Great Lessons in Good Times and Bad

June 5, 2015 by  
Filed under blog


This week I was privileged to award 3 scholarships to graduating seniors from Cottonwood High School in Utah. I do it every year in the name of my daughter Kristin, who suddenly died of an eating disorder called bulimia when she was a sophomore at that school. It happened many years ago and anyone who has ever lost a child knows that you never get over it but, given enough time and thought, you learn to deal with it. And with more thought and the passage of time you may even learn a lesson or two.

So in my presentation to the 3 scholarship winners and to 100 plus other graduation seniors that were being honored for various achievements I gave what I think is crucial advice for a teenager and quite frankly I think good advice for all of us including myself. I said, first of all, “Let me tell you that if anyone ever tells you that they have a “perfect life”, I’m here to tell you that they are big fat lairs, or they just haven’t lived long enough yet”. Yes, I got a good laugh out of that line but it’s more than a funny line–it’s pretty darn true.

My second bit of advice that followed my first comment, was that the key to a successful and productive life is not what happens to you , especially if it’s bad stuff, but how you react to the things that happen to you and what you learn from it and then what you do from that point on.

Some people would say to me, “So what the hell did you learn from the tragedy of losing your 16 year old daughter?” Well, first I learned to accept what had happened, even though it took me a couple of years, by telling myself that although I can give up on life and give up on being a father to my other children, that I could just sit around and feel sorry for my daughter and myself for the rest of my life, it wouldn’t bring my Kristin back. I realized how stupid and selfish that would be and I wouldn’t be helping anyone. In fact, I’d be hurting a lot of people, especially my kids.

The second lesson I learned was about caring. I became so much more considerate of other people, even strangers, when I learned of their losses. Prior to my loss I was pretty callous and mainly only thought about myself. For too many of us it takes tragedy to bring us around to understanding the pain other people go through.

From the many comments I got from those graduating seniors, I think at least some of my advice sunk in and I sincerely hope they will still remember that advice when life kicks them in the face and they want to give up and feel sorry for themselves. We all need to burn into our brains that life is not easy, not for anyone (except maybe it seems that way for the big fat liars!) We need to keep getting up when life kicks us in the face and forge on. We also need to look for the lessons that are there for us, from both the good times and the bad times too!