There are no small things to God, and little things will become really big, powerful things that eventually help us all!
I recently released the blog about Richard Cusati, the amazing man who has fought a battle with MS every day for almost three decades without ever thinking about giving up or feeling sorry for himself. Encounters like the one I experienced with Richard help me stay motivated during a very challenging time for Signature HealthCARE and our LTC industry with lawsuits every day in Kentucky, rate cuts by states and the new Obama care coupled with proposed ‘fiscal cliff’ cuts.
Some days you wonder, ‘does anyone forget these sacred people?’ We are a high-touch, high-risk service and something that most families could no longer achieve at home, so we should do it perfectly, knowing we will try but most likely can’t ever replace either one. In this business, the operating margins are so thin that many political leaders forget they already cut you multiple times last year…
However, I have another story that combines hope, miracles, and love like very few ever could. Recently, we were in North Florida celebrating a new medical office building opening by Northwest Florida Community Hospital that will attract new physicians and professionals in Chipley, Florida, which could be a model for small town healthcare. The visionary owner was a man who wanted to save a town, restore trust and build something special – and Pat Schlenker did.
There were big crowds, great speeches, dignitaries all around and a proud community praying for great healthcare and community prosperity. After I said a few words and finished several interviews, I rushed over to our 5-star Washington Rehab and Nursing Center, led by Bret Brown and his team.
Dianne T. and I went room to room so we could meet and check on every resident. There were aspiring poets, in-house presidents, incredible stakeholders, busy customers who were in a hurry to get to rehab to work out, and really happy people – people who just got tired of being home alone and love the socialization. I was so proud to be a Signature stakeholder in the Revolution that I had goose bumps. It was not always that way here before Signature…trust me, I know, because we bought it to change it.
Then it happened again…
Brett wanted Dianne and me to meet and pray with a special example for all of us, a resident who had just had a home evaluation after several years in the center. This means they are checking his home environment for adaptability because they believe he will get back to his own bed, with his wife and children, and put his toes in his backyard grass again – because this man, with his wife’s unconditional love, had too much to lose to ever give up.
After a terrible accident, he started with no movement, was told he would be institutionalized for life, moving only his eyebrows and eyelids to communicate initially. On this day, his wife was sitting next to him with joy; their dream, years in the making, will come true soon, God willing. He started with a total physical rebuilding project, but a heart bigger than a lion.
He and his wife talked about the hopeful days and the dark days, the almost daily therapies, the psychology support needed to keep him on his miraculous path to the impossible, and the loving staff that would not let him even think about giving up. They told me they had to quit thinking about “what is” but “what it could be.” They had to pray 24/7, knowing God was there and committed, and they had to measure life by the littlest progress possible because it is still progress knowing little things eventually add up to really big things. And they believed for that really big thing.
I can’t lie, my eyes kept watering up, and I wondered, ‘did I possess a faith that big in my darkest hours?’ I worried whether I would have the personal tenacity to do something as big as losing what seems like everything at the time and then with love, support, and a heart of gold, become a living miracle for others to touch, hug, and learn from.
They inspired me, made me want to be stronger and made me want to reach out more because it made me think of what my mother always said: ‘Nothing is a little thing to God. Little things become big things eventually, and there are miracle workers among us – we just need to slow and look closer.’ And I finally did.
Prior to COVID, I think we all felt like we spent more time with work, work partners and peers than our own families. Was it good or bad? For me, I worked with some of the most talented people in the country, so I loved it. And obviously I love my family too! I had the blessing to work with a friend, brother, Savant, Mensa member, and so much more for nearly a decade and a half – Stephen Stocksdale. To say he was talented with an amazing range is honestly a great understatement in a world full of the opposite. Stephen did so much intellectually, professionally, and personally that for the first three years of working with him, I assumed it “all could not be true”. But time and time again I learned the opposite was true. He served our mission-based organization in every role (field leader, controller, administrator, VP, strategy, consultant, start-ups, etc.) and whatever else we asked of him. Despite having more professional success himself, he just wanted to help us grow in all ways.
One day 5 ½ years ago, Stephen was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and we grieved with him as you would expect. But he was a determined guy and decided to not just learn all he could about cancer, but to master it. He decided there had to be a path he could carve out for himself that no doctor had considered, or he would locate new research that would help him beat it. With a scientific mind and unparalleled IQ, he found a clinical trial he was approved to get in. This trial’s treatment regimen was so potent, and Stephen was the only one that survived. He learned about transfusions, blood structures, and cancer interventions. Cancer kicked his ass often, but he always beat it back up and won again!
We cheered, prayed, and cried often over the past years, but learned three great lessons from Stephen that we all cherish today:
- “Be a Lifelong Learner” because we can always master new things and age is just a number, but lifelong learners never get old. Stephen mastered EMT services, police work, cancer research, hospital administration, heart transplant programs, high level statistical methods, travel, long term care, teaching, and many other degrees, certifications, and accomplishments over 65 years, so let’s all keep Learning and keep growing!
- “Never Give Up” because we grow everyone around us in our struggles and sufferings in ways that impact everyone around us and Stephen knew that and wanted us to get stronger, be more grateful and relearn presence, which we all did! When he came back home, he rarely missed a day at the office and taught all of us new things daily up until the moment he passed last week.
- “GOD IS SO REAL” Stephen had historical expertise on religions, studied theological premises, and had a metaphysical outlook, but in this battle, he felt like he met the Lord and had to share it with all of us. He knew he beat something that is nearly unbeatable, and he wanted time to share his story, his walk, and his private time with the Lord. He watched prayer groups with people he barely knew praying 24/7 that he receives a miracle, and he did receive one that he could share with all of us.
Our organization is going through a very painful time as a mid-size nursing home organization that has stakeholders who worked under unbelievable stress and pressure for so long and had to endure seeing some of our residents pass away. We have lost half of our team, and we are still trying to rebuild stronger and better. I think after serving through the pandemic for 2 ½ years and struggling with how to bring it all back together in this changing workplace and overworked healthcare system, and after suffering so much pulsating unknowns for so long, it was Stephen who gave us the best reason to not look back. He taught us to enjoy the struggle as something that can deepen us all and stay prayerful that God is with us during times like these. We need to rebuild and have new passion as learners, which Stephen demonstrated everyday making our lift just a little easier. And lastly, when you beat cancer four times and die from something else, how could we ever give up? It’s time for us to just “STOCKSDALE IT” and grow by learning, fighting harder and believing in our purpose!
Stephen’s office will remain untouched for now because when he left work on Monday with his ambitious assignments on his wall, we never knew we would not see him again. However, we can certainly feel his presence and we are all better people for his amazing lessons that he taught us until his last hour!