Two events in 2010 changed the trajectory of my life forever.
I was driving home on June 22, 2010. As usual, I was talking to Mom. We talked about everyday things like my kids and when we would see each other next. I told her that I had been stranded at home the day before because every road to work was flooded due to heavy rainfall.
She wondered why I had not called. The truth was, I was being selfish and wanted a day to myself. I was scheduled to leave on a work-related trip to Costa Rica on June 26, so I spent the day packing and getting everything ready. I knew calling Mom would result in a two-hour phone conversation, so I made the decision not to call.
As I pulled into the garage, I told her (again) that I had to go because I wanted to take my three-year-old daughter to the pool or run with her through the sprinkler. It was finally hot enough to get into some water—for the first time in 2010!
My daughter, Raquel, loved the water, and so did I. My love of the water came from Mom. She taught my siblings and me how to swim when we were very young and always made sure we spent a lot of time at the pool. I wanted to get Raquel in the water so we could have some fun, but also because she had been talking about swimming with Mom (a.k.a. Grandma Reimers) since January. Raquel loved going swimming with Mom, and Mom loved swimming with her.
I told Mom again that I had to go and for a split second thought about telling her that I loved her. She said, “Okay,” quietly and with disappointment in her voice. Mom and I talked often, so I left the “I love you” out of the conversation and bolted out of the vehicle to see Raquel. She was ready to get wet, but my nine-month-old son was not feeling well. We opted for the sprinkler and had a great time laughing, playing, and goofing around in the yard. When you live in Nebraska, the first time getting wet in the summer is always the best.
After running through the sprinkler, my husband, Jim, and I gave the kids a bath. I got into the shower around 9:00 p.m. I had just stepped in and turned the water on when Jim came into the bathroom and told me that Dad was calling. I was not worried and told Jim that I would call Mom and Dad back after I showered.
He came back a few minutes later and told me I had better call home, because it was an emergency. I called home. The line was busy. Then I called my sister Marsha, and the words that came out with great sorrow as she cried and sobbed will haunt me forever: “Mom is dead…she’s dead!”
In that single moment, my life changed forever. I quickly packed a bag and drove to my parents’ home to be with Dad. It was dark, and I drove through a very strong thunderstorm for the entire two hours it took me to get there. The thunder, lightning, and torrential rain seemed to mirror that exact moment of my life. It was dark, turbulent, and cold. My soul was numb.
Seeing Dad’s face after I walked in the door added to the pain. He was the one who found Mom—his wife of forty-five years, the woman with whom he had raised six kids and spent most of his life. I was the first one he called…and I was not there for him. While Mom was dying, I was running through the sprinkler with my daughter. It was the beginning of a very dark time in my life.
Events such as someone’s untimely death make you question your life. I can’t tell you how many times I have asked myself about the purpose of life since June 22, 2010. Sometimes life itself doesn’t even seem real. It seems more like a dream.
I started questioning my religious beliefs and career choices. There were so many things about Mom’s death that made me question everything, including my life purpose.
My parents had just celebrated their forty-fifth wedding anniversary the month before we lost Mom. We celebrated the anniversary on the day of my daughter’s third birthday party. It was a fun day—a beautiful day. The six of us kids tried to surprise Mom and Dad with champagne and cake, but of course she had packed a cooler with champagne too. Mom was hard to surprise, because she knew us all so well.
The six children and their families bought a gift certificate for my parents. It was for a rock on which they could have their names inscribed. They could place it at either their house in town or on the acreage they purchased after my grandma’s death. The acreage is part of the Reimers family farm, which has been in our family for over one hundred years.
Mom and Dad spent a lot of time working on the acreage. When I called in the evening, they usually told me they were “farming.” My parents both grew up on farms and had farming in their blood. Mom and Dad’s “farm” is truly a historical and spiritual place for my family. My dad grew up on it, and all six of us kids spent time there as children. We all have great memories of the farm and still spend a lot of time there enjoying our large family.
A few weeks after the combined birthday/anniversary celebration, my parents went to my husband’s hometown to celebrate his parents’ fiftieth anniversary. It was a Saturday, and Dad had to work. I told Mom several times that my in-laws would understand if they couldn’t make it. She really wanted to be there, so Mom and Dad made the two-hour journey to the anniversary celebration after he was done working.
It was a busy day. I spent most of my time taking care of our two kids. I could not get our infant son, Jagger, to take a nap. He was very fussy, and I tried everything I could to comfort him. Mom took him, and she put him right to sleep. Thank God for grandmas!
While Mom snuggled Jagger, my sister and I took pictures of the celebration. Mom asked me to take a picture of her and Jagger. I took a few shots, and she asked me to take some more. I remember thinking Ugh! I already did this. Why is she being so insistent? But she was determined to get a good shot of the two of them together.
That was the last time she held my son. It’s one of the few pictures I have of the two of them together. It was the last day I would see her alive.
My sister’s little boy was having fun with the camera and took the last picture of Mom that weekend. She was sitting on a chair in their living room, waving at him with a wonderful smile on her face. Mom passed away ten days later. Fate is a strange and fickle trickster.
According to the autopsy, Mom’s death was “undetectable and unavoidable.” She didn’t know it was coming, and neither did the rest of us. I was the last one to talk to her. Mom and I finished our call a little after 5:30 the night of her passing. Dad had to work late that night, which rarely happened.
Mom passed away in those few hours between my hanging up the phone and Dad’s coming home. Dad has felt guilty for not being there with her, and I have felt guilty about hanging up the phone. We still do not know exactly what happened, but we do know she was alone in her final moments.
We know Mom was in the middle of making dinner and had her suitcase half packed. She was getting ready for a meal with Dad and to travel to a grandson’s baby shower.
My brother and his wife were expecting their first child—a boy. Mom had already started packing, which was strange for her. She was usually very last-minute. Mom was really excited about the baby. In her suitcase was a box of Matchbox cars my brother played with as a child, and it was time to pass them on to the next generation. She was simply going about her day when she died. I guess that’s what happens with a death that is undetectable and unavoidable.
Mom made sure we had a family picture taken in April of 2010. She had wanted one for some time. According to the hairstyles, our last formal family picture was taken in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s. It was my parents’ forty-fifth anniversary, and she was determined to make the picture happen to commemorate such a tremendous milestone. Mom, Dad, and the six of us had a fun day taking pictures. It was just us again. No spouses, no kids. We took pictures, goofed off a lot, and had lunch together. I can’t remember the last time we had a day like that!
The goal was to get a complete family portrait taken after my brother’s baby was born. Then each of us six kids would have at least one child. It never happened, and it never will. We used the family picture we took in April for Mom’s funeral. Mom’s insight had been right again. We are all so thankful to have one last family portrait. It would have been better to have a picture with all the spouses and grandchildren too, but it was not meant to be, I guess.
One of the things I noticed most after Mom’s sudden death was the odd assortment of sympathy cards. I kept reading phrases like “Be thankful now that life’s anguish has ended” and “Your loved one is now in Heaven where they are in pain no more.”
Why do we assume people are in so much pain and anguish while they are living? Mom was not sick. Actually, she appeared to be very healthy. She did not have a long-term illness or any apparent health concerns. Were the sympathy cards supposed to make my family feel better by trying to tell us that her sucky life finally ended? Truthfully, I could not relate to many of the cards. The only one that would have really worked would have read something like this:
“Sorry to hear of your Mom’s sudden death. That really sucks, and you have every right to question everything and be pissed off at the world. Your family was totally awesome, and your Mom was an amazing woman. Let us know when you want to come over and have a good cry. Your favorite bottle of wine is chilling in the fridge.”
Everyone has challenges, but shouldn’t life be grand? Life is a gift, not a burden. Contrary to what most sympathy cards seem to portray, life is a journey. It should not be viewed as a seemingly endless challenge filled with misery and pain. Mom’s death was the first thing in 2010 that made me want to fulfill the wishes on my “bucket list.” A trip to Costa Rica was the second.
Fortunately, I work for a great organization. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) helped me take care of my travel arrangements after Mom died in June and rescheduled my trip to Costa Rica for November. That set the stage for event number two. The wheels of fate kept moving forward.
It was a fantastic trip. I experienced a new country with numerous cultures for the first time with two other faculty members (and friends) with whom I went to graduate school. The spouse of one of the faculty members, who is also a good friend, made the trip with us. It truly was a great experience both personally and professionally.
We toured two different campuses of Earth University, spending time in the urban area of San Jose and in rural Costa Rica exploring the relationships between agriculture, natural resources, leadership, and education. Our group also visited a farm family in the rainforest, which ended up being a highlight of the trip. The day before we arrived, the family we visited had access to electricity for the first time. They were excited to show us their progress.
The house itself was what many of us living in rural Nebraska would consider a machine shed that needed work. Picture a worn wood frame covered with rusty pieces of corrugated tin on top of a dirt floor that turned to mud when it rained. Wooden planks were used for a partial floor in the tiny living area, where two parents were raising three children and taking care of an elderly parent. Blankets and curtains substituted for walls.
We talked with the woman of the house. She was a wife and mother as well as a leader in the agricultural community. She and her husband were building a very diverse farming operation, which was growing more successful each year. She was a tiny woman with big, beautiful brown eyes, glowing skin, and a gorgeous smile. Her young son clung to her while we were standing in their kitchen.
With the help of a professor from Earth University, she told us all about the advances they had made in their farming operation. It was a great story. They hooked into electricity a couple of days before we visited, and they also recently had access to methane. She turned on her stove, and a huge flame came shooting out of one of the burners. The look on her face said it all—the thrill of success! It was a great tribute to the hard work her family had invested in their farming operation. It was a wonderful sight. I didn’t have the guts to ask for a picture, but wish I had. What a great moment!
It was raining quite hard while we were there. The woman’s husband was out tending to some business and met us just as we were leaving to head to our next destination. He was wearing a torn plastic bag to protect himself from the rain. The torn bag was not working well. He was soaked! We were finished touring the rainy side of Costa Rica and moving to the drier side, so we gave our ponchos to the family. Amazing how the disposable poncho I purchased for ninety-nine cents could be so valuable. Yet another reminder of how spoiled many of us are without knowing it.
Driving through the rainforest is a thrilling experience. The scenery there is very different from the views we have in Nebraska. Both are beautiful in their unique ways. We drove on very narrow, winding roads that were heavily traveled. Many semis were on the road because it was the best route to the main ports. We were driving around a sharp, narrow curve and nearly hit a vehicle that was coming around from the opposite direction. The vehicles on the opposite side had to cross the centerline to get around the sharp curves. Phew! The first semi that crossed the centerline had missed us. We weren’t so lucky the next time.
It all happened in what felt like slow motion. We were driving around the next curve when a huge semi came from the opposite direction. Our driver, Walter, took our midsize SUV as far to the right as possible. There was a sharp drop-off on our side of the road, so he could get over only so far without either sending us off the side of the road or rolling the vehicle. I was sitting behind Walter and could see the semi coming right toward my window. It’s one of those life moments when you know what is about to happen and can’t do anything to stop it.
My young family flashed through my mind. Jim’s worst fear was something happening to me in a foreign country, leaving him with two young kids to raise by himself. In that moment, I was afraid that was exactly what was going to happen. As the semi barreled toward my window, I thought about my family and braced for impact. I closed my eyes when the semi was about to hit. Crash! The impact was on the side of my door and the rear bumper behind my seat. I opened my eyes and realized we were miraculously spared. I do not use the word miraculously lightly. To this day, I have no idea how we walked away from that accident.
It really didn’t make any sense. The semi had swung way beyond the centerline to make the curve, and we didn’t have a great deal of room on our side of the road to maneuver. I truly believe Walter’s amazing driving skills and divine intervention were at work. We were safe and didn’t have any injuries. I still can’t believe it when my mind flashes back to that moment.
Let’s just say we all felt lucky to be alive and truly enjoyed the rest of our trip. I delicately broke the news to Jim after I returned from Costa Rica, having waited so he would not worry about me while I finished the work assignment. Experiencing Costa Rica was great, but coming home was awesome!
We touched down in Omaha on Saturday. One of my fellow travelers was not feeling well on the trip and was diagnosed with cancer right after we returned. How do you survive a crash with a semi on a narrow road in the Costa Rican rainforest only to be diagnosed with cancer a few days later?
Mom’s death, the semi crash, and a friend’s cancer—all these events caused me to rethink my life to the deepest depths possible.
The Purpose of Go Wild with Confidence
The year 2010 changed the direction of my life forever, and I am now focused on living my best life. As a researcher and coach in the areas of leadership and innovation, I have noticed one issue my clients struggle with most: confidence. Many people have great ideas and a wonderful sense of what they want to do with their lives, but they lack the confidence and inner strength that enables them to move in the right direction.
After Mom’s unexpected passing, I received a mini-book on grief from the pastor of my church. The book, Grief…Reminders for Healing by Gale Massey, was perfect! I could read it quickly and easily when I needed help dealing with Mom’s death. I also gave a copy to Dad, who found himself suddenly struggling with being a widower after forty-five years of marriage.
For those of you reading this right now, I hope you can use this short publication in the same way I used the mini-book on grief: as a simple tool to help improve your life. I now realize how important it is to live a fulfilled life every single day. I no longer take any day, hour, or minute for granted. It is my calling to help others do the same…
Innovation always begins with people. Self-confident individuals filled with passion, purpose, and confidence are the most creative and innovative. They have strong Inner Leaders and the confidence it takes to lead personal, organizational, and community change and innovation.
My research on entrepreneurial individuals and innovation identified personal fulfillment as one of the most important factors associated with motivation and success. I have also found that individuals must discover and define success for themselves. True personal fulfillment and innovation flourish when individuals have the confidence to realize their own passions and take inspired actions. Personal fulfillment is becoming more important to individuals and organizations. It serves as the foundation for a sort of “happiness factor” for individuals and employees. Personal fulfillment also encourages entrepreneurial behavior and innovation. Personally fulfilled employees are more creative, innovative, and engaged, which translates into healthy, vibrant, and successful businesses, organizations, and communities.
The world needs entrepreneurial leaders who have the capacity to nurture personal fulfillment and sustainable innovation. Before you can successfully lead others, you must first lead yourself. So invest in yourself. Focus on developing your Inner Leader by strengthening your confidence and living the life you want for yourself. And, make sure you spread the wealth! Great leaders invest in their confidence as well as the confidence of others.
This book is designed to be used. Record your notes, thoughts, and ideas as you move through the material. Make copies of the pages that speak to you, and place them where you can read them daily. Keep your work in front of you. Take note of your dreams and progress many times per day, especially first thing in the morning and before going to bed. Constant focus on your intentions and progress will help you embed powerful thoughts into your subconscious mind, which is a great way to strengthen your confidence and your Inner Leader.
Confidence is one of the keys to personal fulfillment and happiness. I sincerely hope this book helps you strengthen your Inner Leader and confidence while enjoying life to the fullest. Feel free to share this work to help build the confidence of others. A world of confident people living with purpose and passion is a world of unique gifts and talents that are being used to help us all live in a better place.
Do yourself a favor, and Go Wild with Confidence!
The above passage was published in my first book, Go Wild with Confidence!: Strengthen your Inner Leader and live your best life with purpose, passion and fun!
I wrote Go Wild to process my Mom’s death and my own brush with it. Today marks the anniversary of her death, and I am working hard to celebrate her life instead of reliving her sudden and traumatic departure. It’s still not easy. I am writing this with gratitude today remembering my Mom and all that she taught me. Her legacy lives through me, my Dad and siblings as well as her grandchildren. I am a better person and mother because of her. Our family will always celebrate and cherish the great memories. Her legacy will live on for future generations. This fact demonstrates the importance of parenting!
Below are parting thoughts from Go Wild with Confidence!: Strengthen your Inner Leader and live your best life with purpose, passion and fun! The scientific side of me likes data and facts; however, I have discovered the rich world of the unknown in the years since Mom’s death. Miracles do happen. I also believe in the power of intuition and think we receive signs if we are open to them. More on this in future posts.
There are many ways to develop your confidence. Ultimately, you have to decide what is right for you. Journaling, meditation, goal setting, visualization, art, nature, healthy eating, physical activity, fun, the use of personal mantras, affirmations, Visual Visions, Personal Confidence Statements, and Personal Confidence Teams can all be great tools to help move you forward. You may also want to consider hiring a coach. Whatever you decide, just make sure the strategies and structures you put in place work for you and are focused on what you truly want to accomplish and experience. Many people set false goals they never achieve because they left their heart and personal desire out of the process.
Setting and pursuing false goals leads to a lack of interest and motivation, which leads to goal abandonment and ultimately to a feeling of failure and self-doubt. Feelings of failure and self-doubt can seriously erode self-confidence. Goals should be set for you as an individual and based on personal fulfillment, not simply on what you think you should do based on the thoughts and influences of others or society. Establish your personal definition of success. When creating a plan to achieve your definition of success, be sure to develop goals, strategies, and structures that are holistic and recognize the importance and power of the mind-body-spirit connection.
After Mom’s sudden death, I had many conversations with Dad about living life. He told me he had no regrets. My parents celebrated forty-five years of marriage a month before Mom’s passing, and Dad said they did everything they wanted to do together. I will never know Mom’s true thoughts on this subject; I just hope she felt the same way.
Life-changing events have a way of putting things into perspective. My philosophy about life has become this: Life should be a journey filled with wonderful experiences, and we must define success for ourselves. Many of us tend to focus too much on accumulating titles and stuff rather than experiences. Our individual journeys should be what we want to experience and enjoy. Life should not be a daily grind. Life should not be a to-do list.
My family gathered together on the family farm for the 4th of July after Mom’s death. The Fourth was her favorite holiday, and celebrating it was always a big deal. This time, there was a cloud of deep sadness over my family. We wanted to be together on her favorite holiday, but celebrating without her was incredibly painful. As a thick sadness filled the air, it began to sprinkle and a beautiful rainbow appeared. We all stood there in a sort of surprised and unsettling awe. Then, a reassuring feeling came over everyone. We were all thinking it, but my cousin Dann was the only one brave enough to say it out loud. It was a sign from Mom. I later read that rainbows and butterflies commonly serve as after-death communications. Some believe rainbows are the connection between heaven and earth. All I know for sure is that it was a very special moment for my family. We have a picture of Mom’s rainbow over the farm on her favorite holiday. Every time I look at it, I think of Mom, that moment, and the gift of life. Reimers-Hild, Go Wild with Confidence! 101 Your time on this planet is short, so enjoy it. Go Wild with Confidence! Strengthen your Inner Leader, and live your best life with purpose, passion, and fun!
Be You & Do Something Cool!