Embrace the Struggle (TJ’s Lesson 1)

Apr 21, 2015

Without failure, there’s no understanding of success.

Without pain, there’s no hope for a better place.

Without the knowledge of death, there’s no embracing life to the fullest.

I recently had a very close friend of mine die. His name is TJ. He was 39. Just 39 – he died unexpectedly of a massive brain hemorrhage. He was playing music and playing with his kids on a Friday night, kissed his wife good night, I’m sure…then, by noon the next day he was unconscious and struggling to live. He died later that night.

39 years….leaves behind 3 beautiful children and a wife, as well as many other friends, family, co-workers & acquaintances. He went to bed that night and had no idea it would be his last time going through the daily rituals of life on earth. The good news is that his legacy will live on.

The truth is, we never know when our last breath will come. Life is short. It hurts a lot sometimes, but it’s important to embrace it as best you can.

Just last year, TJ completed his first Marathon. He struggled to finish. I remember talking to him during his training and I know it was a grind, especially with a growing family. For anyone that’s run a marathon, you know the time commitment of the long runs and the mental commitment to prepare. I ran three in my younger days and didn’t have a family yet so it was a lot easier to train. He talked about the grind and the challenge of race day. It’s a metaphor for life. You can read the entire post on his experience training and running here.

Life will knock you upside the head. It will. Some of you are probably going through some very challenging times.

Know that you’re not alone. Life is many times about struggle. I’m learning that life is often times about EMBRACING…THE…STRUGGLE.

In a marathon where your legs are burning up and cramping and you still have six miles to go, or in life where it feels like there’s no hope…and, you tell yourself that maybe it’s better to just quit – know that sometimes it’s the next step that gets you headed in the right direction.

There’s a great scene in Finding Nemo (I’ve seen it many times with my kiddos!) – Dori is a fish, voiced by Ellen Degeneres, that goes on a journey with Marlin (Nemo’s dad) to find Nemo. Dori drops a scuba mask that Marlin thinks is the only chance to help him find his son. He’s frustrated and ready to give up and Dori tells him “When life gets you down, you know what you gotta do?” – then goes on to say “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”

So, as life gets you down and you find yourself questioning what’s next. You find yourself in a hole wondering how you’ll ever get out. No matter your circumstance, no matter the situation, there is hope. Sometimes it’s one day, one step, one breath away.

Sometimes, you just have to keep swimming!

TJ lived a great life. He was a great friend to many and was a man of deep faith. I believe fully that his legacy will live on. He wrote a post on his blog last year that outlined 39 life lessons. I’ve had the privilege of putting his daily lessons into an image each day so that others may benefit from his wisdom and life experience. This picture at the start of the post was taken in recent years of him standing on a beach at sun rise.


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