Browsing the archives for the Courage tag

Four Candles for the Queen of the Universe

Change, Life as it is, Love, Spiritual Journey

My friend, Debby, the Debutaunt – the self-proclaimed Queen of the Universe, passed away today.

Four Candles for the Queen of the Universe

Light the First Candle
The light of this first candle represents our grief. The pain of losing you is intense. It reminds us of the depth of our love for you.

I got the news on twitter and sent condolences and then thinking of Deb, I looked over some of the photos I have of her. Grief then overwhelmed me as I realized the hole that she left in me – I guess part of me has been waiting for her Instant Message to joke about kicking cancer’s ass again and we would swap stories and laughs just like we used to do.

I tried to look over some photos and maybe send them to her sisters, but I couldn’t function at the computer at all. I was moved to honor her and I wanted to give something special to he sisters, but i was non-functional. So I stopped and called friends to connect and share my feelings to get through it all.

Light the Second Candle
The light of this second candle represents our courage – the courage to confront our sorrow, to comfort each other, and to move forward in our lives

Deb is the bravest woman I have ever met, and her family is an amazing family. If you follow the link to her blog, you can start the story where I did in about July 2005. Meet a woman coping with life the best that she can when she finds she has Leukemia a couple months later. Read her stories of her courage as she found reason after reason for why she can do this – and watch as she fought with a katana-like will to get better.

Light the Third Candle
This third candle is a light to all of our memories of you. To the times we laughed, the times we cried, the times we were angry with each other. The silly things you did, the caring and the joy you gave us.

So tonight I reached out to a friend and connected with another person on the phone – and also went to pick up my daughter. On the way home with my daughter it occurred to me how I could respect the depths of my feelings for the loss of Deb. So we stopped off for milkshakes and when we got home I got my son and daughter together at the kitchen table and we had milkshakes while I told them stories of how Deb became the Queen of the Universe (it says so right on her checks), and how she helped me when my daughter was in the hospital, and how crazy-funny her blog was.

I shared, too, how much of her blog I re-read when my father was diagnosed with Leukemia as well. Deb was sick again by this time, but her story had been written and shared. I sent gifts to team Zoe, her daughter’s Leukemia Society fundraiser, in my father’s name. Deb’s fight, and the grace with which her family showed rallying around her, helped me as this evil blood cancer took him away.

Light the Fourth Candle
This fourth candle is the light of our love. We cherish the special place in our hearts that will always be reserved for you. we thank you for the gift your life brought to each of us. We love you, always.

I pray that Zoe will remember always just how many lives her mom touched and made better because of her smile and her fierce battle to survive. There was such light in her smile and laugh, and we will remember her.

On the way home, I remembered a recent memorial service we attended for my father who flew away in October. In this service, they lit four candles and read a special celebration for each candle and what it meant. It was a beautiful way to honor and respect my father when this service was performed a couple weeks ago. My suit coat was still hanging in the car tonight and I found a copy of the service in my coat pocket.

So tonight, this is how I remember and celebrate the passing of the Queen of the Universe. Lighting each candle and speaking these words on behalf of all those inspired and touched by her. Her fight is over, and all of our lives are better for both the battle she fought and for the peace she now knows. May all those who have been touched by Deb – especially her family – find comfort in one another and in the love she has for them.

She touched so many people. I’m just one of them.

[Edited on 5/22/2009 to add the following from Deb’s Sister]

Speaking of friends… several of you have been asking about how you can help… if you knew Debby, you knew that she was always behind raising money or awareness for a few good causes. Here is a list:

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to

Contributions may be made to:
The Financial Advisory Group, Inc.
c/o David Jenkins
5599 San Felipe, Suite 900
Houston, TX 77056

Please make out the checks to “College America” and in the memo field write “FBO: Zoe Costello.”


Fear and Courage

Life as it is, Spiritual Journey

I have a confession to make. I am not only an expert at making mistakes, I am also an expert on fear. Many of my friends describe me as being courageous, which describes my decisions and my choices, but usually my over-riding feeling at such times is fear.

Anyone who has worked with me for very long has heard me talk about fear. I may refer to the acronym of F.E.A.R. as False Evidence Appearing Real. In fact, if you listen to conversations between myself and my closest friends, one of the first things we we do is ask and listen to just what the other person fears, and then ask what evidence they have that this feared outcome will occur. Then we plan how to face it.

Long Have I Watched the Streets of Galveston

Many years ago, I was not as aware of fear, because I used to flee from it. I made safe choices, or at least the least frightening ones. I did some occasionally daring deeds and had some successes – but that was because I feared what might happen if I didn’t dare more than what might happen if I did. Some might say it motivated me, but the truth is that it drove me. And just like a hot air balloonist hardly feels any wind, I never felt any fear, for it was carrying me where it went. Have you ever rode your bike on a clear spring day feeling no wind, until you turned back and rode against a headwind? Fear didn’t motivate me, it drove me.

Those safe and fear-driven choices had their own consequences. My creativity all but vanished, for to create anything is to risk it being ridiculed. My relationships suffered, for I was careful in what I said and shared and did not stand up for much of anything. Even playing suffered, for while I had many hobbies to occupy me, I was too inhibited to risk reaching for joy.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.
— Ambrose Redmoon

In time it was those relationships that got me to face fear. The way I was living was not producing the results I wanted so I started changing. I started doing it for them, then I started doing it for my own relationship with myself.

It’s frightening to go places where we have never been before. As a result, reaching for more joy than ever before or becoming a parent or dealing with a sudden emergency all cause fear. And it’s worse if you are intelligent and creative, because you have the mind capable of imagining a million little disasters and their outcomes.

After a while, I found that when i felt sudden fear, it often meant I should go back to that thought or situation and poke it with a stick and face it. I still feel it – that choking sensation of fear – but it doesn’t drive me any more. I get to choose where I want to go in life.

For years, this was written in my office and in my home:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
— Dune, Frank Herbert

I am a single father of two teens so trust me, I still know and experience fear on an intimate and real basis. Even now I am afraid as I write this how I might appear egotistical or sanctimonious, and still have all of it terribly wrong. Or worse yet, what if nobody reads this and I am ignored?

I’m still going to post this when I am done. The truth is that in facing fear, I feel it more – this is true is writing for publication, public speaking, being a parent, reaching for unknown joy or anything else worth doing. Fear may be a wall too high to climb and too wide to go around – but it is only tissue paper thin. I just have to step through it.

Courage is being scared to death— and saddling up anyway.
— John Wayne