‘So Daddy, When Do You Die?’

Accountability Authenticity Well-being


Key Point: Stop… Drop… Smile… And thrive. The question in this blog’s title was asked with pure love and innocence by 4-year-old Talyn. His dad, Ryan Westerman, was dying and on his way to the hospice. I sat beside Talyn’s mom, Tasha Westerman, at a luncheon this summer.  We were both there for a leadership conference. It had been about a year since her husband Ryan had passed. I had a big lump in my throat as Tasha described their family journey before and after. The topic of organizational leadership seemed diminutive. Tasha, on the other hand, stood one hundred feet tall and made leadership take on a much more meaningful context. Her self-described mission; that Talyn and she thrive and build off the foundation set as a threesome.

This last week, I listened as Hollywood movie writer/producer, John Shepherd, give a presentation about the act of “thriving.” He and his wife agreed to be guardians of a 6-year-old little boy, after the little guy’s young mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. The parents wanted to ensure proper arrangements were in place. But what were the odds that both the mom AND dad would pass and their son would actually need guardians? Well within months of the mom’s diagnosis, the father was stricken with brain cancer and BOTH of the parents died within 30 days of each other, making the guardian arrangement a stunning reality. The little boy and his dog now live with the Shepherd’s and their two girls. Their self-described mission is to thrive as a newly formed family.

Ok, so we all know about how we should appreciate life… We’ve all heard it many times before. But sometimes the stories and events are there to help REMIND us. In fact, life is there for us to not only appreciate but to thrive; even in the face of the most daunting circumstances.

So I’m going to share Ryan Westerman’s wisdom with all my readers. As he was dying, he kept a journal. It’s captured in a little book called Stop, Drop and Smile.

Character Move… As inspired by Ryan Westerman:

  1. Stop: “I’m an official resident at the Hospice… I am here because I’m going to die. It is impossible to describe what it feels like to have that thought bounce around in your head.”… “Stop… Look around you… Experience your life, all that is good, bad… Without fear. Just don’t be the one to give up because the fear to truly live your life overcomes you.”
  2. Drop: “As humans we all try to control things: We try our best to be sure that critical illness will never hit us… But eventually we realize that much of this is not in our control… Instead of trying to control those things, let them go.”… “What we have control of is our mind… The power to chose… Find good in this world… Drink it in while we can.”
  3. Smile: “Now I wake up and am grateful for another day on this Earth.”… “You can do something positive and think something positive this very minute.”

STOP for a moment, take stock where you are in your life, DROP the negative habits, attitude, interfering with your happiness, and SMILE to nurture the happiness that can be found anywhere. And appreciate that to live means to thrive as well.

Thank you Ryan for helping us to remember to fully live and thrive.

Stop, Drop, and Smile in the Triangle,