up to men and punching them to set them straight. He once went into a troubled neighborhood to pull out a mentee holding a Bible in one hand and a .38 caliber pistol in the other hand and told the young man:
“You can either take the easy way or the hard way. Either way, you’re coming with me.”
He Called Me "Son"
Two short summers ago a sharp dressed man walked up to me after Sunday church services concluded. He looked me coolly in my eye as to see me fully and it felt as if his eyes took a stroll in the innermost regions of my soul.
He announced to me in a strong, confident, and stately manner:
“You may have heard of me. I’m Wallace Sims. I know and I’ve heard all about you, and I want to help you. ”
With that he gave me his business card and our relationship began.
Reverend Sims had audacious plans of purchasing banks and large corporations, developing golf courses and whole towns, and living in the most expensive suburbs in America.
He actually sincerely attempted to follow through with those plans.
Many times he succeeded. Other times he did not. Failure was irrelevant to him. He taught me to start with the CEO of every major undertaking to be taken seriously.
A business relationship soon moved to spirituality. We started praying over business dealings every day at 9 am. Our prayers eventually moved from business to the personal. We formed a bond.
Up to that point in my life I the formed the strongest bond a child could have with my foster mother. Although my foster mother loved me dearly and was a fantastic mother while she lived, she missed something.
She was not a man; and, she was not my father.
During my homeless teenage years after her death I spent plenty a night trying to draw from the wisdom of the fathers of all of my friends.
I needed more than wisdom though. I needed fatherly love.
Reverend Sims had five phrases of wisdom I’ll never forget:
Ethics in business: “Do everything with a spirit of truth and integrity.”
Moxie in business: “You have to have a capitalistic mind.”
Race in business: “Be the speck of pepper in the salt.”
Ambition: “You have to be bold to get somethin’ when you come from nothin’.”
Faith in God during adversity: “If you believe and never doubt, he’ll surely bring you out.”
Reverend Sims in dispensing his wisdom to me would call me “Son”. No man had ever called me that. I would lean on every word and follow everything he told me to the letter.
I trusted him. I cared for him. I loved him greatly.
A few short months after we started to become close, Reverend Sims kept rubbing his right side in intense pain. I would press him for information and he would just shake it off.
I would soon learn Reverend Sims had some trouble with his medical history and was afraid of an unfortunate diagnosis. Finally I confronted Reverend Sims and told him our friendship would cease if he would not seek medical attention.
In December 2010 he was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer in his kidney and lungs and began chemotherapy shortly thereafter.
When Reverend Sims and I started praying together, he would lead prayer and he would encourage me. After a while, the roles reversed and I was the one leading prayer and I would encourage him.
Multiple methods of chemotherapy did not make Reverend Sims any better. Eventually Reverend Sims withered to a shell of his former self and he was relegated to hospice care in his home in April.
He would eventually lose function of his lower body and spent his final days in a hospital bed connected to an oxygen tank.
I spent his final days with him watching over him and trying to suck every last bit of wisdom from him. His last words to me:
“Life is a journey.”
Reverend Wallace Sims, Jr. would take his last breath April 19, 2012 at 9:10 p.m. I arrived an hour later to he and his wife’s home to get a last glimpse of my rock of a mentor and confirm with my eyes what was already told to my ears.
I was devastated.
The Point of it All
When Reverend Sims was diagnosed with cancer, my heart sank and I cried. I asked God, “How could you allow a person in my life to get so close and then take the person away?”
In some shape or form we have all asked God this question about someone we love, know, and cherish.
Whether it is a parent, sibling, friend, or mentor, losing a person we care for hurts. It can hurt for a while…a long while.
In 1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross publicized the “five stages of grief.” The five stages of grief were based on Dr. Kübler-Ross’ studies of the feelings of patients facing terminal illness.
However, those theories are commonly applied to many forms of loss in life, such as a death of a loved one, loss of a job, or loss of a relationship.
The entire five stages do not necessarily have to be experienced in their totality or in any discernible order. They are as follows:
Denial: “I do not believe this is happening.”
Anger: “Why is this happening to me?! Don’t talk to me.”
Bargaining: “God make this not happen. I will ____ for this not to happen.”
Depression: “I don’t feel like doing anything.”
Acceptance: “I feel peace at what has happened to me.”
Even though it hurt and still hurts greatly to have lost my mentor, there are so many positives to make the process of acceptance easier. There are several ways we can turn giant negatives to positives in our lives:
1. Embrace Sadness as Part of Healing Process
Being sad is a normal emotion as is crying a normal action to the experienced sadness. There is no set “timetable for sadness”. I still cry over the death of my foster mother 22 years later.
After I cry I usually wind up laughing thinking about all of ways she made me happy. Embracing our sadness helps us to remember and appreciate what we loved about the person we lost.
Trying to hide how we feel only serves to bury our emotions and can be self-destructive.
2. Talk to Others Who Share Loss
A companion of grief is loneliness. Often times we feel as if no one can understand our pain or suffers from the loss as much as we do.
A week after Reverend Sims died a bunch of guys who were impacted by his life got together for an evening of food, fellowship, and stories about a man we all loved.
The event did not eliminate our hurt, but it sure helped to share the emotions of loss and have a great laugh talking about a great guy with other people.
3. Enjoy Life
One of the worst things we can do when feeling loss is to wallow in self-pity and isolate ourselves. Staying inside, laying around, and staring at the ceiling feeds into a feeling of despair and helplessness and can actually magnify the stresses of other life issues.
The day after Reverend Sims passed I went to a Cubs game with an old high school buddy and I then went to the Wit Hotel for happy hour. Although I was sad on the inside, I enjoyed myself.
I realized then Reverend Sims had lived his life. I still have time to live mine. Best of all I have time to honor my mentor by using all of his wonderful wisdom to greatly impact my future and the lives of others.
Losing Reverend Sims was devastating. He was a dear friend and spiritual mentor.
However, embracing the sadness associated with my loss, sharing that loss with others, and getting outside to enjoy life has helped me to cope and turn his death into a lasting positive in my life.
We all can turn negatives to positives in our life.
Whether it is a loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, loss of a relationship, general loss of joy or any bad situation, it is important to focus on embracing the feelings associated with our loss, being open with our loss, and then productively moving on and enjoying the life that we do have.
Once we learn to turn any situation in life into a positive, there is no limit to the obstacles we can overcome and the peace we can achieve.
Exavier B. Pope, Esq. is an entertainment and sports attorney, media personality, syndicated writer, Fortune 500 speaker and peak performance strategist, author, philanthropist, and sports business and law blogger for ChicagoNow. All opinions expressed are those solely of Mr. Pope.
(c) 2012, Exavier Pope
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