Episode 93 – Unstoppable Unexpected Loss
On this special episode today, I am being interviewed by Braden Ricketts to discuss the unexpected loss of my wife Karen. After a long battle with a sore on her back, Karen passed away on November 12, 2022. I wanted to put out an episode dedicated to her memory and all the adventures we had in life together.
As I navigate life without Karen by my side, I am grateful to get to look back on all the lessons we learned from each other and all the amazing accomplishments she had in her life. Karen truly embodied the Unstoppable Mindset, and I am going to continue moving forward with her in my thoughts.
Many of you came to know Karen through our book “Thunder Dog” and saw just how important she was to me. Karen wanted a small celebration of life, but for those of you who would like to pay your respects, I will be holding a zoom call on January 28th, 2023 at 11 am (PST).
I share with Braden how Karen and I first met and fell in love, how I am processing the grief of her loss and the fear that comes along with it, and my final words to Karen. I appreciate Braden being there to support me through this conversation.
Zoom link for Karen’s service:
About the Host:
Michael Hingson is a New York Times best-selling author, international lecturer, and Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe. Michael, blind since birth, survived the 9/11 attacks with the help of his guide dog Roselle. This story is the subject of his best-selling book, Thunder Dog.
Michael gives over 100 presentations around the world each year speaking to influential groups such as Exxon Mobile, AT&T, Federal Express, Scripps College, Rutgers University, Children’s Hospital, and the American Red Cross just to name a few. He is Ambassador for the National Braille Literacy Campaign for the National Federation of the Blind and also serves as Ambassador for the American Humane Association’s 2012 Hero Dog Awards.
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Michael Hingson 00:00
Access Cast and accessiBe Initiative presents Unstoppable Mindset. The podcast where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. Hi, I’m Michael Hingson, Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe and the author of the number one New York Times bestselling book, Thunder dog, the story of a blind man, his guide dog and the triumph of trust. Thanks for joining me on my podcast as we explore our own blinding fears of inclusion unacceptance and our resistance to change. We will discover the idea that no matter the situation, or the people we encounter, our own fears, and prejudices often are our strongest barriers to moving forward. The unstoppable mindset podcast is sponsored by accessiBe, that’s a c c e s s i capital B e. Visit www.accessibe.com to learn how you can make your website accessible for persons with disabilities. And to help make the internet fully inclusive by the year 2025. Glad you dropped by we’re happy to meet you and to have you here with us.
Michael Hingson 01:20
Well, hi there welcome once again to unstoppable mindset where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet and today we are absolutely dealing with unexpected. I’m your host, Mike Hingson. But I’m not doing the interview today. I get to be interviewed, and you’ll find out why all that is in just a moment. Our guest interviewer is Braden Ricketts, who is part of the team that helps me in the back deal with podcast editing, and so on. He doesn’t mostly do ours, but he’s involved with what we do. And I even got him to commit once. And he still hasn’t done it yet. But I got him to commit to letting me do a podcast interview with him. So we’ll get to that. But today we have something special and a little bit more unexpected and unusual to talk about. So Braden, I’m going to turn this over to you. And thank you for being here. And welcome to unstoppable mindset.
Braden Ricketts 02:11
Michael, it’s an absolute honor for me to be here for very many reasons today, especially your legend on the back end at amplify you. We talked about you all the time, you’re such a force to be reckoned with. And I’m honored to be on your show with you today.
Michael Hingson 02:27
Well, it’s an honor to have you here being a part of this too.
Braden Ricketts 02:31
Thank you. And speaking of honor, today, we’re going to talk about a very special person whose life has come to an abrupt end. And we want to spend some time today to revisit your wife, Karen, and what she meant to you and your world and how you were processing her loss.
Michael Hingson 02:50
Well, thank you. Yeah, we lost her on November 12 of 2022. And in a way it was expected to some degree and wasn’t really totally expected. She contracted a wound on her backside in July of 2022 that went all the way to the bone and she ended up being in the hospital for a month and came back very much weaker. She also had rheumatoid arthritis, which she’s had for several years and she took medications for it. They were infused every month and the doctors, the physicians felt that she could not take the infusions while she had this wound, as I said that went to the bone because the infusions would further lower her immune system’s ability to fight infection. And the wound that she had got infected to the bone. So they didn’t want her to have any of the infusions, which caused her a lot of pain. And I think other things were going on with her in general. And so from the time she got home in late August until November, she just kept getting weaker, and she wasn’t eating much. And we were all concerned and we were afraid of what was going on. And she was too. She wasn’t a lot of pain, but then on November 12, that finally kind of all caught up to her and came to a head and at 1125 I remember the time well, in the morning. She she passed so it is what we have to deal with. And unfortunately, I was there with her her sister was there, our niece was there. And three other people were there. Her two caregivers Josie and Dolores were there in Jeanette, who is our housekeeper who comes in once a week. Karen and I between us don’t vacuum as well as one would like. So we cheat we get somebody else to do it and Jeanette wanted to be there as well. So we all were there when we got to say goodbye to Karen which we’re very grateful about and you know as I can only say the Spirit just moves faster than the body and that’s what happened.
Braden Ricketts 04:58
Yeah, and not often do people have the opportunity to really say those goodbyes. So what a benefit to at least know and have the opportunity to bring people together around the unfortunate events? Well,
Michael Hingson 05:10
it was very fortunate to be able to do that. And I’m glad they were all there, they wanted to be there. And we, we had the opportunity. And for me, Karen still here. A lot of people say that about loved ones, and so on. But it’s different, we would have been married 40 years on November 27. So we missed 40 years by 15 days. So as far as I’m concerned, Karen will always be here in one way or another. And I started a few times after she passed by ape saying, you know, well, we have to move on. And I realized wrong thing to say we don’t move on, we move forward. But I don’t want to move on, which I think almost implies, eventually just leaving her behind. And we’re not going to do that we’ll move forward. And she is where she is. But she will always be with me and will always be part of my memory and the memory of all of the people in our families. And you know, the other thing that that happened for me, the day after she passed, I put a note up on Facebook, just telling people about it, because I knew a lot of people who had known Karen or knew about her. And a number of people who read the Facebook post, had never met Karen, but they read our book, Thunder dog, the story of a blind man and his guide dog and the triumph of trust, which was our New York Times bestseller book. And they wrote to me on Facebook, and they said, we never met Karen, but we’ve really got to know her in Thunder dog. And so one of the things that we’re going to do is hold a zoom session on the 28th of January at 11am. Pacific time for anyone who wants to come and listen or participate. Our pastor from our church in San Marcos, California, where we lived in the early 90s is going to be there and David McKinney, my web guy who’s also a pastor in San Francisco is going to be there. And anyone who wants to come is welcome to come and participate however they’d like. And the reason we’re doing that, in part is that Karen did not want a large service. Her mother died in 2021, we had a good service of the large service, but it was just too sad for Karen. And so she said If anytime she passed, she didn’t want a large surplus. So this past Saturday, we held a small family service for her just close members of the family and so on. And we did it at the church where her mom is buried. And we actually put Karen’s ashes in with her mom. So the two of them are together because they were extremely close. And we would want to honor that. And so we did.
Braden Ricketts 07:45
I love that. I love the sentiment of moving forward not moving on. It’s about developing a new relationship with that individual in a different form.
Michael Hingson 07:54
That’s a good point. And you’re absolutely right. That’s exactly what it is.
Braden Ricketts 07:57
Yeah. Michael, I also didn’t get to know Karen very well, would you like sharing a little bit about who she was in your words.
Michael Hingson 08:04
So Karen was born in 1949, and was a paraplegic from birth. So she always used a wheelchair. I think she actually got her first chair at the age of five that that she started to grow up in, but she was always in a chair. And her parents were very much the same as mine, in that they took the position that it didn’t matter, that we were different. What mattered was what we learned to do, and what we decided to do with our own lives. And they gave her the opportunity and challenged her to take the opportunity to do whatever she wanted to do. So she went to regular school, there were physical challenges, because a lot of times there were steps and other things. And so she had helped with that. She took like I did, although I only had it for one year, but she was in a special PE class. And they didn’t do anything in the special PE class. She played cards with another person who she developed a very close friendship with in high school. And Maria and Karen were friends for their well, for Marie’s entire life she passed in I think it was early 2021 I think that Yeah, cuz COVID was was with us. So. And then, of course, Karen passed at the end of 2022. So they’re probably up there laughing at us anyway, but playing cards, you got playing playing cards. Yeah, absolutely. But Karen went college at University of California, Riverside, and, again, found physical barriers to getting around and so she started to work, to get Riverside to deal with it and actually became part of the committee dealing with the International Year of the disabled that the United Nations in part sponsored but at Riverside and so on, she became very involved in that and brought about us significant amount of change. She was also very active in Campus Crusade for Christ and then the United Methodist Church. And we got married at the United Methodist Church, Irvine University Methodist Church in 1972. But she was very active in church. And when I met her in 1982, she had been a teacher for 10 years, and decided to move on to doing something else. She did have her master’s degree in sociology and taught from that, and, again, helped to break down barriers, but she decided to do something else. And so along the way, she decided to do the work of being a travel agent, which was a part time thing and then became a full time thing for her. And so when I met her, she worked at a travel agency in San Juan Capistrano, California. And within that agency, she started her own small agency dealing with travel for persons with disabilities, the name of the agency was anyone can travel. And I met her through someone who knew her who was out surveying some possible places for a convention for the Society for the advancement travel of the handicapped sath. And so they introduced me to Karen and we kind of hit it off in January, although we didn’t really have a whole lot to do with each other for a few months, because I was dating someone and she was dating someone, and neither of those relationships lasted overly long. And then in May of 1982, Karen, I knew was was agenting. And I was working for first well Computer Products, which was the company that Ray Kurzweil began to develop the reading machine for the blind. It was being purchased by Xerox. So I was based out here in California and needed to go see some customers in Hawaii, what a tough job to do. And I decided I take my parents because they had never been, and I called Karen to do the ticket booking. And she did. Then she brought the tickets down. And we chatted for a while. What I didn’t know at the time was she was hoping that I’d asked her to go to lunch and being shy, I didn’t. But we I walked her out to her car and helped her get in and and put the chair in. I just leaned over and give her a big kiss before she left. And then the neck was that Wednesday, I was going up to the airport to meet my parents. We were staying at a hotel overnight, leaving early the next day. She said I’m gonna come and get you what she did. And she came down got me, we went up and she met my parents. And the next day we went to Hawaii. And I started calling her twice a day from Hawaii, which is kind of where everything really clicked. And then I came back. And the day I came back from Hawaii, she was leaving for some training on some computer systems for TWA, which was around at that time in Kansas City. So we didn’t get to see each other from the time I left for Hawaii until four days after she got back or rather until four days after I got back. And then she finally returned. And we just clicked. And so in mid July of 1982, I asked her to marry me. And we we chose a ring. And one of the neat stories I could tell about the ring is that when the jeweler called and said it was ready as we had it made, of course, I went up and got it and brought it down not without telling her. But I had called her boss lady named Joe. And I told Joe I was going to come and give Karen her ring. Joe will do anything for a party. So she immediately got champagne in the office didn’t tell Karen but other people found out what was going on, which was great. So I show up around three in the afternoon. And it was a Friday, I think. And Karen was on the phone and I was sitting in front of her desk and just waiting. And finally she kept talking to this client. And I just finally said hey, give me your left hand a second I got up on a hold your hand and so she stuck her left hand out and I put a ring on it. I put a ring on her finger and immediately said, I have to hang up. My fiance just put my engagement ring on my finger. He proposed Oh, I have to go. And she did. And then the next few months went by and we got married. As I said on November 27 1982. She was a an always has been a fun person. And I think in a lot of ways very seriously. She was smarter than I was she she didn’t know we show it but she had a great sense of humor and when something popped out That was funny. It really popped out. And she also was very perceptive. And so the two of us, I think really worked well together for 40 years.
Braden Ricketts 14:58
40 years. My goodness What were some of the lessons you learned from 40 years of marriage McCarran
Michael Hingson 15:04
that people can get along, we can fight we did have some sometimes they were pretty serious fights. I remember when I’m working for one company in the early 90s. In 1996, early in 1996, we had talked about relocating to Washington, DC area, the company wanted to open an office there. And so the President said, We want you to move there. And then one day, and we were both excited about that. And one day, he comes into the office, I changed my mind, I want you to open an office in New York, Karen absolutely didn’t want to go to New York, she didn’t want to do anything there, DC was a lot more fun, I think, and a lot more interesting to her. But it was either take that job or a sales territory in a place like New Mexico, because he said, I already have somebody who will take your place out here working at the company, we will need you back there. So we had to do it. Karen didn’t want to do it. But I went back, we rented an apartment. And we had some pretty heavy conversations on the phone. But we worked through it. Because there wasn’t another viable job. And one of the things that I and anyone who happens to be fortunate enough to have a job, who happens to also have be a person with a disability knows, the unemployment rate is really high. For us. It’s between 60 and 70%, of all employable. My case, blind people are unemployed, because people think we can’t work not that we really can’t work. And so the result of that was that I didn’t want to go into a job search. So we worked through it. And if you communicate, if you keep talking, if you work together and are willing to work together, you can get through stuff. And we did move to New Jersey, we both agreed we didn’t want to stay there forever. We didn’t know when we would move back to California. But Karen was a native, she would let me call myself a native because I was born in Chicago and moved to California when I was five. So I could never be a native. But she but she always wanted to get back to California. And she said I’ll do it if we’re going to come back someday. And I said, Hey, I am absolutely in, in sync with that. Then these two teams of terrorists, hijacked a couple of airplanes and flew them into the towers of the World Trade Center. And that led to all the circumstances that did get us the opportunity to move back to California, which we did. And when we moved to New Jersey, we built a home because we wanted it to be wheelchair accessible. And the other issue there was it had to be a two story home because the development where we found property to build I had only two story homes. So we put an elevator in that was a fun thing. This there were some challenges with the engineers in Westfield, New Jersey, where we lived that they tried to make it difficult for us to do it. But we got the elevator ran and we got them to sign off on it. When we move back to California, we found a place to live up near Guide Dogs for the Blind in guide dogs and center fell. We bought a home in Novato. There’s no property to build a home, so we had to buy one and modify it. And we always said that if we could build a home, we wanted to do it. Because if you build a home from scratch, it’s cheaper than if you buy a home and modify it because if you buy a home, you’re gonna tear things out, put things in big changes and cost over $100,000 to do. But we did and loved the area up there. And then for a variety of things, we moved down here to Southern California in 2014, where again, we build a home. And we made it a home. The home was built in 2016. And we moved in on December 17th 2016. And we love it because first of all, it’s a brand new home with all the latest codes, the heating and air conditioning bills are a lot less than they might otherwise be. We do have solar. And it was comfortable for Karen. And it was comfortable for me. So one of the things I plan on doing is staying right here. Why would I want to move it’s too stressful to move and we’ve got a good interest rate. And I’m hoping people will continue to hire to hire me to speak. I also work for accessibe, which is a company that makes products that help make internet websites more accessible and inclusive for persons with disabilities. So that is actually how this podcast unstoppable mindset began because they wanted us to do a podcast podcast that would tell the world that we’re we’re all capable, we’re all unstoppable. And so we inspire people. Sometimes we talk about accessibe and the products and the company and we just talked about disabilities, but mostly it’s all about inspiration. So between accessibe and continuing to speak, I intend to keep busy and keep moving forward.
Braden Ricketts 19:58
Absolutely. And You should. But it sounds like you and Karen had a life full of adventure together and a wonderful time.
Michael Hingson 20:09
Well, I think so I’ve always regarded life as an adventure, I think probably as have been a little bit more of a risk taker than she wanted to be at times. But we we did travel to various places, we were on a number of cruises, which was fun. We went with Karen’s parents to a couple of timeshares in Spain during the World Expo back in 1992. And had a wonderful time for a couple of weeks over there. And mostly, I think the the important thing, and it goes back to the question you asked before is, we made sure we always enjoyed each other’s company. And I wouldn’t change the last 40 years for anything. I hope along the way I learned stuff, and then that she learned things as well. And we continue to be very close, we communicated. And over the past few months of her life, I know there were times that she said she was scared about what was happening. And I and her caregivers, Josie and Dolores worked with her and Courtney before them worked with her. And we just tried to keep things as pleasant as we could and as peaceful as we could. So I think eventually, Karen knew that this was what she needed to do was to move on and she did well on to, to go do something else, then whatever it is she’s doing, I’m hoping that she’s enjoying it. And I get to join her sometime in the future or or see the results of what she does somehow.
Braden Ricketts 21:36
Yeah. Now, Michael, you’ve been processing this loss for, you know, in anticipation leading up to to the day, but also a few months since then. How have you been addressing the fear and loss? And what are your plans for moving forward?
Michael Hingson 21:55
Thanks for asking that, for a lot of reasons. Because one of the things that I realized, as the pandemic began is that I had talked a lot in the speeches that I’ve given about my experiences in the World Trade Center, and why wasn’t afraid. But I’ve never taught people how to deal with that. I’ve never taught people how they can learn to control their own fears and use fear as a positive force to move forward. And so now I have to practice what I preach, right. And I’ve had to do that before. But now I have to do it again. And you’re right, there is fear, there is the fact that I’ve had a little bit of time to adjust, or I had time before she passed. And I was doing a lot of the cooking and a lot of the other things around the house that she wasn’t able to do, although I kept hoping she would get better and be able to take over those things. But I also realized that if the worst or what we didn’t want to happen, actually did happen, I would have to continue to function and move forward. As a blind person who has been blind his entire life. I’ve learned that there are lots of ways of getting jobs accomplished, and I need to keep my wits about me. Even though I’m going to have some fear and some frustrations along the way, I need to keep thinking about how to deal with different tasks. Unfortunately, now we do have a lot more technology than we used to that helps. The process, for example, is a company that I helped bring the products to market from called IRA, a IRA, an IRA is a company that makes what’s called a visual interpreter. What it essentially translates to is a product that includes an app that will go on a smartphone. And you can activate the app that calls an IRA agent. Now the agents are not just people who say I want a job and pay me for it, but they are people who have demonstrated the ability to describe to be accurate in their descriptions and to to understand what any of us who happen to be blind need when we ask a question like if I want a label read, I can tell them what I want. Or if I do it enough times, they people take notes in my profile so they know what to read and what I’m not interested in. Or if I’m traveling somewhere and need to get directions how to get from Virgil’s barbecue, for example, in New York City, to the United Nations, what the easiest ways to do it are and literally what they do is they use the camera on the on the smartphone. Or they can even use GPS information that’s transmitted by the phone through the app. And they can give me whatever information I need to have. They describe they don’t editorialize, they don’t tell me how to do things. They describe or give me the information I asked for. So when I was assembling something a few years ago, they read the instructions, they don’t try to tell me things that you wouldn’t want somebody to tell you. Now you got a blade screwdriver and a Phillips screwdriver, do you know the difference, and that’s not the thing you want to tell me, if you want to describe it, you want to tell me the instructions say that you need to use the blade screwdriver to tighten the screws or you need to use this particular pipe, we’re building a laundry cart and everything was color coded. So they tell me the specific information that I visually would not have access to? Well, as I said, we brought that to market. And I use Ira all the time now, whether it is to read labels, whether it’s to get other information, sometimes off of a TV screen, whether it’s to read material that my the computer won’t scan, or read very well, or whatever it happens to be. They, they literally can provide any visual information I need that didn’t exist seven years ago. But it exists today. And so that’s something that certainly helps. And there are other kinds of technologies, there’s much better optical character recognition than with the original Kurzweil Reading Machine. And so I given you a long explanation. But it’s, it’s to say, knowing all of that, and knowing how to use the tools that I have, and knowing that I can be creative when I need to and maybe use tools in a different way, then people are possibly not used to ultimately I can continue to move forward and do whatever it is that I want to do. Does that mean I Miss Karen less? No, it doesn’t. But it does mean that I can continue to live, which she would want me to do. I can continue to go to the airport, get on airplanes, and go do speeches, which I do. And continue to talk about the lessons we should learn from September 11. And now start to talk about how you could learn to control your fear. And I can speak to that more poignantly now than ever, because it’s something that I have to do every day, it was weird. Going to sleep the first night of the Karen wasn’t here. Even when she went into the hospital, although I knew she would probably be coming back. And she did. But it was weird going to sleep and there was only me in the house. And then when she did pass, again, it was a strange feeling. And I’m not sure that I’m still used to it. But I’m comfortable enough to recognize that, again, what I need to do is to move forward and not be afraid, or use the fear that I do have to help me be motivated to move on and do whatever I need to do, including doing this interview.
Braden Ricketts 27:56
You know, you are absolutely embodying the unstoppable mindset that you have brought to the world through your podcast and your stories. Because this is something that happens to a lot of people. But it’s also seen as you know, the reason people give up or the reason that people struggle with a loss. And what I’m hearing from you, Michael, is that you’re taking this opportunity as a new adventure, you’re going to try to do things in different ways or learn how to do things more on your own that you may not have done before. Right. And that can be scary for a lot of people. But in your explanation, I hear that there’s a little bit of, you know, excitement for what you’re going to learn and what you’re going to develop what you’re going to try and what’s going to be new in your experiences going forward.
Michael Hingson 28:42
And it is scary. There’s no doubt about it. And it’s scary for me. But I’m not going to let the scariness blind me or paralyze me to being able to do whatever needs to be done. My job is to continue to do the things that I’ve chosen to do. And I think life is all about choices. And choosing not to let fear stop me is part of that process. So it is important to be able to, to work through whatever comes along. I expect even if I live another 100 years, it will be scary doing stuff that I used to do with Karen. And I’m perfectly okay with that. Since I also know I’ll be able to do it and work through it. And your life is an adventure and I really look forward to seeing what we’re going to see over the next 10 and 20 and 30 years, I think that a lot of things are going to happen. If we would allow ourselves to work together work as a community and stop just deciding that it’s just us for ourselves and no one else and if we would just choose to work together and find ways to interact and help each other, that I think we’re going to have a much more powerful world. But it’s all about an adventure life has been an adventure, from the first time anybody had any conscious thought. And I think that is going to continue. And that’s what makes life so much fun. No matter what happens and what gets thrown at us, God, I really do believe doesn’t give us anything that we can handle. But having lost Karen, I can see where people can give up. And I can see where that’s probably really easy to do. Fortunately, I’ve made the choice that I won’t let that be the way I live my life. And I think that as emotional as it is to have lost Karen after 40 years together. Now, I know that she would want me to continue to treat everything we do as an adventurer, and find ways to do things. I want to take another cruise sometime. I’m not sure how that’s going to work because it won’t be with her. Physically speaking. I’m not sure that I’m one of those people that would just go on a cruise by myself. I know people who’ve done it. I don’t know, I might, time will tell. That’s a question yet to answer. But I’d like to take another cruise or two and do some other traveling outside of business. Excessive B is in Israel, I haven’t been there yet. I’m looking forward to doing that and hope that we get to do that soon. And again, that will be an adventure in so many different ways. So it is all about adventure. It is all about working through things as we go. And it’s also about recognizing that we’re only stoppable if we allow ourselves to be or we are as unstoppable as we want to be.
Braden Ricketts 31:44
Absolutely. Did Karen have some inspiration in your unstoppable mindset? Is there a phrase that she like to use that you’re hearing in the back of your mind as you continue on?
Michael Hingson 31:58
I think is absolutely that she and I worked out unstoppable mindset as a title together. And I wanted to try to come up with something a little bit different. And she may have actually been the first one to say why don’t you use unstoppable it’s I think it’s starting to be overused. But it wasn’t when we started this whole concept. Excessive he had done a commercial an advertisement last year about the product. And they had people in that a number of people who had happened to have disabilities. And they use the term. But I, I thought about unstoppable and I went to myself and Karen also said, It’s really what this is all about. And so you should use it. So it is one of the things that I remember that we talked about one of my favorite times with Karen, in terms of something where she taught me something or else I said I think sometimes she’s smarter than I, I was looking for a job in 1989. And I mentioned that I went to work for a company. That’s the company that sent me eventually to New York, when I was applying for jobs. And we found this one in the newspaper. I said to Karen, do I say in my cover letter, I’m blind or not? And she said You’re a dummy. Only wives can do that. And I said, Well, why do you say that? And she said, You’ve been a sales manager. Now for a long time, you’ve hired people and worked with a number of people. You took a Dale Carnegie sales course when you first started in sales, what’s the most important thing that you tell every salesperson that you hire? And I wasn’t really quite whether I was thinking of a number of things. And I finally said I’d skip up which one and she said, you’ve always told me that the most important thing you’ve ever told your people is turn perceived liabilities into assets. And that’s absolutely true. What’s blindness if not a perceived liability? It’s not a liability. People think it is. But you know, something is too expensive. That’s a perceived liability if you can make the case for why it is what it is. Well, she said that and I went off and I wrote a cover letter about my desire to work for this company. And the last two paragraphs of the cover letter kind of went something like this. The most important thing that you need to know about me when you’re considering me for this job is that I happen to be blind. And I choose by the way, the words happened to be blind because it’s just a characteristic like being left handed or male or female or anything else. I want to include politicians in that in that whole characteristic thing because they made that choice which lowers their level, but we won’t go there. It’s fun to pick on politicians. Anyway, the most important thing that you need to know is that I happen to be blind as a blind person. I’ve had to sell all of my life just to be able to survive and function. I’ve had to sell to convince somebody to let Have you buy a house, I’ve had to sell to convince somebody to let me rent an apartment or take my guide dog into stores. Because this was before the Americans with Disabilities Act, and there was real legislation about all that. I’ve had to sell to do most anything that I wanted to accomplish. So when you’re considering me for this job, and you’re looking at other people, think about do you want to hire somebody who just comes in to the office and works for eight or 10 hours a day and then goes home? Because the job is over? Or do you want to hire somebody who truly understands sales for the science and art that it is and sells 24 hours a day as a way of life? Earn, perceive liabilities into assets. And the result of that was? Yeah, and the result was it two weeks later, I got a call from the company and they said, We’re having you come in simply because of that letter, and we want to meet you. And we want to talk to you about working for us while I went down and the rest kind of his history. But she was absolutely right. And I didn’t catch it. I was too much in the habit of always worrying about do I say I’m blind or I’m not. And she, she was smart enough to recognize what really needed to be done, which is something that she did so often. And I will miss that. But I will also remember all the things that she did do. So hopefully I will work at being better.
Braden Ricketts 36:22
Yeah, that love and support, it just points out some of those pieces that we overlook. Can you tell me a little bit more about what her love and support meant for you?
Michael Hingson 36:32
Really, I can only say I meant everything. We really did not only depend on each other physically, because she could do things I couldn’t like she could read and I did think she couldn’t like push the wheelchair. So she reads I push. But just we learned each other totally. And we learned what we needed to do at any given time to support each other. There were very, very few times where both of us were down or very unhappy at the same time. I remember once when I got the job working for the company I just talked about. We were moving from Mission Viejo, California to current well to the area of Carlsbad, California, Vista, California, which is down near San Diego about 4550 miles south of where we lived in Mission Viejo. And we decided to find property and build a house. But we didn’t want to continue to drive all the way down every morning for me to go to work and then Karen to come back up and go to work. So we decided that we would rent an apartment. And we found an apartment to rent it was actually in a new facility that was going up. And we put our home in Mission Viejo on the market. And the realtor that we first use was doing some pretty shifty sorts of things. And he was letting people come in on their own without being present in looking at the house and giving them keys and other things that we didn’t like we caught them out at one day when we were about to move. And we went down to move into the apartment only to find out that they didn’t have the certificate of occupancy yet. So we couldn’t move in. That was probably one of our saddest days together. Because we were looking forward to being able to move down. And I don’t I think we went I don’t remember whether we went back home, or what we did, because we had packed most everything up. And physically, we couldn’t just go sleep on the floor. But we worked through it. But it was a very sad time. And we’ve had a couple of those sad times. And of course, I mentioned earlier about me making the decision that we needed to move to New York and then having to work to bring Karen along. And that was was pretty sad. But again, she recognize the value of it. And when she made some decisions at times I recognize the value of it. A her love meant everything to me and I would do anything that she needed me to do. She has been a quilter since 1994. And over the last few years, she needed to replace some sewing machines and some new ones came on the market. And I said you need it. Go get it. She said well, we don’t necessarily have a lot of money. I said, but do you need it? Is it going to make your job and your life easier? And she said, yeah, it will I thought about that a lot. They said there’s no question, go do it. I wouldn’t do anything like that for her. And I wouldn’t hesitate at all because I would do whatever she needed. And I knew that she would do the same sort of thing for me. We knew each other that well that we had that deep level of trust that we needed to have. And we never were suspicious of each other. We didn’t mislead each other. We didn’t lie to each other, which was important.
Braden Ricketts 39:54
You know, I feel called to ask you to use those same words. is on yourself as you go forward. And remember that, you know, she would do anything for you and you should do everything for yourself that she would.
Michael Hingson 40:09
I agree. And I’m doing that at the same time well, so I, for several years went since we moved in, we we have a TV in our living room and we have a Sonos soundbar. And I’ve always wanted to get a subwoofer because I like bass, not loud, but I still like bass helping to fill the room. And I never wanted to spend the money to get it. And it was only after she passed that I had a bright idea. The credit card I use for business accumulates rewards. And so I called the company that deals with all that, and it turns out, they sold the Sonos subwoofer that I wanted to buy. So I got it for free. Now I have the subwoofer unfortunately carries out here to hear it. And, you know, she said, Do you really need it? And I said, Well, it would be nice. Do I need it? No. Now, my only justification is it didn’t cost anything. So I did it. And she would have approved with that. But you’re right, I need to do what I need to do to move forward as well. And I will always think, Karen, is this the right decision to make? And I think that’s important to do. To really think about any decision that we make, especially major life decision, several people have asked me already Well, are you going to move? Are you going to stay where you are? And one person is even advised that we should sell the wheelchair accessible van that Karen drove? And the answer to moving is absolutely not. Why would I want to the house is probably bigger than I need? Well, it is bigger than I need because two of us lived in it. But at the same time, it’s a very comfortable house, the interest rate is great. And I would never find another place that will be as comfortable as this. More important, I’ll never find a place that I can move into that would be as comfortable and as inexpensive as this. And even as far as selling the van will explore it. But I’m not deeply in a hurry to sell it. Because if I do, I still want to have access to a vehicle I’ll need to own something because as I need to move around, whether it’s the people who worked for Karen, as they’re her caregivers who now work for me in the business, or other people, I don’t want them to have to use their car and they’re more reluctant to use their car, if I have a vehicle available. And I learned that in college. So whether it’s the van or something else, I want to have a vehicle around. But I don’t need to make any urgent decisions. And I am a firm believer that things will happen as they should I believe that God has given us the ability to make choices. And it’s given us the ability to hear what the right decision is we just need to learn to listen to that voice and make the right decisions. And then when we do that, things will work out fine.
Braden Ricketts 43:04
Those are beautiful words, they certainly seem to be having a role and an impact in the way you’re handling the loss. It’s It is remarkable. I know you’ve been processing for a while but you you seem to be really at ease. With with where things are at. Do you have advice that you would like to share with others on that, in that regard?
Michael Hingson 43:26
I think it’s important that people really do think about how to prepare for unexpected life changes. And that’s what we’ll be talking about an A guy dice Guide to Being brave. One of the things that I learned in college was to step back and think about each day. At the end of the day, how did it go? What went well, what didn’t go well? And even with what went well? Could it have gone better? Or the things that didn’t go? Well? What do we do so that that won’t happen? Again, it took me a long time to get out of the habit of saying I made a mistake, I screwed up and that’s all there is to it to saying okay, that didn’t work like it should I could even call it a mistake. But the ultimate question is, what do I learn to move on? And not do that same thing again? Or to move forward and not do that same thing again? Or how would I handle the situation the next time it comes up? And a lot of times that happens? Something will happen again, and the question is have I learned to the point where when it does, I went oh, I would go oh, wait a minute. I know what I did wrong on that or I know what I should have done better. And I can make that become part of my life which helps a lot to alleviate the fear. So that’s one thing is to be introspective at the end of the day and then be mindful and allow yourself to recognize that there are things that maybe you didn’t do as well as you should. I like the concept that failure isn’t really failure, it’s just a lesson that’ll move you to more success and move you to do something better the next time, a mistake is only something that didn’t work out quite as well as you want, and you can move forward from it. It’s not a mistake, if you did what you felt was the right thing. And it turned out not to be the right thing. If you learn from it. It’s absolutely a mistake if you just continue to do the same thing. And you don’t learn from the things that that happen in your life. I love Einstein’s definition of insanity, which is always do the same thing and expect something different to happen, that doesn’t work that way. So we can learn how to change. For me, the first time I think I really use that well was I was the Program Director of our radio station, and K UCI in Irvine. And I heard a lot of DJs on the air. And a lot of them didn’t sound as well as they could have I didn’t think. And so I came up with this bright idea. I want you all to listen to yourselves, we’re going to I want you to make a recording of the times that you talk on the air, and then take it listen to it. And then you can imagine that people just rebelled it that people say we’re our own worst critics. And that’s really the wrong thing to say we’re not our own worst critics, we are our own best evaluators. Because we know all the things that go into a decision that we make. So for me, when I made that suggestion to people, and they resisted, we fixed it. I got our station engineer to put a recorder in a locked cabinet, which we haven’t had in all the studios. And whenever the microphone was clicked to on, so they were going to people were going to talk, the recorder would start. And at the end of the week, because we did it once a week, we gave each person here’s a term you haven’t heard in a while a cassette, with their program on it. We said listen to it. You know what, the people who did it, and we kind of really made everyone do it. I didn’t go so far as to embarrass someone in front of other people. But I pushed really hard and got people to listen to it. It was amazing how much better everyone was, by the end of the year, some of the people went on to professional radio. And everyone benefited a lot from it. And I learned that it’s all about evaluating yourself. So even today, when I give a speech, I listen to it. When I do a podcast, I go back and listen to the podcast, every time I do an interview one because I want to refresh my mind before making the notes. But two, I want to hear how I sound. And I hope that every time I do that, I improve a little bit so that I sound a little bit better than I did the previous time. I think it’s important that we allow ourselves to evaluate ourselves and to grow from that. So it’s a lot of fun to do it. I’ve made some some serious mistakes. Over the years, I did a couple of flubs in radio, that I wouldn’t say they were embarrassing, but I’ve listened to them actually a couple times since and I laugh at them. But I’ll never make the same kind of error in judgment. Again, I was gonna say make the same mistake, I suppose you can say it was. But it’s all about? Do we learn from life. And my belief is that we have to learn from life. And life may be a great adventure. But it’s also a wonderful teacher, if we allow it to be. So for me, I think it’s important that we all be very introspective at the end of every day, we need to think about what we did, how did that go? Especially when something happens that makes us afraid. We need to then go back and study. Why are we afraid? What is it that’s really fearful? And how do we deal with that? Those are the kinds of things that along the way I learned that helped me not be afraid on September 11. And it really got to the point where I finally said to myself as we were going down the stairs because I was listening for every creaking grown in case the building decided to just suddenly fall. If it’s going to fall, it’s going to fall. There’s nothing I can do about it. I can only do what I can do, and literally went down the stairs with that attitude. So again, I chose not to be afraid I chose to use my concerns to be more observant and to work to help other people and to be positive and upbeat all the way down the stairs. And I think we all can do that. We don’t need to let fear blind us as I describe it. We can use it as a very powerful mode. Vader to help guide us and direct us into whatever it is that we need to do. I think that’s kind of probably the most important lesson I can give to people.
Braden Ricketts 50:08
Yes, wow. And quite literally in your story, you took control of the one thing you could control, which was one step in front of the other, and got you all the way to safety.
Michael Hingson 50:18
Right. You know, the, the other part about that is you don’t worry about the things that you can’t control. That happens so much. I mean, we see so much on TV and so much other things in our lives that go on. There’s so many things that people want us to worry about. But we have any control over all have it. No, we don’t. And so the bottom line is, if we focus on all that stuff, we’re going to be scattered. If we worry about what we can control and let the rest of it alone, then we’ll be able to move forward in a much more positive way. And we’ll be better for it. And so will everyone else. And if the time comes, you know, one of the my favorite examples is the whole political arena right now. Everyone’s worried about what’s going to happen in our US Congress, and what’s going to happen with the country? And what’s going to happen with one thing or another? And do we have any control over it? Well, we do when we have elections. And if we really look at all of our politicians, all of our leaders, those who truly are and those who think they are, we can analyze them and see what they’re really doing. And not be afraid to make a decision that says I’ve always been of a particular party, but this guy who’s running from my party, isn’t going to really benefit us. And so I need to make a different choice and really take the position that our elections are the times that we really do have control. Once they occur, then we are well, we are we are bound by the decisions that are made until the next election. And so we can learn to just control the things that we have control over and then move forward. And anyone who says we don’t have any control is just as misguided as the people who think they have to control everything and can’t.
Braden Ricketts 52:13
Yeah, we certainly can’t control when and how people come in and out of our lives. And I’ve really heard from you today about honoring and valuing the time you have with people and carrying that value, even in their loss.
Michael Hingson 52:28
I think it’s important. And, you know, like I said, Karen will always be in my life. And I hope to get lots of opportunities to talk about her and, and I talked to her. And I will continue to do that. Because it’s kind of also my way of thinking about it and figuring out how to solve problems. And I don’t have any problem with doing that. As long as I recognize what it really is. I’m thinking and she may be talking back. And I will probably hear some of that as we go forward and probably have already. But it’s all about thinking. And it’s all about recognizing that we are capable of living meaningful, productive lives. And whether some of us have some sort of disability, whether there were things that go on that we don’t have control over. If we don’t, then no sense worrying about it, deal with the things that you can influence, and you’ll be much stronger and much better for it. And love that you
Braden Ricketts 53:27
still talk to her. Michael, I would like to ask him intimate question. If you don’t mind. You said you had the opportunity to say goodbye. I was surrounded by friends and family. If you’re willing, did you have words you would share with us that you shared with her in your goodbye?
Michael Hingson 53:45
You know, I was with her for about an hour. And about an hour before she left. She was on life support. She was on medications and actually 1125. They well, before that happened. The doctor came in and was talking with us. And he said she’s on full life support. She’s not sustaining herself. And so I said if we discontinue the meds, what will happen? And he said she’ll probably pass within an hour or two. And I said if we keep the meds going, what will happen? And he said probably a few days, but certainly no more than that. Well, Karen sister also was an intensive care unit nurse and had other positions at the Kaiser hospital system. She worked there basically almost 40 years. And as I said earlier, she was in the room. And so I said, What do you think Vicki? And she says, yeah, absolutely. And so I told the doctor, okay, let’s go ahead and discontinue the meds because this isn’t helping her or any of us. And before that, I had said, Karen, we’re here. We’re going to, we’re going to support you and whatever you do. It sounds like it’s time for you to go well The meds were still being administered, actually her brother called, because I had reached out to try to get him to let him know what was going on. And I think he put it very well. He said, I think she’s probably already made the transition. And I said, I agree. But I still said, you know, we’re here, you go ahead and go. And we, we bless you, we love you. And I am going to do everything I can to continue to honor you and love you in any way that I can. And I hope that you will always know that. And I think that when 1125 came, and they did discontinue the meds was probably about another 45 or 50 minutes before her last heartbeat took place. But she had left. So it was just the medications kind of going away over time. And then when she left, we all just said goodbye one last time, and there was nothing else that we could do. So we went out and we just talked in the hall a little bit. And then we all went our our separate ways.
Braden Ricketts 56:01
does sound like a beautiful end to a beautiful story together. And one that, as you said will continue.
Michael Hingson 56:08
It will, I believe it was was beautiful. I believe that we’re still exploring very beautiful, experiencing very beautiful times with it. I just spent New Years the last three days because, well, not the last few days, but the beginning of the year. Friday the 30th Josie, who now works for me who worked with Karen, her caregiver was there for part of the day. But then Saturday, Sunday and Monday, it was just me my guide, dog Alamo and our cat stitch. And we just all work together in the house. And that that will continue to happen. So at least I have company and they have company and I think that everyone misses Karen. But we all have have recognized that it’s now the three of us as a close knit family. And so stitch the cat walks on me at night when I’m in bed. Alamo thinks he’s a lap dog and wants to sit in my lap all the time. But he’s a great guide dog. And, you know, we are all together and do the things that we need to do as a as a family. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a dog of a cat and a person. Or it’s more than one person. We’re still the family. And that’s okay,
Braden Ricketts 57:23
Michael, I am I’m in awe of your big heart and your unstoppable mindset. I am very honored to have been here with you today to hear your stories and learn more about your journey with Karen. Thank you so much for having me and for sharing all of this with us. It’s an honor. Thank
Michael Hingson 57:41
you i and thank you. And I really appreciate you being here and being able to talk with us about this. And if people are listening to this, we will put the Zoom link in the podcast notes so that if they want to come and if they knew Karen or just want to come and listen, they’re welcome to do that as well. And so we’ll we’ll have that in there. And I hope that people will go by center dog because they’ll learn a lot about Karen from from Thunder dog, it’s available wherever books can be found. And that’ll be another way that they can also help honor Karen. But I think that they’ll they’ll learn about a wonderful person, person who’s contributed a lot, not necessarily in always the most visible ways on this earth but who in fact, contributed a lot and will continue to do that just by all the things she did in the memory she left us. So I really appreciate you being here, Braden to help with it. And I hope that people will listen to this. And of course, we always ask for a five star rating. And I hope that that will happen. And that the people will recognize that they can be unstoppable too, which is what we really need.
Braden Ricketts 58:57
Beautifully said. Well,
Michael Hingson 58:58
thank you again. And I really appreciate you asking some wonderful questions. And they helped me think and they helped me process which is also important. But most of all, they they give me the opportunity to talk about this. And that’s the most important thing that I can do because that will help me live a better life. So thank you
Michael Hingson 59:25
You have been listening to the Unstoppable Mindset podcast. Thanks for dropping by. I hope that you’ll join us again next week, and in future weeks for upcoming episodes. To subscribe to our podcast and to learn about upcoming episodes, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com slash podcast. Michael Hingson is spelled m i c h a e l h i n g s o n. While you’re on the site., please use the form there to recommend people who we ought to interview in upcoming editions of the show. And also, we ask you and urge you to invite your friends to join us in the future. If you know of any one or any organization needing a speaker for an event, please email me at speaker at Michael hingson.com. I appreciate it very much. To learn more about the concept of blinded by fear, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com forward slash blinded by fear and while you’re there, feel free to pick up a copy of my free eBook entitled blinded by fear. The unstoppable mindset podcast is provided by access cast an initiative of accessiBe and is sponsored by accessiBe. Please visit www.accessibe.com. accessiBe is spelled a c c e s s i b e. There you can learn all about how you can make your website inclusive for all persons with disabilities and how you can help make the internet fully inclusive by 2025. Thanks again for listening. Please come back and visit us again next week.