The Only Thing You Can Count On

by Dr. Joe Vitale

We just got in from a trip to Houston, where we attended the Memorial Service for my ex-wife and best friend of 27 years, Marian.

It stormed the entire three hour drive there. The city was flooding, the sky dark, the clouds dumping their rain, the streets crowded and dangerous. Yet a few dozen people weathered the storm and attended the service.

Some people I hadn’t seen in 15 years. Some I’ve known for 30 years. Some I never met before, and only knew through stories Marian told me. It was a warm, loving, intimate group, all with one thing in common: their love for Marian.

David, Marian’s best friend over the last few years, stood and read parts from Marian’s unpublished and unfinished autobiography. He wanted to show that this loving woman had gone through hell as a child, yet somehow learned to love unconditionally.

Stories about Marian’s mean grandmother, and cold father, reminded me of why Marian wanted to commit suicide as a young woman in Oregon. Fortunately, she didn’t, and she enjoyed over thirty more years of life’s sunshine.

I didn’t plan to speak at the service. After four days of emotional misery, bawling my eyes out in private, missing my beloved of almost three decades, I didn’t think I could stand, let alone speak.

But I surprised myself. I got up, went to the podium, and fumbled to say the following:

“David left out one thing,” I began. “He forgot to tell you the title of Marian’s life story. She called it ‘It’s All Good.'”

I went on to say that even through the pain she had suffered — her unhappy childhood, her near fatal car-accident two years previously, the molestation by her therapist, her struggles with self-esteem and more — she always looked for the good.

I then told everyone what happened to me on the way to the service, an event that Marian would have loved.

“I was riding here when I got a phone call from James Caan, the famous actor,” I said.

I explained that I have a client who knows Caan. So the call wasn’t entirely unexpected.

My mobile phone rang and I heard the famous voice said, “Joe, this is Jimmy Caan.”

“Oh my g—“

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Well, ah, I’m going to a funeral.”

“A funeral?!”

“I lost my ex and best friend,” I said.

“My condolences but I’m glad it was your ex,” he said, stressing the word ‘ex’, not knowing, of course, how Marian and I remained close even after we legally separated.

There was an awkward silence.

I was on the phone with a celebrity, a man now 64 years old, still vibrant with life, starring in a weekly TV show called “Casino.” I wanted more. I thought maybe he could offer something wise to help ease my pain. So far I had found no magic bullets, magic pills, magic words, books, or anything else to ease the grief.

“Do you have any advice for me?” I asked.

“Advice!?” he asked, surprised. “You don’t want any advice from me. I’ve got a lot of ex wives, and some of them I wish would trade places with your ex.”

I laughed out loud.

I told everyone at the service about this event and they laughed, too.

And suddenly I realized that a miracle had taken place.

“Marian said it’s all good,” I told the people at the service. “She loved movies and loved The Godfather. The fact that I spoke with James Caan today, on the day of her service, would have made her smile that contagious huge beaming smile of hers. Marian knew the secret of the universe before me and most anyone else.”

I broke into tears and said, “It’s been four days of pure hell, with my missing her in the most painful ways, but on some level, in some way that I don’t yet understand, this is all good.”

That was all last night. The service is over. Marian is gone.

What I dislike about death is that it is so final. There are no PSs. No follow-ups. No chance to say hello, goodbye, I’m sorry, or I love you, or anything else. None. Zip. Zero. Game over. Plug pulled. The end.

Oh, you can play mind games and have conversations in your head with the deceased, but the person — the flesh and blood person who you knew and loved and could touch and hold — is *gone.*

My advice to you, and to me, is to live now. Be sure your affairs are in order — have a legal will, make peace with family and friends every day — and look for the good in every moment. It may not be easy, at first. But you can do it.

For example, a friend called me the other day, to see how I was handling the loss. We spoke for a while. He shared his own feelings of sadness. He told me, “It’s real easy to fall into negative thinking.”

I agreed. But I thought about it and realized I *wasn’t* falling into negative thinking. I’m grieving. I’m sad. I’m at times barely able to function. But I’m not thinking negative. Along the way in my life with Marian, I learned that “It’s all good.” Even the grieving. Even death.

When we drove back home from Houston today, traffic suddenly stopped. We didn’t know what happened. Then we saw a helicopter, and knew someone was badly hurt and being carried to a hospital. As traffic moved again, we were able to see that a terrible wreck had taken place.

Moments before it, the drivers were talking, laughing, maybe planning their evening. Now they’re hurt, and possibly dead.

You never know what moment is our last one.

I suggest you live now.

I suggest when opportunities come your way, grab them.

I suggest you do more smiling, hugging, sharing, crying, laughing, risking, and forgiving.

I suggest you monitor your thoughts, notice the negative ones, and consciously replace them with positive ones.

Yes, I know it can be difficult, at first. I’ve learned from the Mental Toughness Institute’s program that I’m in that your thoughts can be elevated. You can rise above negative thinking. You simply have to retrain your brain. You have the power to do it. You just might need some support to make it your new habit.

Well, Marian pointed the way.

She said, “It’s all good.”

This is the one and only moment of your life.

It’s the only moment you can count on.


And it’s good.

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