What is your story?

"My name is Laura, I am from Michigan, and I will be sharing my story about losing my husband.

I’ll never forget the day he drove by in his blue car, with his maroon jacket and long hair, and he smiled at me.

From that point on, I knew he was the one for me. I can still see him in that jacket.

I was only 14 years old but we knew that we would marry each other, and we did. We got married on December 6, 1974 and we truly meant every word of our vows, we knew it would be forever. The day we found out that he had cancer was the worst day of our lives. We never knew when his time would come, but I did my best to give him the best everyday."

"My name is Francesca. I am from Michigan and will be sharing my story about my father, David.

David is my dad, my hero, my motivator, and my strength. Since I was a child I’ve always been close with my father. He was my confidant. He worked hard but loved our family harder and his love was truly something special. He showed my sister and I how a woman should be treated, honored, respected & loved by adoring our mother. He pushed us to be independent and intelligent so we could support ourselves and never be forced to rely on a man. He was passionate about helping people and serving the Lord, so he taught us to do the same."

"My name is Francisco, I am from Michigan, and I will be sharing my story about my father, David.

David is my father and no disrespect to anyone but he truly was the greatest. He knew how to love. He gave all he had to his family. He worked hard but was always at our practices and games."

"My name is Mark, I am from Michigan, and I will be sharing my story about my father.

I would need months to share my story about time spent with my dad. As I write this, many stories come to my head. Then a week from now even more stories will come to me that I wish I had shared but in the end, all my stories end up being the same. My dad was always there for me. From childhood to my adult years my dad would always call just to check in on me. Man how I miss those phone calls. Even as cancer ate at him, taking his mobility away, he would still try and fix things around my house. But that best describes my dad, he was always taking care of his children until the very end. My dad was always there for me."

"My name is Audrey, I am from Michigan, and I will be sharing my story about my dad.

My dad was a wonderful father and grandfather. He would do anything for us no matter what. Everyone would be jealous that I had a dad who would drop everything to be with his grandkids."

"My name is David, I am from Michigan, and I will be sharing my story about memories with my dad.

I remember dad as being strong, caring, thoughtful, loving and faithful. Dad loved his family. He taught me to work hard at everything in my life. Dad also taught me that family comes first no matter what. He provided all of us with the best life possible."

In one word, how would you describe/define your experience?

"Devastating would be the best word to describe the loss of my husband. An entire part of me is gone, I will never be able to live and love the same way again. The honor and love that he showed me was unparalleled. There’s no other person, place, or thing that can make me whole. I’ve lost a piece of my heart." - Laura

"In one word I would describe my story as love. My father did everything with passion and love." -Francesca

"Great. He taught me everything I know." - Francisco

"The google definition of "priceless" is: so precious that it's value cannot be determined. The time spent with my dad was priceless. What that man taught me, how much he meant to me, you can't put a price on that." - Mark

"Blessed. Blessed to have a father who was a great role model." - Audrey

"Grateful. I am so grateful to have been raised by such a wonderful man. The life lessons he has taught me are now being passed down to my children." - David

What advice would you give yourself or someone else experiencing something similar?

"I cannot give anybody advice because I don’t even have my own life together. I could give a shoulder to cry on, but I could never tell someone how to cope. It’s unbearable." - Laura

"My advice to anyone experiencing loss this extreme is to remember that person daily. Honor them by living your own life to the fullest. Own each day and remember that tomorrow is not promised. Love deeply and sincerely and sit with your feelings as often as possible. Life will never be the same but it can still be beautiful." - Francesca

"Make every second count." - Francisco

"Advice I would give to someone is that same advice my dad would give to someone. Have faith and turn to God. If you have faith and God, you can get you through anything." - Mark

"I want to be a great grandparent like he was." - Audrey

"Cherish. Cherish every moment with family because you never know how short or long it will be." - David

Hear the song "Never Gone" inspired by the loving memories of David's wife and children: Available Everywhere 10.15.21

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"My name is Rachel, I am from my van, and I will be sharing my story about abandonment in my childhood."

What is your story?

"It feels very unnatural to go back in time and attempt to recall my experiences and tell my story. It can be daunting and uncomfortable, there is so much information. But what I will attempt to do is recall some of the experiences and some of the pains that have formed in present day me and recall them without trying to rationalize or justify them.

I tend to recall a story and leave out the emotion, only emphasizing the utility or lesson, and downplaying the impact and importance of a life shaping experience. I might not be alone in that.

The particular part of my story I want to share (or that I am attempting to share with reckless abandon) is about my mother and my relationship with my family. I always tell people it’s complicated, but it really isn’t. There is unconditional love (without conditions) and there is everything else. My family is the everything else type.

When I was younger, I never felt connected to my family or to anyone who was “supposed to love me.” When there were fun experiences, it rarely felt like love. It was more frustration, passive aggressiveness, and contempt. My sisters and I were put into classes and were homeschooled and I suppose we were loved in some variation of it, but it always came with...stuff. Conditions.

My mother left when I was 14. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world that she would be leaving us. I believe I said, “just go” when she told us she didn’t love my father anymore and had been a “mother for 18 years and was done.”

Something that didn’t happen until much later (as I was telling this story) was being able to truly see how much grief and anger this experience held. While also acceptting the subtle and slow burn neglect had on my psyche. Not the obvious kind (like the abrupt abandonment that came when I was 14) but the kind of neglect that makes people venture out on their own because it can be less lonely to do life alone. These experiences might shape an independent, strong-willed, brave individual, but it is in the wake of these subtle and deep cuts.

The story comes to a head as I identify that my independence and strength has come from the depth of a pain that is not easy to see and has taken a whole lifetime to trace back and connect the dots on. The anger and fear of people not loving me for who I am has been a cage my entire life.

Accepting love, accepting help, accepting what people say at face value or understanding they are also communicating from the depth that they have accessed as well, these are all terrifying. Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater though. I can be independent and brave AND be fucking angry that I wasn’t loved the way I would have wanted when I was younger or what I needed.

Independence and the ability to experience solitude is a gift.

I find my life is filled with more peace, joy, and presence when I allow both the experience of neglect to be painful and the outcome of independence being something that serves me, to be true."

In one word, how would you describe/define your experience?


Without pain, there is no growth but it’s missing the outcome...to see the experience as something that

triggered the life that I have now allows new positive perspectives and I can leverage the experience over and over again. It can be something that creates foundation rather than instability. "

What would you compare your experience to? And/or what analogy would define your experience?

"The ugly duckling children's story.

What’s beautiful about the story is that the ugly duckling doesn’t give up attempting to find her community...she keeps trying. Because she physically can’t, she never conforms to the community she doesn’t belong in. Instead, she searches until she’s accepted and loved, and ultimately learns she wasn’t understood because the ducks weren’t supposed to understand a swan.

As I get older, I find people who understand me in ways that felt impossible when I was younger, especially because I was rejected by my mother, the one person who is supposed to understand and love and accept you no matter what."

What advice would you give yourself or someone else experiencing something similar?

"To read the story of the ugly duckling and find comfort in the fact that this is a story (and essentially this archetype is something) people can connect over. "

Hear the song "I Am That Swan" inspired by Rachel's story: Available Everywhere 10.15.21

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"My name is Jacqueline Martinez. I am from Indiana, and I will be sharing my story about leadership."

What is your story?

"I grew up the oldest of three, and early on in my life responsibility was given to me on many levels - emotional responsibility, mental care, and tangible day-to-day responsibility of helping raise the herd.

Early on in life, my parents were divorced, and my mom was remarried. I did a lot of moving around - we moved eight times in eight years before the age of eight.

I also learned early on that hard work and achievement gave me in return what I really wanted in life - to expand myself in life, to be seen as worthy, and to be loved. So, I studied, got good grades, and involved myself in any extracurricular activities, where I usually took some sort of leadership role. Even though I was surrounded by people, I always felt separate, disconnected, and not fully seen or supported by the people in my life. This left me with a gnawing sense of emptiness that I just couldn’t put my finger on. The support and connection I sought was something I thought I needed before I could accomplish my big dreams and live to my potential.

As a young woman I had big, out of the box dreams for myself. I wanted to grow up and change the world through my hard work, creativity and enthusiasm. I didn’t know what it looked like (it took many different forms), I just knew it was possible and that it could happen. My first job I actually created for myself. I had the desire to start a traveling teaching business for kids. My first entrepreneurial venture left me excited, buzzing, and so proud of how I had served and what I had done. But the people around me, who I thought were in my corner, didn’t seem to notice how big of an impact it made, and the support for future ventures wasn’t there.

The cycle of big dreams - big actions - lack of connection and support kept happening in my life. I found myself married and then divorced. In single motherhood. Difficult relationships. Job searching. Day dreaming of what life could be. Until finally I realized something very profound.

I had to go first.

I had been leading myself through this amazing journey as a pioneer desperately waiting for others to SEE me, GET my passion, and support me as fully and deeply as I would support them. But that’s not how it works (for me, at least). I suddenly realized that I had to see myself first and support myself before anyone else could. I had to stop being a victim of my relational circumstances. I had to stop thinking “if only others supported me, I could make magic happen”. No, I had to lead myself through my life in this way.

So I did.

On one very non-glamorous afternoon, I decided it was time to radically own my life and support my dreams. And as I started truly believing in myself, my wildest dreams started coming true.

But it wasn’t until the grief and desperation of feeling alone on my path as a pioneer did I realize that this was not how my story would keep telling itself for the rest of my life."

In one word, how would you describe/define your experience?

"Determined. Through my story, I found myself in situations where I could have easily thrown up my hands and stopped, saying it was too hard. But I kept reaching for what I knew was possible."

What would you compare your experience to? And/or what analogy would define your experience?

"A pioneer forging their way through uncharted territory."

What advice would you give yourself or someone else experiencing something similar?

"Write a letter to yourself on your best day, telling yourself why you’re so proud of the things you’re doing and the challenges you’re facing. Pull it out on your down days and read it as many times as it takes to decide to get back to forging your path."

Hear the song "Your Own Trail" inspired by Jacqueline's story: Available Everywhere 10.15.21

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