Part I Love letter to Kevin, Belle & Zoe

This Thanksgiving I’m thankful for the opportunity I’ve enjoyed over the last couple of years to transform my life. Some never have the chance to rethink and rework their lives.

This is a story that helped to initiate that change for me.

I met Kevin through his wife Belle. She came to me, in typical Silicon Valley fashion, via Craigslist. She joined my team, and as is often the case for me with people I hire, I just fell in love with her. She was bright, productive, and grounding to work with. Who could ask for more? Belle introduced me to Kevin, her husband, and we all soon became fast friends.

I’m originally from Ireland and am the only member of my family living here in the U.S. Kevin and Belle became part of my extended family. We celebrated holidays, experienced happy and sad events together, and loved each other.  As any lucky transplant knows, blood does not have to define family.

As our friendship grew, tragedy, as it often does, struck from nowhere. Kevin, at the age of 24, was diagnosed with bladder cancer, a statistical anomaly for someone of his age. As Kevin bravely endured chemotherapy and other treatments, he did not want to be home alone, so he came to work with Belle, which made us all even closer.

Kevin battled this grueling disease for six years, which is a true testament to his strength, tenacity, and character. He endured several surgeries and so much chemo that his body could not take anymore. Ever. His 30th birthday fell on the same weekend as Father’s day. His little daughter Zoe was just ten weeks old.

Belle cared for Kevin, and their newborn, round the clock. Belle is the only member of her family living in the U.S. She persevered despite minimum outside support. What astonishes me the most about Belle was that she never complained, nor did Kevin, despite the grueling emotional and physical pain associated with this cancer.

 Belle never asked, “why me?” Never. She instead focused on enjoying every day with her family. They lived every day to the maximum between surgeries and treatment, doing things I never did: picking strawberries in Half Moon Bay, visiting Aspen on a whim, hiking, concerts, and taking day trips to places that I never knew existed.

 It’s witnessing the struggles in someone’s life that make you stop and reflect upon your own, and the petty things that consume all of us at times.

The love and affection evident in that relationship that now included little Zoe was breathtaking. In a world where marriages break up every day over trivial things, where people are unwilling to go the extra mile for one another, this courageous couple pushed forward together. It is the human stories that can pull our heart strings, and push us to be bolder, to be more courageous, to be a better parent, teacher, spouse, and leader. The ability to get up every day and make a difference in the world is a gift – a gift that Kevin would love to have.

Who would have thought that this millennial couple could have such a profound impact on my life, and that of our community? Kevin and Belle demonstrated for me in a practical way that business, love, and collaboration need not be mutually exclusive. When we work in tandem, we can change the world in meaningful ways.

 We were all born to change the world despite our circumstances. By being part of Kevin, Belle, and Zoe’s lives, I realized that my life was out of balance.

 I made a decision to sell my company and make some changes – life is too short to feel stress and pressure.

 Consider making some little changes in your life today so that, like this precious family, you can give and share more joy.

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