I recently visited our Signature of Brookwood Gardens facility in Miami to check on the pulse of the Revolution where many were concerned about where we were headed. I dug in deeply, starting with the morning clinical meeting, interacting at the stand-up meeting, and visiting every customer who was willing to share some Cuban coffee and discuss life.
I always start with, ‘Where were you born? What was your vocation, not your occupation? How did you fall in love?’ And so on… All of these questions, regardless of where we are in our sacred journey, create a deep connection because we never forget where we came from, or what we loved to do, or who we loved the most – truly universal questions that make our life reappear.
At Brookwood Gardens, something big happened. I was visiting with our therapy team, checking in on the new software and some new equipment, and thanking the team for their great dedication during some really uncertain times in healthcare.
On the rehab machine was a weathered man named David Lippi, working hard to overcome a recent amputation of his right leg. We made great eye contact, I asked where he was from, and he said, ‘how about you first?’ I said, ‘the famous city of Louisville, Ky…’ His eye watered as David regrouped saying, ‘I ran in the 1986 Kentucky Derby on a horse named Southern Appeal.’ This happened to be the first Kentucky Derby I ever attended, when Ferdinand was the first horse to ever go from last to first.
Sitting in the cheap grandstand seats drinking my first mint julep, watching the horses roar by with one of the most electrifying crowds ever, I never thought that during an encounter 27 years later in South Florida would our lives intersect.
To me, David is royalty who competed in one of the first ever Breeder’s Cup races, and led the famed Kentucky Derby after the first turn, but today he was a struggling man who, at 64, had lost his leg, his wife, his health and is trying to raise a 14-year-old son. At the peak of his earnings potential, he headed to Canada because he fell in love, never recovering financially.
He is the perfect candidate for our amazing Hall of Fame program that celebrated resident legacy. We can never forget that everyone’s journey has a magical aspect to it, and David embodied why we started Hall of Fame in the first place…a famed jockey looking for some joy, who has been supported by our team to forget about all of life’s pain for a few moments and smile, and live with all of us. I saw the gleam and joy come back in his eye…that’s why the the Hall of Fame matters – it makes us all better.
We cheered, prayed, and cried often over the past years, but learned three great lessons from Stephen that we all cherish today.