With a heavy heart, I had to say goodbye to a great man last week. His name is Dr. Carl Ebersole and I had the special honor of working with him over the past few years as a personal training client. It’s not too often that you meet a military man that served in World War II, let alone get to spend a great deal of time with them. There just aren’t many WWII survivors left. Unfortunately, father time has taken them from us along with the incredible history as well.
It has taken me a week to process the unfortunate loss of one such man. When I took on the challenge of working with Carl, I was aware that he had unfortunately suffered a stroke a couple years prior that had diminished his overall physical capacity and sadly caused decline in his cognitive ability also. With that being said, Carl came to work with me two times per week since September of 2014 at the age of 88, and though his abilities were a bit compromised, his attitude and enthusiasm to “Try” was always there, regardless of how challenging it was. Initially for me I was out of my comfort zone as a trainer as I had not worked with someone of Carls advanced age, so I had to adapt the exercise routine not only as age appropriate, but keep in mind the physical limitations. It was tough for me at first, but I was so honored in working with this man that I was willing to walk the road with him.
To say my time with Carl was a learning experience would be an understatement. Although Carl had some cognitive challenges, he became a great teacher to me and helped me learn so much about myself in the three years and nine months I was fortunate to work with him. We did have a few ups and downs as I suppose anybody in that age range would have. About eight months after I started working with him, he had some troubles with his heart and lungs that landed him in the hospital for a few days. When I went to visit him in the hospital, he seemed pretty happy to see me, and it reminded me of when I visited my own father in the hospital years earlier and it was at that point that it felt more like a father/son relationship and not a client/trainer arrangement. Upon speaking with the Cardiologist about Carl’s condition, he stated that his Cardio-vascular system was in pretty bad shape and was unsure how much longer he might be around. Well, Carl put those fears to rest pretty quickly as he returned to training with me a few weeks later.
As Carl came to me on a regular basis, I began to look at life and the life process a little bit differently. It’s incredibly difficult to articulate, but my time with Carl helped me witness life through a different lens. We get so wrapped up in our daily psychosis of we “Need” to do this and we “Need” to do that, and hurry up and achieve this, and go take care of that. It helped me begin to ask a question that I have yet to answer, but I ponder it all the time now. “What are we doing?” The life around us seems to be accelerating and we are caught up in the insanity of it all, but there is so much richness around us that we seem to be missing. Our basic human interactions are decreasing everyday and we miss out on so much value in hearing and learning from others. As I look back, it gives me incredible happiness and joy to know I was fortunate to spend time with a man that was able to pass on so much wisdom to me about life.
My time with Carl has helped me to see that the journey itself is where the magic lies. He knew his time here on earth would not be much longer and towards the end, there were times that he would actually verbalize that he was tired and didn’t want to do it anymore. My job as a coach/trainer is to keep people healthy and strong, both in mind and body, however I also learned that there comes a point in time when it’s okay to say, “I had a great life and its time to move on.”
And therein lies the lesson. Regardless of when you pass on, it is so important to appreciate the journey. There is no need to fear death, we all know it’s coming, we just don’t know the end date. As I close this, I’d like to share a great lesson that Carl would do when things got tough in a workout and it applies greatly to everyday life. When he was challenged and frustrated with what his body and mind was capable of he would yell out…”Come on Ebersole god-dammit, keep going!”
So when you think life is tough, take a moment and yell out your name and tell yourself…KEEP GOING!