E-couragement: Make It Personal

February 6, 2012

Ivy Cavanaugh-Schlentz 1965-2012

Shower the people you love with love...” James Taylor

I haven’t written a blog in over a month. That hasn’t happened for three years. I’ve struggled with how to get started again. Then in the silence, I recalled a recent client workshop. We were discussing key engagement principles for the workplace. Particularly, we were focused on “Make it Personal,” a concept in which intentional personal connections are made with customers and coworkers. Engagement happens when we take the risk to open up and share who we are while simultaneously seeking to know and understand others. As it often happens, my teaching was reflected back to me, calling out for my own application. My first “return post” would have to involve the principle of “make it personal.” I’d open up and let readers have a look into what’s happened in my life these past couple of months.

Over the years I’ve written about my wife and our journey through stage 4 metastatic breast cancer (Your Answers Lie Within, A Sign of the Times). I’ve blogged about how she has had such a positive impact in my life (Reflect). Our relationship lasted just over five years and on January 3, 2012 she passed away. Our last three weeks were spent in the hospital palliative care unit. The entire five years, and especially the final weeks, overflowed with personal learning. Many of which, I’m sure, will be fashioned into future blog lessons.

One particular experience sticks out in my mind. During our hospital stay, a song lyric continued to serenade my mind and heart. It was unprovoked and random, appearing while riding the elevator down to the cafeteria, sitting quietly by Ivy’s bedside, or even driving home to gather a clean set of clothes for the day. This song would powerfully emerge and have its way with me. It was the chorus from James Taylor’s, Shower the People. It goes like this:

Just shower the people you love with love
Show them the way that you feel
Things are gonna work out fine if you only will
Shower the people you love with love
Show them the way you feel
Things are gonna be much better if you only will

This chorus was relevant and meaningful because Ivy and I were experiencing our very own shower of love. In so many ways we were drenched in love by family and friends from around the globe. We received prayers, encouraging Facebook posts, emails, cards, visits, flowers, and delicious, timely meals. We were wholly and beautifully loved.

I’ve pondered this experience. Why were we the beneficiaries of so much loving-kindness. I believe the answer is that in our living, we make it personal. Ivy spent much of her life connecting with and encouraging others. She did this methodically, one person at a time. People felt listened to and cared for in her presence. She remembered what they said and followed up to check in on how they were doing. This love we were receiving was a result of the law of sowing and reaping. Ivy had sown love, and as the universe promises, this was our time of harvest.  

I’ve entered a new season of my life—one without Ivy’s physical presence by my side. I nervously anticipate what 2012 will bring. I will encounter significant dates like Valentine’s day, Ivy’s birthday, our anniversary, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, to name a few. When I wonder how I might navigate those important events, I relax and think, I’ll just soak myself in the shower of love that is sure to come my way.  

Gratefully yours,


**Special thanks to my friends and colleagues Jerome Daley and Chris Laney who stepped in and helped me as guest bloggers for the month of January. I appreciate your talent and support.

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47 Responses to “E-couragement: Make It Personal”

  1. Rich I had no idea what you were going through and have gone through…. thank you very much for opening up and sharing your experience with us!

  2. Thanks Phillip. It’s been an amazing journey on many fronts. Perhaps the month since her death has been the toughest. It’s the love and support of so many, along with recalling all the encouragement that Ivy provided me, which keeps me moving forward. Appreciate your note friend.

  3. Rich,
    Thank you for sharing. I know what you are going through having lost my husband about 3-1/2 years ago. I am not going to tell you the first year will be easy but just keep the good memories and love in the foreground and it helps. This past holiday season was difficult not having Ken at my side but it was a little easier to get thru just remembering past Christmases. Please feel free to email me if you ever need someone to listen or talk to.

  4. Thank you Susan. It has been helpful to speak with others who have had a similar experience. Hearing how they have healed and grown from their situation can be encouraging since this is so new and “fresh” for me. I appreciate your willingness to reach out Susan.

  5. Dear Rich, Thank you for posting your feelings about yourself, your beautiful wife and some of what you have been through and your feelings. You must be sort of very special person. I will introduce myself when I next see you.

    The Guy from Sportime.

  6. Neil, thanks for your kind words. Look forward to meeting you at the gym, please do introduce yourself next time our paths cross there.

  7. Thank you for sharing your eloquent story. You and your family have been and will continue to be in my prayers. Love, is indeed the most wonderful of all gifts.

  8. Appreciate your note Barbara. We cherish your prayers and positive energy.

  9. Rich,

    Thank you for opening up with us through your entire journey of Ivy’s sickness and now her passing. Your words are relative on so many fronts with many of us.

    I lost my husband 1.5 years ago and the journey of grief has been one with many ups and downs. However, the treasured memories of the time we had together has helped to heal the wounds of loss. In addition, the support of loving family and friends has provided me a much needed shoulder during the approach and passing of significant dates.

    If you need to talk, know that there is always an ear willing to listen.


  10. Rich,
    Congratulations on re-engaging. Your genuine approach to life and willingness to share your heart are admirable and inspiring. Glad to be numbered among your friends.

  11. Thanks for your encouraging words Keri. It is good to recognize others have emerged from loss whole again. I remind myself of the proverb, “The only way out is through.” As I travel through grief and pain I am certain that there is another side waiting for me. I appreciate your offer to listen! That means a lot.

  12. Rich, you and Ivy shared and created a “love”story. That is what I felt as you shared some of your personal experiences with her at the memorial service. It was a beautiful service and it was “showered with love”.

    However long or brief our time here, we can only hope to feel and experience the love you all exhibited. Light and sound, a great combination indeed.

    And yes, you embraced in love and it will continue to be “showered” upon you.


  13. Steve, it’s good to be back. Taking a break for the month of January was a much needed gift to myself. Glad that we have shared the journey of opening up our hearts and living more fully. You’re a good friend and mentor. Thanks for that!

  14. Thank you my brother Nigel. Appreciate your presence and the words you shared at the memorial service (HR Principle #5). I’m missing her light as it tended to make my sound more effective. I am a better person, man, and father because of our time together. For that, I am truly grateful. Peace my steadfast friend…

  15. Rich,

    What a beautiful tribute and a showering of love. Life has it’s way of guiding us through the rough times. Hold close the memories of Ivy for they will shine and bring back the love you shared. Having lost my husband a few years ago, it is those moments of time and memories that wrap around me and let me go on.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you. Try not to take giant leaps but one step at a time and you will be amazed at all the wonderful friends and people who will surround you and help you.

  16. Thank you for your wise advice Judy. You’ve earned the right to pass it on. It is good to hear from people who have successfully navigated this difficult path. Appreciate your words…

  17. Rich:

    I’ve only heard you speak once several years ago at the now defunct Triad Chapter of the Help Desk Institute but it was a fabulously memorable session and I grew to look forward to each and every of your posts. You and your family are in my prayers and I’m really appreciative of you leading by example by reengaging. Great, great job.

  18. Welcome back, my friend. This was, without a doubt, one of your best efforts yet. I’m certain it’s because you made it personal. Talk to you soon.

  19. My wish for you…
    • (¯`*•.¸,¤°´`°¤,¸.•*´¯) PeAcE
    ???????? •.¸¸.•´¯`•.? .•´¯`•.¸¸.• HeALiNg
    ????????? •.¸¸.•´¯`•.? BlEsSiNgS
    ????????? ??•.¸¸ RaInBoWs.•´¯`•.? •´¯`•.¸¸.•??? CaRiNg
    ??????????????? ….?*´¨?? ??? ? ? ? ?? (????)? ?? ? ?*´?¨ CoMpAsSiOn ?•?? KiNdNeSs????? ??? ????— ??? ???• HoNeStY?*´ LoVe???? ?? xXx ~.?.?.?.?.?.?.?.?.?.?.?.?.?.? Thank you, Rich.

  20. Leonard: I remember the Triad Help Desk presentation, we had fun that evening! Thank you for reading the E-couragement each month–that means a lot to me and I appreciate your prayers as we navigate this new season without Ivy’s physical presence with us. Peace.

  21. David, my Atlanta buddy. It’s good to be back. Ivy was a big part of my writing and it’s strange writing without her editing my work. I trusted my words to her. Her insight and skill always made my work better. On this blog I’ve heard her encouraging voice speak to me, “You’re doing fine. You can do this.” I’ll have to trust that voice. It will be okay. Thanks friend.

  22. Maureen: I’m SMILING! Thank you. I love your creative spirit. Thanks for being a good and caring friend for Ivy. Blessings.

  23. Rich,
    Welcome Back! What a beautiful tribute once again in honor of your beautiful Ivy. Thank you for you, your heart and thank you for sharing your journey and love story with each of us.
    I know I have spoken a lot about the ‘Essence of Ivy’s Spirit’! Wow, what a beautiful, beautiful spirit she had! Ivy’s Presence…Beautiful and Perfect”!
    We are all looking forward to seeing what a great and awesome journey God has planned for you in 2012.
    Blessings To You My Friend!

  24. Thank you for loving me and my family Lola. Ivy and the girls have been blessed by you. You are one of the many who have “showered” us with love. Appreciate you!

  25. Beautifully written dad. Love you a million!

  26. Rich, I do not know you but I knew Ivy from high school. I remember her as a quiet, reserved, smart and talented.
    She was the most sincere person and always cared about her friends.
    I hope the memories you shared with her comfort you in your time of mourning.

  27. Rich, Very,Touching blogging. Enjoyed it. You will get through it. Cathy

  28. Taylor: First blog comment from my daughter! Thanks for reading and being part of the foundation that helps me stand during times of uncertainty!

  29. Thanks for your comments Tomi. It’s always nice to hear from people who knew Ivy from “way back.” I saw all those qualities in her also. Meeting and marrying her was a wonderful experience. Appreciate your kind words.

  30. Thank you Cathy…Freehold friend. Glad you enjoyed the blog and yes, I’m certain there is healing and wholeness on the other side of this. Peace.

  31. Hi Rich,
    As you have probably heard the quote in one of your training classes that goes something like this;” when you reach down and share a chunk of your life, the audience will be a devoted listener.”
    I am sorry that i missed the service. Was planning on coming but I was actually at the service for my aunt who passed away that week.
    Rich, my continued prayers for your strength, courage, and faith to get through these challenging times. My heart is heavy for you and yet glad that your beautiful wife is no longer struggling. Prayers to you and the children. David

  32. David: Thanks for your encouraging words and I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your aunt. Would have been great to see you. Need to figure a way to connect someday. We value your continued prayers and your committed friendship. Peace friend…

  33. Really enjoyed reading this blog, Rich! I know Ivy must be smiling down on you right now 🙂

  34. Comment:
    Thanks for being a leader I can follow Rich. You have always been that, both in the past and now. Thank you for sharing your heart vulnerably that is where trust begins!
    Keep sharing your stories and heart journey….life is void of color without it.
    Friends forever,
    Dawn Taylor

  35. Thanks for reading Angela. I do feel her smile and hear her voice often.

  36. Long time friend Dawn! Yes, much resides in our hearts. Letting it out can be scary and it’s how life becomes an adventure. You are a long time encourager to me. Thank you for that and setting the example of the heart journey! Forever friends, well said.

  37. Rich, I have been so blessed to have spent some time with you in these recent months. I will never listen to James Taylor’s song the same again-the words are just so powerful. 2012 will be different,another chapter in an as yet unwritten book. I am so thankful for you and the love you and Ivy shared. We are all given journeys to travel and lessons to learn. How we accept those journeys and lessons can “dictate” the rest of our lives. They shape us and help us grow to even better people.Thanks Rich for being who you are.

  38. Pam: We were blessed to have you here in many ways. I do believe I will come out of this better. At times I wish it wouldn’t hurt so much to learn. I am grateful for you and Pat traveling back down for the memorial service, what an awesome event that was! Peace and hope to see you soon.

  39. Rich,
    You are amazing!
    God bless.

  40. Thank you Linda! Remember, I know your top 5 strength themes, you’re pretty amazing yourself. Peace.

  41. A more beautifully written and hearfelt piece could not have been written. I cannot imagine the weight on your heart and shoulders as you face the future each day. Only time heals, my friend, and it is good to know you realize and appreciate the blessings shown to you by your loving friends, family, and especially your “girls”.

  42. What a compliment from an official “Skirt” contributor. Thank you Susan. You and Perry have been part of our “shower of love” and I thank you for that. “Weight on my heart” is a good descriptor, recently it has lightened up some… that is good. Appreciate the role you’ve both played in the lives of all the Schlentz’.

  43. Rich,
    My prayers are with you and your family. May God give you peace and understanding in the months and years ahead of you. Thank you for all of your post that have touched our lives in some way.

    Joyce Dillow

  44. Thank you Joyce. So glad that these E-couragements have been of value to you. I appreciate your prayers and well wishes. Here’s to an exciting 2012!

  45. Rich, I know from experience that you are numb and on “auto-pilot” right now. This first year without Ivy will be challenging. I became a widow at age 41, 16 years ago; and the memories of that initial searing pain and longing for what was lost still bring tears. Time is a tool of God – and His plan for you, I’m sure, includes inspiring and teaching other people as time passes and you have insights regarding this season in your life… And ALL of the seasons of our lives are ultimately beautiful. You will be okay, my friend!

  46. Thank you for you kind note Patti. Your words carry the tone of someone who “gets it” and obviously you do. I appreciate your encouraging words and believe that this season will eventually hold rich and deep meaning for me. Peace friend.

  47. […] a good friend, a skilled communicator, and a long time subscriber to my blog. A recent posting (Make it Personal) resonated with his passion for improving relationships through effective communication and deeper […]

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