GUEST POST: Brandon Hale - Life, Death & Relationships

Thursday, May 17, 2018

I have written about my friend and fellow author, Brandon Hale, before, back when he started his battle with cancer. He battle is coming to the end and he recently made this post on Facebook. I asked him if I could share it on my blog. He agreed. I hope you get as much out it as I did. Love you, Brandon!

This one's going to be painfully long. Like, it might just end up being the longest post I've ever written. Consider yourselves warned. Read at your own risk of losing a sizeable chunk of life you'll never get back.

Okay, the warning's out of the way, so heeeere we go...

I have a prepared speech for almost anything. Seriously. Ask any friend who's known me for more than a year and they can confirm, I'm full of speeches. I love 'em, and give them on a very wide range of subjects. I have a speech where I use table legs as an analogy for the 3 to 4 pillars required to keep a relationship stable. I have a speech where I answer the question of why God would let bad things happen in the world. And I have a speech where I explain why the dinosaurs became extinct. So yeah, my speeches range from the emotional to the metaphysical to the scientific. I've driven my friends crazy with my speeches for the past 20 years (at least), but deep down, I think they love that about me. Really, they do. At least I hope they do, because if they don't then ya' have to wonder why they remain my friend despite my constant speeches.

To be clear, I do not preach with my speeches. I simply explain that this is how I see the universe, and they can take them as little pieces of wisdom and learn from them, or they can laugh at them as evidence of my own self-delusion that I'm some kind of philosopher. I don't care what they think as long as they're entertained.

But here's my problem... Lately, I've been trying to decide which speech will be my legacy. Which speech should I give you here on Facebook that is the speech that defines who I am, and how I came to be? I've really struggled with this, because it's a very important thing, a legacy. Besides children, which I don't have (to my knowledge), a legacy is the only thing that remains of us after we're gone. So which speech should be my legacy? Which speech defines both who I am and how I came to be? Like I said, I've struggled with this for a long time... until last week.

Last week, Laura mentioned that she was gathering some CDs because a friend was selling them for us. Then she mentioned that another friend had dropped us off some food to eat - for no reason other than to be nice. And that got me thinking about all the wonderful things folks have done for us since my diagnosis. It's really too much to count. The support I've gotten has been downright overwhelming (in a good way). And I thought about when I was in my coma, on my birthday, Laura had asked for good vibes and prayers on Facebook. It got shared and then shared again, and I got put on prayer list after prayer list. Before long, I literally had THOUSANDS of people praying and/or sending me good vibes that day. And, appropriately, that was the day I woke from my coma.

I thought about all of this kindness and goodness that overwhelmed me, and I asked myself why. Why would people go so far to help me in my time of need?

And that's when it hit me.

That's when I knew what speech would be my legacy. It's the speech that comes with very important advice... in particular, it's a speech I give to everybody, but especially young people, about the very best advice I could ever give them when it comes to surviving this ride we call life.

I won't give you the entire speech. For you, I'll just go straight to the heart of it. My speech is about a word. A single word. When people ask me how I managed to sell enough books to quit my job (right before I was diagnosed), and I could answer them with one word. When people ask my why I have so many close friends, I can answer with the same word. When people ask me why people always seem happy to help me, I can answer with the same single word. When people ask me, flat out, how I survived this world for 45 years... you guessed it. I can answer it with that same exact word.

And what is that one word?


Seriously. It's that simple. In fact, I recommend you take a piece of paper, write the word "relationships" on it, then put it on your fridge or your computer monitor or anywhere you frequent, because it's a word you want to be reminded of often. Every day. Hell, multiple times a day. Relationships is the answer to every question about anything I've ever accomplished in this world, ever... and that's the truth.

Now, let's be clear in what I mean by "relationships." First, let me say what I do NOT mean. I do not mean anything one sided. I do not mean anything where the gives and the takes are uneven. You should always give as much as you receive in any relationship, or at the very least, you should be willing to give as much as you receive.

A relationship should involve mutual respect. In some way, you should be putting goodness into the world as much as you take goodness from it, and that should also apply to relationships. And that's true of business relationships and personal ones. If there's no mutual respect, it's not a relationship. It's not a healthy one, anyway.

Everything good that has ever happened to me can be traced back to a relationship I've formed with someone (or multiple people). Laura married me because we developed a relationship of mutual love and respect. My friend Eddie officiated the wedding, happily, even though it was blazing hot that day and the wedding was outside. He did it because we had a relationship of mutual love and respect. Eddie knew that if he ever needed me, I'd do whatever I could to be there for him.

For twenty years, I tried to build as many respectful relationships as I could. My talent is the emotional stuff. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and that's just one of my few strengths. I'm not a very good carpenter, but if your heart is broken, I'm the guy to talk to. I won't make the pain go away, because nobody can do that, but I will make you feel just a little bit better. I might help you to realize that, as painful as life is, it's still worth living. I think my friends would back me up on that. Helping people get through emotional problems, or even just helping them take important emotional steps, is just something I'm good at. Again, I'm not being arrogant. For every thing I'm good at, I could easily name twenty things I'm bad at. And that just happens to be one of the few things I'm good at.

So for twenty years, I worked on that side of myself, so I could be better friend to all my friends. Sometimes, I just acted like an idiot to make people laugh. Other times, I've sat in a parked car and just talked to a friend until dawn, because that's what they needed at the time. And I've always tried my very best to be there when a friend needed me. Sometimes, I failed. I'm not perfect. But I never stopped TRYING to give in my relationships more than I took.

And then I got cancer.

I thought that meant I was out of the relationship business. I thought I'd be too busy fighting this terrible disease to focus on any of the many relationships I'd developed over the years... until something absolutely remarkable happened.

I was barely able to walk back then, because I was so weak, but my brother - who'd driven in from Texas just to see me - helped me walked into a building where some kind of little benefit was being held... except when I got inside, I realized it wasn't a "little" benefit. The place was PACKED, complete with Folk Soul Revival playing on the stage. "Oh," I thought. "The place is packed because of Folk Soul." But after my brother helped me to my seat, I quickly discovered that I wasn't completely correct in my thought. A massive line formed in front of my table. People literally waited in line, for quite a while, just to have 2 minutes with me. They came and lined up just to talk for a minute, and to give me a hug, or take a picture with me.

I was simultaneously humbled and filled with happiness. It truly was overwhelming. A TON of people were there... and a large chunk of those people were there for ME.

After that, the support just poured in. My neighbor started mowing my yard for me, refusing to take a cent. He moved away and then another neighbor took over, also refusing any payment. I got card after card after card, from people all over the world. Literally, the world (I have friends in England who sent me stuff). Another friend gave us a huge collection of CDs, in near perfect condition, and he told me, "You should copy these, then sell them on ebay." He then suggested a mutual friend to contact who might be able to sell them for me, and that friend happily agreed to do it, which helped us enormously (this cancer has sucked our money away as fast as it has sucked my weight away).

Anyway, person after person came to us and offered to help in some way. And it wasn't just the generic "Let me know if you need anything." They were all absolutely sincere, and they volunteered to do very specific things for us. One friend is finishing the Day Soldiers series for me, by using my notes to write the final book. I trust him to do a great job. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the final book in the series, written by him, ends up being the best book in the series. I wouldn't mind. That would make me very proud, in fact, and extremely happy for him. Two other friends - whom I met through writing groups and have never met in person - have agreed to help my friend when the time comes to publish the book.

I seriously have a tidal wave of people offering to help me in various ways, and I can tell you, without a doubt, that ALL of this help... every bit of it... has come to me because of that one important word...


If I hadn't built honest, mutually beneficial relationships with these people... relationships where the respect genuinely goes both ways... if that hadn't happened, I wouldn't have this ocean of support from all my family and friends.

Of course, I still thank them for their help whenever I can.

So that's it. That's my takeaway. That's the legacy I want to leave the world. That's my ultimate advice.

If you want to succeed in life, both personally and professionally, build strong, respectful relationships.

I really is that simple.

Be there for people. Even if it feels one-sided right now, keep doing it, because you never know if the day will come that you get a terrible diagnosis. I of course hope that never, ever happens, but if it does, take it from me, you'll need those strong relationships. And if it (hopefully) never happens, you'll still have built those relationships. You can be the person who always "knows somebody." You can be the person who always answers every problem with, "I know someone who might be able to help with this." And the way to become that annoying but much needed person is by building as many strong, respectful, mutually beneficial relationships as you can.

I said it earlier but I'll say it again... pretty much every good thing that has ever happened to me, professionally and personally, is because of relationships I've built throughout the years. Everything. My work relationships were usually just about work, but I applied the same standard. I gave to them as much as I got. Usually more.

Build strong, mutually respectful, mutually beneficial relationships. As many as you can. Be there for people. I promise you, the payoff for that will come. It might be a while, but it will come. If you only listen to one thing I've ever said, please let it be that. Build strong relationships... and avoid the toxic ones like they're the plague. Because, emotionally, they are a plague.

You get back what you put into the world, and the same is true of people. You get back what you put into them. That's how karma works. It's not some mystical force. If you're good to people, they'll want to be good to you. And if you're a shit to people, when you have hard times, nobody will give a shit about what's happening to you. Karma is about cause and effect, not magic.

So never forget that very important word, and you'll do well.


They matter. Trust me on this, they matter more than you know. If the past four years have taught me anything, they've taught me that.

I love you all, dearly and forever. Now get out there and start building good relationships. You won't regret it.


Ciao for now!


  1. Thanks for sharing this Donna since I am no longer on FB. This was very touching and oh so true!

    1. Thank you for taking time to read it and comment, Susan. It is true....

  2. I blog quite often and I genuinely thank you for your information. This great article
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  3. Hi Donna, what an inspiring post and one that really made me think about what my legacy would be. I agree that Relationships is a perfect legacy. Relationships are two-way and can be formed in many ways. I am grateful for the many wonderful relationships I have in my life. Thank you for sharing Bran's speech with us at #MLSTL such an important reminder in so many ways. xx
    Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

  4. What a beautiful post - and what a beautiful person. So few men are good with relationships (other than a few close ones) To see the impact of what investing in others does - and the joy when that investment comes full circle is just wonderful. You are blessed to know such a wonderful man - and I'm sad to here what he has had to go through with his battle with cancer.

    Thanks for linking up with us at #MLSTL and I've shared this on my SM xx
    Leanne |


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