My Passion for My Life’s Work Was Re-Inspired
by Judith Trustone
The day before my book was launched, my oldest son, Steve, died.
For five days we’d kept a bedside vigil while machines kept him alive. We’d wept quiet tears of fear and despair, punctuated with sobs, speaking love to his unconscious form, trying to breathe for him.
Tense and alert, desperate for the slightest sign he was coming back from wherever he was, we prayed.
Did his eyelids flutter? Was there a slight squeeze of his hand? Had the empty opioid bottle found next to him destroyed his brain?
We counted on his toughness. No matter how many times he’d been to the brink, one of us would save him, for he was not sure he really wanted to live.
He and I had had a tumultuous relationship that was finally beginning to heal in the last few months, and I so wanted to enjoy more. That night, I lingered after the family went home.
Holding his hand, I could swear he was responding to me, tightening his grip noticeably. Or did I imagine it? From certain angles I could still see the baby in the face of this 60-year-old man, child of my childhood.
The night before, we’d gone ahead with a planned surprise birthday party since everything was in place, bringing us together in our shared grief and reawakened love not just for him but for each other, setting aside our petty differences. We’d shared stories from the party with him and we swore we saw the glimmer of a smile.
Though exhausted, as I’d been working feverishly on the book launch scheduled for the next day, I couldn’t leave him. I didn’t know it was to be his last day, but I must have sensed it as a mother would.
After tenderly massaging his feet, sending all the healing energy I could muster into him, I sat quietly just holding his hand, feeling the pulse of his life force mingling with mine. I laid my head next to him and began to doze off, never letting go.
Then there was a nurse in the room, attaching yet another medicine to the cacophony of buzzes and beeps, then leaving. Suddenly I could feel his hand becoming hot, and sweat broke out across his face.
Alarmed, I rang for the nurse. He poked at the machine, moved some tubes around, telling me this new medication would help him with his breathing and that a sudden fever was his body fighting back.
I didn’t believe him, for he’d been fine, such as it was, until the new medicine began. But I didn’t ask him to call a doctor, for he seemed so sure of himself.
I was afraid to leave, and will forever regret that I did, aching with exhaustion, filled with dread and sorrow. I went home for some much-needed rest, wishing I could once again breathe for him.
Hours later, my youngest son, Eric, was at my door. Without saying a word, we sobbed and hugged each other tightly.
It was over.
No more sarcastic slaps of the tongue, or his beloved animals, for this kind-hearted, curious and funny man. No more worrying about “What to do about Steve” and driving, heart pounding, to yet another ER for his latest emergency. Or trying to persuade him not to take too many pills. No more yearning to find a way to heal him, to save him. For him to know that I loved him.
I think that healing started when I was by another hospital bed months earlier. He told me I didn’t have to stay. I boldly proclaimed, “I love you and I’m going to sit here for another hour because I know how desolate you can feel at a nighttime admission, hating to be here. You know what? Even with your face all scarred up, you’re still a very handsome guy!”
The unguarded smile on his face soothed my heart.
Now all that is left are memories, of grieving for my firstborn son and what might have been. People tell me that time will heal.
My book, The Global Kindness Revolution: How Together We Can Heal Violence, Racism and Meanness, was the furthest thing from my mind.
But the lessons I’d learned during my Quantum Leap training kicked in.
I’d done all I could to promote the book and the organization, the Global Kindness Revolution, from which it had evolved. Press was coming, food was ordered; I had a YouTube channel for my videos, some Quantum Leap-sponsored; announcements were everywhere; folks were coming, some from a distance, there was no way could I cancel.
Numb, drying tears, determined, I showed up.
Colleagues took over; almost 50 fans and strangers were there. I decided the best (and only) thing I could do was bring them all into a Kindness Circle, the theme of my life’s work, highlighted in my book.
The outcome of love and support when I told them about Steve was palpable, I could feel it bathing my heart. Sharing tears, in a circle, we sent the Light of Kindness first around the Kindness Circle, then directing it to help Steve on his journey. The press was very kind...
A few days later, over 100 people came to Steve’s memorial service.
Being "patiently persistent" has paid off
My participation in Quantum Leap was essential in my growth and success as a writer.
I often think about Steve Harrison saying to be “patiently persistent,” words which have become my mantra. Doubts about my work vanished with the great feedback and support I received from Quantum Leap staff.
Steve Harrison asked me to tell him about prisons from my second book, Celling America’s Soul: Torture & Transformation in Our Prisons and Why We Should Care. When finished, he volunteered to donate financially to the case of an innocent man.
Called “The best book in print that describes prisons from most every perspective,” my book became an underground success, selling over 6,000 copies from grass roots support, and was the inspiration for my award-winning documentary, Healing Justice: A Journey into Shadow America, seen on PBS and at colleges. At 68, I had become a filmmaker, a dream.
Perhaps the Quantum Leap feedback that had the biggest effect on me was Jack Canfield’s, who said my book has tilt and the potential for neutralizing planetary violence. "Judith’s work is on the same level as Maya Angelou." His words come back to me whenever I’m plagued by doubts, when I am swept with grief or feeling dismayed at my analog brain trying to adapt in a digital world. Remembering those words re-inspires my passion for the book, the sum of my life’s work.
As a planetary citizen, I’m seeking celebrity endorsement to get the word out, for I know it will work. I’ve tried it with large groups and the energetic effects in just five minutes are almost palpable. I call the work Vibrational Social Change. Imagine a gentle but effective planetary revolution you don’t even have to get out of bed for that costs nothing.
Networking is one of the best things I got from Quantum Leap, which enables me to take my work and connections globally.
At a Quantum Leap event, I met a former refugee from Afghanistan who came to America with $10 in his pocket, eventually becoming a vice-president of a major U.S. bank. An advocate for immigrants, Atta Arghandiwal just published The Self-Sufficient GLOBAL CITIZEN : A Guide for Responsible Families and Communities. I’m honored to have contributed to it a chapter, "Stress Survival Skills for Refugees and Immigrants."
We’ve partnered to market our books and do our best to make the world a kinder place for all.
This post is adapted from an essay Judith wrote as her entry in our "How I Made My Quantum Leap" contest, in which Quantum Leap members wrote about the difference the program made for them and their careers.