I’m often asked why I choose to write about the life and passing of my beautiful daughter, Madeline. Over the last 6 years, the reasons have been diverse. Sometimes it’s about an event that’s occurred that hits so close to home that I feel a need to share its relevance in my context. Perhaps it’s because I have a terrible day, and other times it’s because I’ve had a perfect one. Sometimes, the boys are not with me, and sometimes it’s because they are so close. Sometimes I write out of a sense of obligation, but mostly I write to express how I truly feel. Often, I write for others, but usually, I write for myself. Sometimes it comes so easily, but lately, it doesn’t.
Truthfully, there are few times throughout the course of a day that Maddie isn’t on my mind or plays on my emotions. When I write, it’s my time committed to her. She gets a disproportionately small amount of time with me compared to the boys, but in a sense, she’s always with me. I sit down, and I commit to writing until completion. Rarely do I take a break. For me, writing makes my memories of Maddie more vivid. As the boys continue to grow up, she remains timeless. I never want to stop remembering, and I never want to lose the familiarity of her face, her laugh or her shocking sense of humour. Some of her past antics once may have made me angry, but now makes me smile.
Writing makes me feel grateful for Madeline. Not only do I value the time that we spent together, but I look back and realize how much she taught me about being a father, a friend and learning how to show compassion. So many lessons packed into such a short life.
I hope my writing helps people understand what an important footprint Maddie has left. She’s brought awareness to a seldom talked about subject. I believe she’s helped others to put up their hand or ask for help. She’s taught others to watch out for one another, have each other’s back and by putting what’s right ahead of what’s popular.
Also, I write for Maddie’s friends. I see so many of them growing up so quickly. They’ve grown into beautiful, respectful, caring young adults. They always have a warm and loving memory of Maddie but usually a story of Maddie being so outrageously… Maddie. She was adored. That adoration lives on in their hearts and through their actions to further the youth mental illness cause and being tremendous ambassadors for The Maddie Project. Through so many of Maddie’s friends, I see a present-day image of Maddie.
I write for the sake of my boys. They usually read and critique every blog before I post them. It’s met with a “That’s really good, Dad” or “That’s one of my favourites”, and sometimes they don’t say anything. Instead, we share a look, a slightly upturned lip and a glance downward. That is their silent consent. Maddie will always be an important and integral part of our family.
On any given week, I’m approached by so many people who have been touched by mental illness in one capacity or another. It could be someone reaching out about a family member, a friend or about themselves. Some are desperate. Some are confused. Many are looking for answers. A few are offering advice. Some have happy outcomes, and some are tragic. A handful wants to know that they are thinking or praying for our family and Maddie. A number are friends, but many are strangers. Some are other bereaving individuals who have lost a child, sibling or another loved one. Most want to say thank you for sharing a window into my world and letting us understand how I’m doing.
On June 28th, it would’ve been Maddie’s 21st birthday. I’m often asked, “how am I doing?” and “does it get any easier?” It’s not that it gets any easier, but it becomes different. This feeling is impossible to articulate, yet only can be understood by a parent who has gone through a similar tragedy.
Adversity is something that entrepreneurs need to be prepared for. In life and business, we need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Unfortunately, this constant uncertainty can wreak havoc on our emotional state, causing mental angst, impacting our productivity levels, stress levels at work and home and causes us to lose our passion for our business.
Chris is a survivor. Through the bankruptcy of his first business, a painful divorce and the death of his 14-year-old daughter, Maddie, he learned that life isn’t always fair, but we teach ourselves resiliency despite tragic events that we go through.
He has seen the impact that mental health can have upon success within your business and your life and how the two are on a constant collision course. When Chris became aware that Entrepreneurs struggled with their mental health at more than twice the average adults’ rate, he realized he wasn’t alone and made it his ambition to understand why and do something to help. This is one of his company’s objectives, The Finish Line Group and the foundation started on Maddie’s behalf.