The Simplest Advice is the Hardest: “Just Live!”

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The Legacy
6 min read

The Simplest Advice is the Hardest: “Just Live!”

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Words by:

Ashley Winkley

Illustration by:

Ashley Winkley

Words by:

Ashley Winkley

Illustrator:

Ashley Winkley

Contents

“Start writing blog” was the calendar invite I received.

“What does this mean,” I wondered. I’m not on the marketing team, after all. My boss just said, “Ask around.”

The response?

“What’s your ‘Why’ for being here at Eterneva?”

Well that’s a loaded question and not the nacho kind. Where do I begin?

  • The team is great.
  • The office is right around the corner from my house.
  • We can bring our pets.
  • And then, there’s the culture.

I’ve worked for companies that most people dream about an opportunity to work at. The companies that preach having fun, or that “work hard, play harder” mantra featuring ping pong tables in meeting rooms, daily meals provided, and even off-sites in various cities and countries.

While they had missions and values, these were just decals on the wall. They weren’t something the team lived and breathed every day. In those roles, I quickly felt disconnected and discouraged. And yet, it was a steady paycheck that allowed me the flexibility to travel to New York every other weekend –– where my fiancé was living.

My Jagged Path to Austin, Texas

My journey to Eterneva wasn’t a straight arrow. Is anything in life?

In 2019, I was living in Dallas and working for another company. My fiancé was living in New York. Our goal was to live in the same city and state by January 2020.

Makes sense, right? I needed to make sure that our relationship wasn’t just airports and quick weekends here and there!

Soon, Jake –– my fiancé –– got an offer to transfer to Austin, Texas. As a Texan and someone who has lived in Austin before, this made me incredibly happy! My company at the time, however, didn’t have an Austin, Texas option. I knew I needed to look at other opportunities.

Luckily, it wasn’t long before another one came along. I signed all my papers and put in my notice with my company. I then moved all my stuff to Austin in January 2020.

Goal achieved!

Then, just two days before starting my new job in Austin, they called to rescind their offer and let me know they were going through a round of layoffs.

I was devastated, not because I wouldn’t work for that company but more that I didn’t want to walk into a relationship jobless. The goal felt only half achieved, like I wasn’t holding up my end of the bargain.

Lives Saved and Lives Lost

In a way, Eterneva found me. A recruiter reached out and asked if I was interested in learning more –– and I was. I needed a job!

After our call, though, I dove in. I wanted to learn everything I could about this company.

  • I watched the Shark Tank episode
  • I read various articles on their website (like this one!)
  • I even snooped on the teams’ Instagram pages.

But I wasn’t connecting right away. That’s until I read an article about Dr. Timothy George by Garrett Ozar, the Eterneva co-founder.

As I read through the article of this remarkable man, I began to get emotional.

I felt a deep connection to someone I would never have the opportunity to meet, written by someone who had a personal connection to him.

It was the story and journey that Garrett took me on with his words on that screen that changed everything.

I couldn’t wait to talk to him.

The day I had my call with Garrett, he was supposed to be interviewing me, but I just couldn’t help it. I had to ask about Dr. George. To hear him walk me through his relationship with Dr. George gave me chills –– which doesn’t happen often! It wasn’t just Dr. George that drew me in, either. It was the life he saved before he took his first race around the Eternal Race Track, Garrett’s daughter.

Getting to Know the Weight of Grief

That did it for me. That sealed my Why.

For me, being at Eterneva is about the journey –– the ones we take in life, the ones we impact in our living, and the ones we affect in our absence.

When my grandpa got sick, I was devastated. I also couldn’t fathom how someone with lung cancer and sclerosis of the liver could be OK with death. He said to me:

“I’m not afraid of death because I know I’ve lived every day before. Yeah, are there things I’d change? Maybe, but then I wouldn’t have grown. Don’t mourn for me when I’m gone. Live for me while you’re still living.”

The weight of this grief and of this message felt so heavy –– and in a way I hadn’t experienced before.

I thought I knew grief. My first experience with it had been years early, and it was one that caught me off guard –– like grief does for so many.

My highschool best friend Scott was killed in a boating accident when I was in tenth grade. With his loss, I remember the grieving period being really quick because I was flooded with so many good memories of our short friendship. To this day, I laugh when I think about some of the pranks he pulled on our teachers. Then, grief didn’t feel as heavy.

It wasn’t until my grandfather, my second dad, got sick when I was a freshman in college that I felt the true weight of grief. He hadn’t even passed and all I could think of was who he used to be.

How could someone so strong and important to me get sick? He was invincible. My hero. I didn’t understand.

My junior year in college, I was supposed to leave the country for almost a year. I wrestled with canceling the trip so that I could be close to home should anything happen to him. Right before my deadline to cancel, I went out and stayed with him for a week.

At this point, his condition had severely deteriorated and he was at home on hospice. I brought up my stress of leaving, of not being around when I felt that he needed me the most. That’s when he told me to stop crying, and to go on the trip.

To live life in honor of him, not weighted by the grief of loving him.

So, I did. I went on that trip and two weeks later, my grandfather passed.

Learning to Live in Honor, and Hold Space for Grief

You’d think I would remember what he told me right away, but I didn’t. I immediately started making plans to be home with my family. I called my mom to see how she was doing. He was her dad after all, and her personal hero, as well. I let her know about my plans to return.

Before I got off the call, I asked if Papa was in pain before he passed. She said no.

“In fact,” she said, “before he went, he told me to remind you about what y’all talked about. Something about no tears and just living?”

I broke down. That conversation and every word he said to me that day flooded back. I decided to stay, to heed his advice.

I remained those next 8 months in Europe, living for him, not in grief of him. It wasn’t easy of course. It took me about 4 months to get to a place where when I thought of him, I wouldn’t think of how I wished I could share it all with him. Now, I know that he’s with me everywhere.

Since then, I’ve gotten to share so many amazing places with my mom. I emailed her photos of my trip to Morocco, and chatted with her for hours about all the new experiences and customs.

“You did WHAT,” she’d say. “How?”

“I just lived,” I told her.

When I returned home, my mom went on and on about how special it was for her to get the email updates of me dancing with a snake or eating with my hands along with a texted note that said, “I think Papa would start a food fight with his hands before eating!”

Those 8 months helped her cope with our new reality, too. We were on a journey together to honor the life of my amazing Papa.

And it’s for that reason that I love the journey here at Eterneva. I am so honored to walk with our customers as they “just live” for their loved ones, too.

We’re all in this together. We’re all weighed down with our grief. And I am eternally grateful my Papa did what he could to make the experience lighter, to remind me and my mom that our shared experiences never go away.

Instead, they dance on forever, affecting the paths of everyone we meet and everyone we never will.

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