Chapter 6 – Time Does Help Heal All Wounds


Here it is, 26 months after Nick’s death, and I am sitting on my patio in Florida on a long weekend vacation. Across from me is Nick’s heart. Literally. Nick’s donor heart recipient, Aaron Bernstein, is sitting across from me at my patio table discussing how we are going to take the Nicholas J. Murphy Foundation to the next level. He came down from Gainesville to visit with us for the weekend and to see us. He is now a friend; an extended member of the family in many ways. Weird but true.

I still remember when we first met Aaron in August, 2017. As we were driving up to Chicago to meet for the first time, I was excited. My son Alec told me to “settle down”. He said, “Dad, stop being so excited. He is not Nick. It is not like he is going to be a part of our family or coming to Christmas dinner.” Three hours later, after getting to meet Aaron and getting to know him, Alec had a different thought. He knew then from day one that Aaron was going to be special part of our family forever. And now a year and a half later, he is.

God and life are quite wonderful and definitely mysterious. Life is full of highs so high you want to scream out loud for joy, and lows so low you want to scream in agony. And then there is just everyday life in between. It is all of it put together that make it “life”. So fragile. So fleeting. And able to change instantly by one phone call. One terrible phone call in the middle of the night.

Now it is 26 months later. It has been a crazy journey. Crazy good and crazy bad. Thankfully, these days it seems more crazy good than bad.

They say that time heals all wounds. I think that is true. Time does help make the pain go away in many respects. It may still be always with you, but it fades from being the focal point of every thought and every conversation. These days Nick is not brought up in every conversation. It is weird, but I feel guilty about that. I feel like I am somehow dishonoring my son or in part forgetting something in regard to him by recovering. It is like I should not be allowed to be happy or recover. I should be more sad. I should be more somber. But I am not. I choose to live. I choose to be happier and to live happier. Because happier is better. It is more healthy. It is what Nick would want me to be.

As I left the house to fly down here, I grabbed a book off my shelf called “The Magic of Thinking Big”. I have only read a few chapters, but I already love it. One of the first ideas it stated was that every day you wake up and throughout the day you have the option of only two thoughts. Negative thoughts or positive thoughts. You can choose to make it a good day or a bad day in part based on your thoughts. In simple terms, if you wake up and stress yourself out and say to yourself, “It is going to be a tough day”, then it usually ends up being a bad day. If you wake up and continually tell yourself positive thoughts: “It is going to be a great day”, then once again, somehow it then usually is. In my terms, the glass is either half empty or half full. I choose my glass to be half full each and every day. The sky, no matter what, is truly the limit for me.

It is going to be a great day. More importantly, it is going to be a great life.

Then, out of the blue, the phone call every parent never wants to get, comes in the middle of the night. That day was not a great day. No matter what positive thinking you have, there is nothing that will ever make that day or many after it great. At that point, each days’ thought becomes “just survive”. Survive one minute at a time. One hour. One day at a time. Then you turn around and it is 26 months later and life seems pretty darn good. What you have done to honor your son is good. What you will continue to do is pretty good. What Nick has done to change other people’s lives is pretty good. Then you sit at a table and look across at your son’s donor heart recipient and thank God. Thank God that He allowed you to find the positive in the worst thing that could ever happen to you. Thank God that a piece of your son, his heart, the heart of a champion, is beating two feet away from you and a man’s life is saved.

Does it seem weird to anyone else that Aaron is also a non-profit fundraiser and executive by trade. Nick saves his life. He then helps us help thousands of the lives of veterans and members of the Armed Forces through Nick’s Foundation. God does work in mysterious ways. It is a small world. We are all connected. Maybe they are all just phrases, but they sure seem real to me.

Finally, one last Nick wink. As we walked out of the bagel store this morning with Aaron and my friend Chris Winkel, we looked over at the wall of the jewish bakery. There on the wall, framed, is the Theodore Roosevelt speech from 1910, “The Man in the Arena”. Thanks Nick. We love you too.