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  • Penn Vieau

Focus on the positive

Even if you are told you are the most positive person, you are going to encounter situations that are completely out of your control. This was the case in my life this past Thursday. I was in Green Bay, Wisconsin and was spending time with my cousin Mark. The sad news is that this was very likely the last time I would be able to be with him in-person. Mark is in hospice care, living his last days with cancer.


Can you even imagine what it would feel like to be diagnosed with a terminal illness at such a young age? He has a wonderful wife and young daughter. What was I supposed to say or do, knowing the significance of our time together? Turns out, many of us don’t know what to say or do when a loved one is facing their mortality.


I simply sat with him, told him I loved him, prayed for him and left the room. A flood of emotions came rushing back to me on my drive back to Madison. I remembered all of the fun times we had growing up and spending time on his parent’s dairy farm. He has 7 siblings, so it was always amazing to see how much appreciation and gratitude they experienced in their lives. I reminded myself of how Mark was always able to see the positive in every situation. He has a strong faith in God and that has given him tremendous peace at this time in his life.


Reaching Madison, I parked my car and walked to the University Club. I had a speaking engagement, and I was starting to mentally prepare for the evening. My wife, Katherine and I had our wedding reception there, and I reminded myself of what was most important at that moment. I chose to remind myself of our beautiful wedding reception and who was present. It lead to thoughts of joy and the positive memories I have had with Mark and others who are currently dead or alive. It did not matter, I simply wanted to focus on the fun memories of time spent with amazing people. Believe it or not, it started making it a lot easier to want to get up and give a motivating talk after having a challenging morning.


As I started speaking, I reminded myself that I wanted to leave the attendees with tools and inspiration to be the best version of themselves. After all, we are still living and breathing. By the way, I was speaking to BioForward. They are an extremely talented and educated group of men and women committed to the advancement of bioscience in Wisconsin. My message resonated, and they laughed at my jokes. I suddenly became invigorated as to why I was given the opportunity to be their keynote speaker on this particular evening. It was an amazing program. Who would have thought I could pull myself out of a funk and make good use of my time on a day when all is really wanted to do was focus on my cousin. Love you, Mark.


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