He had smiling eyes just like Ryan, and I can’t help but feel a special kinship with him. He was everything a good friends should be, to so many…so you can imagine how touched I was to be invited to speak at the Friends for Life Keynote about Dr. Richard Rubin.
I had written out what I wanted to say a couple weeks ahead. Problem was, every time I read it, I couldn’t finish. I was too emotional.
How in the world would I ever do this?
I was a mess going into the Friends For Life Conference. The weight of the responsibility hung over me, unwavering. I’ve spoken in front of hundreds of people before. But thousands?
I tried not to think about it.
The two nights proceeding I laid in bed for hours, repeating the words I wanted to say over and over again, trying to desensitize myself a bit from the enormity of it all. Just a few hours sleep wasn’t the best way to start the day, but it was my reality, and I was determined to make the most of it.
When I opened my eyes the morning I was to give my small speech, I woke up shaking. I kid you not. I lifted my trembling hand in amazement.
I was sure there was no way I was going to do this without collapsing.
So I prayed. And sure enough the peace I longed for washed over me.
I walked into the large hall and sat at an empty table close to the stage. I looked at the four stairs leading up to the stage and found a new horrific worry: Tripping. What if I tripped going up there? What would I do? What would I say? I even considered tripping on purpose so I wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore. I took ownership of the fear, but thought better of it later on.
I found Dr. Rubin’s wife minutes before it all was about to begin. I hugged her, thanked her for letting me do this, and she handed me a program from Richard’s funeral. Seeing his smiling face, my heart stumbled backward a bit. But then looking up into her smile, her genuine love and sweet countenance…I knew I could do this.
When I was introduced I walked up to the stage.
I didn’t trip.
I said the words. I barely shook. I paused a few times to gain composure, but I got through it all without becoming a puddle on the floor.
At least I think that is what went down. It is all just completely white light to me. I don’t remember hardly any of it. I would question if it ever really happened, except there are a ton of terrible, emotional pictures of me giving the speech on Facebook and Twitter.
I prefer this one.
That is how I felt.
Washed in white light.
I know that I was held up. I know that I had Ryan and Richard on either side of me whispering, “You can do this” in my ears.
And I am so very thankful for their gentle spirits, and smiling eyes that convinced my soul I actually could.
Without further ado…my speech:
I would like to thank Jeff and Laura for inviting me to speak on Dr. Rubin’s behalf today. I also would like to send my love and condolences to Dr. Rubin’s family. Same.
I met Dr. Richard Rubin three years ago at an advocate forum in Southern California. His kindness and understanding were so refreshing I wanted to wrap him up in a gum wrapper and keep him in my purse for always. Last year my family attended FFL for the first time. When I saw that Dr. Rubin would be lecturing, I asked my husband to go in early and save us seats. And as any good FFL husband would, he complied. It was minutes later that Dr. Rubin made his way to the seat next to my husband and said, “I think we are supposed to be friends.” My husband said, “I have 3 boys with Type 1 Diabetes.” Dr. Rubin said, “I have a son with Type 1 Diabetes too.” My husband said, “I have stage 4 cancer.” Dr. Rubin said, “I have stage 4 cancer too.” Dr. Rubin I’m sure saw the tell tale signs of the ravaging effects of the treatments my husband was enduring at the time. He was swollen twice his size from the powerful steroids that kept him alive. They hugged and cried and became instant friends, and then began corresponding by email shorty after that. After my husband passed away last September, Dr. Rubin continued to correspond with me. His letters were full of love. Love for his family. Love of nature. They were full of appreciation. Appreciation for friendships, for the changing seasons, his gardens, and wonders of the sunrise and sunset. Two weeks before he passed away, Richard sent me this poem. He wrote it himself right before beginning his last round of chemo:
Poem, “I am not afraid.”
I am not afraid
As I approach death’s door and prepare to knock
Truth be told, I have been preparing since the day years ago
When I first heard the words “aggressive cancer”
Through the early times of encouragement and hope
Through the middle times of treatments that worked and those that did not
Through the recent times of chemotherapies that work until they work no longer
As my body weakens, my spirit strengthens
A small fire within that sustains me
And warms those who love and care for me
Drawing them closer
To share what can be shared
As I approach death’s door and prepare to knock and enter
I am not afraid
I would ask each of you this week, in honor Dr. Richard Rubin, to take the time to smell the flowers, or even take a moment to marvel at the sunset…and when you do, think about the hard things in your life, and then whisper to yourself, “I am not afraid.”
And then…try to find the courage within yourself, as Dr. Rubin did, to believe it.