Humble Endings

"From humble beginnings come great things". This is one of the most inspiring and beloved quotes describing our favorite stories of earnest perseverance and rising above life's tragedies. While all of that is divinely encouraging, however, I want to tell a story that began with riches, but ended humbly with a different kind of wealth.

Almost 10 years ago I was considered a hard working woman who had it all; new car, new apartment, designer dog, new clothes every week. This wasn't too far off from how I started life either- I was sheltered by my parents and never wondered if life could get any better. I had good work ethic and worked a lot to accumulate a lot. I maintained a naïve equation in my head that worked; riches = happiness. I had it all figured out until I met a humble man who worked at a local vitamin store. I had seen him once before- at a gym, working out.

This man, Iven, was a hard worker in the gym- I admired that trait. I frequented the store where he worked, but he always seemed painfully shy around me. I couldn't tell if he was just completely uninterested in talking to me or maybe a little curious, but genuinely shy- another trait to be revered in a handsome man. There was small talk between us, but the most disturbing feeling awakened in me when I left each time. He'd have a look in his eyes of agony, begging me to never leave, like it was always the last time, like I had been with him forever, but somewhere else, maybe some other time. Who knows, right? I did know this was a completely new feeling- never felt it before I met and him and never would again with anyone else.

Months went by and I was thankfully beginning to be assured he was not too interested in me- he never pursued more than simple conversation. Yes, this was a relief to me; after all I had everything I wanted and nothing to complicate it. My mother, on the other hand, who heard me speak of Iven only once, had become insistent on me pursuing something. This was certainly not my style.

Usually she respected my "butt out" rule when it came to my life. One day we were shopping together and she blatantly told me, "You must find out if there is something more. Just ask or give him your number." "Ha", I said defiantly and marched right into the store for my usual protein bars. As I was thinking about my mom's absurd advice, Iven spoke softly, almost whispered. "Would you like to do something sometime." "That sounds fun", I said, hoping I had not just imagined his words. I gave him my number.

To my surprise Iven eagerly, refraining no excitement whatsoever, accepted my number and lit up like a little boy on Christmas morning with a brand new puppy. Suddenly he returned to the vibrant man the first day I saw him. No more eery feeling of agony every time I left the store. He asked me to go on a picnic with him and that was the beginning.

And so this story unravels... The picnic was perfect, but still a nagging, haunting feeling lingered somewhere behind the scenes to this story. I believe we discovered we were soul mates that first day complete with the same birthday. As cliché as it sounds, looking at him was like looking in the mirror- our souls were identical. Just knowing him was proof a soul existed.

We both shared the same values, the same interests, and being with him replaced needing anything else, or anything that I had known my life to be. Sure, I had felt new romance before him, new love, lustful feelings for someone, but this was phenomenally different. I wanted to protect what we had and put it in a universe where time stood still.

His natural innocence reignited what I had lost and thought about the cruel world. He was not a rich man nor had he ever been- he grew up without his father and was still in the midst of humble beginnings. Even though I had enough money to pay for our ensuing dates, he insisted on paying- working hard on his grandfather's farm, besides his regular job, to "Take me out like a lady", he would say triumphantly as if he conquered a new world. He had more happiness in his humble life than I ever knew in anyone.

From the day he accepted my number, he never failed to call me and see me every single glorious day for months until one Monday- August 6, 2001. The day grew later and sadder- I could feel it. I had put that haunting, uneasy feeling aside long before this day, but it returned eager and suffocating. My universe got smaller somehow and every step I took was overwhelming, heavy with dread. I finally got a call that evening from his mother who stated, among other things that I don't remember, Iven was gone. A drowning accident- he drowned from the turbulence of a waterfall earlier in the day, swimming with his cousin and friends. Oddly, the haunting feeling instantly disappeared because it came and left full circle. It all made horrible sense.

Regret took over my senses. He had said he loved me two days prior to his passing. Actually he said in that innocent way, "I think I love you". Within my selfish armor, I misunderstood the 'I think' part and decided not to say 'I love you' back to him. I wanted to be sure he knew, but I knew he was sure, he was just that same shy man I had first met. I forgot to honor that wonderful trait in him.

His passing and the days afterward were a blur; sleeping, praying for peace for his family, crying, losing meaning in what used to make me happy; my car, my place, money, etc. I wanted nothing...

The Last Time

My Humble Philosophy

One month later, listening intently to a lecture in my college World Religions course about Buddhism, I woke up from my zombie-dazed grief. My own philosophy was born and the answer to this tragedy had to mean something to honor who he was.

I gained valuable insight; Everything you can, and have the power to, hold onto is not worth holding onto. But everything you want the most, worth life itself, is not possible for you to hold onto. Riches only fool us of course. We often miss out on the important stuff because of their blinding trance over us. They fool us into believing they are an ultimate destination, but they are nothing, not even close to who we are in this universe.

Hard work gives forth riches, but not always of the monetary and material kind. There is a lot of hard work to be done within us too. Many a man will climb a mountain, but refuse to reflect on his life. That's how difficult the work inside us is.

I later learned from Iven's mother he had health issues form the time he was born. When he overcame that, the doctors told him he would never keep up with the other kids, but he did and played sports too. His hard work was not solely for money, it was for survival, for his spirit and made him a better person at such a young age.

During my grieving, the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred in New York so I was not the only one learning a humble lesson. It was more powerful to know the whole country was grieving as well. With everything happening, and without knowing what exactly I was doing, I gave up my new car for an old one, gave up my new apartment for a meager hole in the wall, and all my decorations and furnishings- donated, and everything else money had once made me happy with- gone. Things I used to view as uncomplicated were now cluttering my life. When I later tried to make sense of what I did, I believe it was in honor of Iven, perhaps practicing his humility and hoping to hang onto his presence with only the important things in life.

I enjoyed simplifying my life. I moved on- inevitably, and never lived my life the same. It marks a distinct time of spiritual awakening, infinite depth within my small corner of the universe, freedom to live without a strict or typical definition of "riches",and most of all humbled to my knees, praying for the impossible sometimes, but still believing in it. Even though it seems this depth was valued only between myself and Iven, I keep it alive inside me for his sake and for my survival. 

Each person must learn their own lessons and for me this was a tragedy that finally reached a place inside me to really begin my life, but knowing the end will always be humbling.

I didn't see you leave. I wonder how am I still here...

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Comments 9 comments

tom hellert profile image

tom hellert 6 years ago from home

IZ,

A truly interesting story and fascinatingread. I gotta say- I could not do what you did I admit it I am honest in that assessment- it is not in my nature. I rave 3 kids that I want to show that if you work hard and not give up you can achieve anything-

i am not be;ittling or trying to "put you down" I am impressed that you could do your "transformation".And to quote Cheryl Crow-

I hate to do this but- it fits-"Ifit makes you happy it can't be that bad". /follow your happiness wherever it takes you, may you live long and prosper

TH


izettl profile image

izettl 6 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

tom hellert~ thanks for commmenting. I know what you mean about having kids- this was easy for me to arrange my life in such a way because I was young and had no kids, but now I have a daughter and family so it's not a reasonable choice.

I certainly agree about teaching your kids work ethic. I was taught the same growing up to. I worked hard, I got what I wanted so you could say I reached my goal, but I never knew there was something else- something I was missing until I had this experience- spirituality, compassion, and resting in the thought that I ultimately did not have control- the only equation out there is not hard work = achieving everything. So much can happen that no amount of hard work will change. It can sometimes be an illusion that you have control over your life when in reality you don't.

I like that Cheryl Crow song too!

thanks again for stopping by.


TheManWithNoPants profile image

TheManWithNoPants 6 years ago from Tucson, Az.

For me this is your best work Laura. Somehow, the comments section becomes a sort of pep rally for the auther, and support keeps us going.

This piece touched a nerve with me, so I would have loved it no matter what, but it's not only was a warm tender experience .. it's written perfectly, and from your heart. I feel like I'm watching you grow Laura.

UB COOL!


TheManWithNoPants profile image

TheManWithNoPants 6 years ago from Tucson, Az.

I just noticed the error in the second paragraph. I'll take another shot at it. Here goes .. "This piece touched a nerve with me, so I would have loved it no matter what, but it not only was a warm tender experience ..


Just A Voice 6 years ago

I can't believe the depth of your soul that allowed you to move beyond this very sad moment in your life.

It must have been the hardest thing you had to endure and yet endure you did.

This was very poignant piece and I'm so glad you shared it with us. I feel sad and uplifted at the same time.


izettl profile image

izettl 6 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Just a Voice~ Looking back and moving ahead about 2 months after this happened, I realized it was the best experience of my life. I found love- a love that never grew sour or had one bitter word- who can say that about a relationship? That love between us will forever be young. I also forgot to mention, this man was not supposed to live from the time he was born- he had major lung and heart problems as a baby so I was lucky to know him.

Before this, I had always thought I had control over my life and giving up some control has put me at peace. It just shows we can plan our life accordingly and think we know what's best for us, but there are other plans.

Thank you so much for stopping by JAV- you're one of those who inspired me to mix some of my regular hubs with some of these more personal ones.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 6 years ago from South Africa

Sad, but beautiful story, Izetti! I believe we have to learn something from every person we get to know in our lives. And so strange, we learn the most important things while we are in pain, weather emotional or physical. This paragraph of yours said it all: “.... Everything you can hold onto is not worth holding onto; everything you want the most, is not possible to hold onto.....”


woundedheart profile image

woundedheart 6 years ago from Illinois

lzetti; I only wish I had your strength. Physical, emotional and spiritual. In one sense, I want to say I am so sorry that you lost this young man, you obviously loved him deeply. In another sense, I know that you are not sorry for knowing him for however long it was, for learning what things are most important in life. What a wonderful, beautiful, well-written story!


izettl profile image

izettl 6 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

MartieCoetser~ Thanks Martie, and yes there is much to be learned during the rough times. I was reminded of this time in my life because it seems I was stuck in it, but found a way to move on and I feel I am at another time in my life that I feel stuck in and I must remember this too shall pass. Thanks a lot for your comment.

woundedheart~ I have read your hubs and love them. You have a big heart. I have so much to be thankful for knowing this man- it was so worth it!!! It's been 9 years and I've never written about it so it was time. I read the story and it still doesn't seem to capture everything, but it's enough for now. THank you for commenting.

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