Living Happily Ever After


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The Speech, Part II

(The next part is my story in a nutshell. I was speaking to a large conference of women I hadn’t met yet so I had to preface my remarks with my story. Feel free to skip if you already know me!)

I had been a pretty good girl…raised on fairy tales. I believed in happily every after. I grew up Colorado. I graduated from high school, attended college and married a charming, romantic and “good” man who, ironically, and as part of his marriage proposal, pledged his loyalty to me and our future. The day of my college graduation we returned to Colorado and began our life. We began our careers, we began our family. I focused my efforts on our home and family, we eventually had four children, and life was good. SO GOOD.

It was a life of family and faith. We loved each other, we went to church together, we prayed together, we served in the community as well, and as my husband became more and more successful in his career, we upgraded our home, our cars and our lifestyle. We enjoyed making family memories and traveling together. We got along well, we laughed and had fun together, we served and helped others. I thought we were on track for eternity.

Believe it or not, I had watched our investments and savings grow over the 20 years we’d been married, working hard (I thought) and saving…and I also thought I had 10 MILLION DOLLARS–thanks to compounding interest:) So on March 17, 2009, St. Patrick’s Day, my biggest worry was making sure everyone wore green, felt festive (I’d tried to do my part to contribute to that with green breakfast and a green dinner) and I took pictures of everyone in their leprechaun finery. What I didn’t know, was that I was documenting my family and the life I’d dreamed of and had worked so hard to create during my 20-years-of-happy marriage, in photos, for the last time.

At the end of the day, we went to bed. I slept–the last night I slept without anything to haunt me or give my nightmares about. And the next day, my husband shattered my world. March 18, 2009. He asked to meet me, told me he’d hoped to spend time with me.

Then he sat across from me, folded his hands and paused. And then, in a voice as calm and unemotional as I’d ever witnessed–NOTHING about his performance tipped me off as to what was about to happen, said, “My company, Market Street Advisors, is a sham.” One simple sentence, and the complicated web of choices, actions, and decisions of ONE person, the man I’d known since 1988 but apparently hadn’t known at all, shattered my world.

My first thought (always a party or holiday thought at that stage of my life!) was, “Is this an early April Fool’s joke? Doesn’t he remember yesterday was only St. Patrick’s Day?” And suddenly, despite my education and knowledge of English and vocabulary, I didn’t understand the world “sham.” He explained, “My company isn’t real. It’s a sham and has been from the very beginning. I’ve been running a Ponzi scheme for the past 16 years.”

I’d heard the term Ponzi scheme, but I didn’t know what a Ponzi scheme actually was. I’d heard the name Bernie Madoff, I knew he had done something illegal and I knew a lot of people were mad at him, but I didn’t understand what it was that he, or my spouse, had done. I got the condensed version. What I was told left me in complete and utter shock. But it didn’t stop there.

My husband told me he had hired an attorney, that he had turned himself in to government authorities and to our church leaders, and that they had all given him until that morning to tell me. He told me he would be going to prison and getting excommunicated from our church. He told me everything had been seized. He told me I would be left alone to raise our children. And he told me I needed to hire an attorney right away–but he’d maxed out all of our credit cards paying for his.

I, who had never cheated in school; who had never stolen so much as a grape from the grocery store without paying for it; who had always tried to live a life of honesty and integrity–wouldn’t even let myself indulge in “white lies”…needed an attorney? I was completely innocent! Like his employees, clients, family, friends and our church leaders, I’d never had a clue that he was anything but the honest, upright, family man and successful businessman he had always portrayed himself to be.

I had NO IDEA he’d been living a secret and double life.

All I could think of was that my parents were dead, I was left with NOTHING (no house, no cars, no food, no life, no savings, no job, no husband–TOTALLY alone in the world), I had four children who needed to eat, and I couldn’t get that movie “The Fugitive” out of my mind: the innocent husband, a good man, a doctor, who was convicted of killing his wife and imprisoned for something he hadn’t done and that he had no knowledge of. HOW could this be happening to ME?

I was shocked. I was stunned. I was confused. I was scared. I was devastated. And at the same time, I didn’t know what I thought or felt. All I knew was that I had been thrown out of an airplane…without a parachute. And as shocked as I was, for some reason, I had the presence of mind to ask, “Is that everything?”

Yet despite everything, I was not prepared for his response: No. After which he disclosed he had also betrayed me in the most intimate ways as well. And with that admission, he began to sob. To cry harder than I’d ever seen any man cry. And that’s when I knew it was real. It wasn’t early April Fool’s. It was some sick joke that everyone but me found funny. It was real.

As wave after wave of shock and grief washed over me, I didn’t know what to do. He had become an instant and literal stranger, yet on the other hand, I was still the happily married wife who, as I rushed to get up and to get away from him, actually felt guilty that I was abandoning him in a time of need. Despite my shock, I actually had the presence of mind to apologize for leaving him: “I’m sorry, but I have to get out of here.”

And I left. I jumped in my car and drove away, not knowing where to go, knowing no one could help me. I made it about 1/10 of a mile before I was crying so hard I couldn’t see anything and had to pull over so I didn’t accidentally hurt someone or myself!

I called my best friend. She was stunned, crying, as well and advised me to go to the bank and try to get some money so I could at least feed my children. I raced to the banks, got some cash, and eventually returned home because I didn’t know what else to do or where to go.

My husband’s attorney called. He apologized for the day I was having (he’d known it was coming–seems like everyone but me knew it was coming!), told me, again, that I’d need an attorney, and then said, “And whatever you do, don’t go near a bank. Don’t touch any of your bank accounts. Don’t try to access any money!” he warned.

Are you starting to tell I just am not cut out for the criminal life? My instincts are all wrong! The very FIRST thing I had done, the only thing, was to go to a bank and touch some money!

I was going to prison for sure, wasn’t I?

“There are many times when a woman will ask another girl friend how she likes her new hat. She will reply, ‘Fine.’ but slap her hands to her forehead the minute the girl leaves to yipe, ‘What a horror!’” (Marilyn Monroe)

Yes, I wish that’s all my horror entailed. Tune in tomorrow for the rest of the condensed version of my horror.


The Rest of…the Trip

“That ends this strange eventful history…” (William Shakespeare)

I was in Colorado  less than 48 hours. But I conquered all the major hurdles:

1. I drove the streets of Denver, Aurora and Centennial, Colorado (all the areas of my old stomping ground and life) and I felt great! I didn’t feel homesick, I didn’t feel like I didn’t belong there, I didn’t have an urge to cry…I just felt like I was in a place I knew very well and enjoyed. I felt welcome!

2. I drove to my former home. And I felt…nothing. I didn’t feel homesick, I didn’t feel loss, I didn’t have an urge to cry… I felt nothing but peace.

3. Although I didn’t get a chance to see a majority of the friends I would have loved to have seen, I got to see several people I love and have missed.

4. I even had the privilege of seeing and speaking with a few victims of my former husband. They could not have been kinder or more gracious to me. (There are some really good people in the world!)

5. I realized that I can, and want, to return for a visit again someday. (And I want to bring my children, too!)

And then, all too soon, it was off to the airport again and a quick flight back to Salt Lake City. I arrived home–everything looked the same yet everything was completely different. I went to work the next day–everything looked the same yet EVERYTHING was different.

I was different. I had conquered the last hurdle from my unexpected life. Consider me recovered!  But I’ll refrain from adding “The End” to this story. Because there never is one to…the unexpected life.

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” (Winston Churchill)

Sitting (or Standing, as the Case May Be!) Happy

“But I learned that there’s a certain character that can be built from embarrassing yourself endlessly. If you can sit happy with embarrassment, there’s not much else that can really get to ya.” (Christian Bale)

What happened next is kind of…perfect; completely fitting for a first return to the state I’d left four years ago in total shock, grief, fear (even though I tried my best not to fear) and yes, complete humiliation.

First stop after DIA was to a restaurant for dinner.

As we drove, I was surprised to feel so calm and normal. I must have expected to feel the last feelings I’d had in Colorado (shock, grief, devastation, horror) or even worse, at this stage of life, to feel homesick for the city, state and life I’d loved so much (knowing that chapter of my life has closed and a permanent return to Colorado will never be a possibility) or worst of all, to feel like I didn’t belong there any more. I mean, Colorado had been my home since 1974. I was terrified to feel out of place there because if I didn’t feel I belonged in my home state, where would I EVER belong?

We had a nice dinner and at the end of dinner, I stood up to leave and instantly felt a freezing cold blast across my…nether-regions, looked down to determine why I suddenly felt so cold, only to see my maxi skirt puddled on the floor!

There I stood in a restaurant, on a Friday night, wearing–from the waist down– only my underclothing! I quickly bent down, pulled my skirt on again, and exited the restaurant!

Believe it or not, I could not stop laughing.

Leave it to my unexpected life to come full circle in the most unexpected of ways: depart in embarrassment, humiliation and mortification and  the VERY FIRST THING that happens to me upon my return most would consider embarrassing. (Except, I realized, me. As I’ve said before, it’s pretty difficult to be too embarrassed about anything given the “embarrassment”–revelation of crime, loss of everything, demise of family, divorce, and all of it played out on a very public stage– I’ve lived through! Haha)

Consider me filled with character. And sitting happy with it all. In my unexpected life.

Who EVER could have imagined that?

Not even optimistic, filled-with-hope, determined-to-create-and-live-a-happily-ever-after, little old me!

A New Philosophy

“I’ve developed a new philosophy… I only dread one day at a time.” ~Charlie Brown (Charles Schulz)

The airplane tickets were booked. I was committed. And the second the deed was done, I began to regret it. I felt SICK inside!

I didn’t talk about the trip. I tried not to think about it. And the closer it got, the sicker I felt inside. And, I confess, I started feeling a little bit resentful of my husband for “making” me go. I wasn’t thrilled with any part of it. Not even the whole “it’s our birthday weekend and we’re going to Colorado to celebrate it!” aspect of it.

I wanted to cancel the trip, back out, wished I could get food poisoning or something, ANYTHING, that could excuse me from a return to my home state. But no such luck. Too soon I found myself ascending from the tunnels at DIA.


I was home.

And I felt o.k. about it all.

And then I left the airport and actually headed to where I used to live. A very strange sensation.

“…That sensation, that’s what I want.” (Picabo Street)

Uhhh, no thanks. My new philosophy was in full force.

Don’t Think…Do

I called a Colorado friend to report my husband’s insane suggestion. Instead of agreeing with me she said, “I think that’s a great idea! Are you coming?”

I should have known to call someone else–this friend had suggested I visit several times since I moved. We hung up, I shook my head, and thought the matter was closed.

But my thoughts wouldn’t let it be.

The hate mail and nasty emails have dwindled. It has been several months since I’ve received anything from anyone in that regard. The used Subaru I’d driven away from Colorado in is no more (what can I say, it was old and very used.) One of the two dogs I’d driven away from Colorado with had died. Two of the four children I’d brought to Utah with me are now “grown up” and “gone”–one is living in Spain, the other has moved out and is in college. I’m working at a different job, for a different organization, than the one that brought me here. I’m remarried to someone else. It has been long enough that the events of 2009 almost don’t even feel like they happened to me, but to someone else.

Why not?

Isn’t it ABOUT time?

So I told my husband I’d go. And before I knew it, he’d booked airplane tickets.

I tried not to think about it.

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy…You simply must do things.” (Ray Bradbury)


It’s Really About Moving On

“Life is really about moving on.” (Oprah)

The unexpected life moves on.

And eventually becomes…your life.

This summer marked four years living mine: four years that I have lived in Utah, four years since I began living in a completely different world than the one I inhabited before, and I confess, I’ve spent four years looking out my window at the beautiful mountains of Utah County, admiring their rocky and jagged beauty, remembering the comfort and strength I took from them as a college student and taking those same feelings about them into the life I live now. A part of me has even considered them my personal barrier of safety from the horror I left in Colorado.

And then, a few months ago,  I realized it has been FOUR YEARS. Unconsciously or not, I’ve spent the past four years on this side of those mountains. Safely and far away from “terrible” Colorado. I didn’t tell anyone that’s how I felt or that that’s what I was doing, but it was. I haven’t set foot in the Centennial State I left it in the rear view mirror of my used Subaru July 13, 2009.

I’ve been invited to visit. There are people there that I love and miss. But there has been NO WAY I would ever return to the hard things I endured before I moved to Utah. I’ve stayed WELL away.

And then one day my husband looked at me and said, “Lets go to Colorado. It’s time you go back.”

I was stunned.

There is NO WAY I would ever go back.

Or is there?


Step 6: Look for miracles and tender mercies in your life, they will be there, and be grateful for them.

“David Bednar said, “…Tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving kindnesses, consolation, [and] support…which we receive.”

I received many tender mercies at a time when I seemed to have not much else.

For example, and as I’ve mentioned before, when people asked if I needed anything, I told them we were fine. And we were “fine.” We lived as scant an existence as possible and although we had food to eat, it was very basic food—NO extras of “fun” food. And then one day, a friend showed up with an entire carload of “fun” food from Costco: Mickey Mouse-shaped chicken nuggets, Oreos, chips, doughnuts, fruit snacks, crackers, juice, fresh fruit, all the fun “extras” when you’re eating and living as inexpensively as possible. My children were overjoyed! It was like Christmas to them (and they still talk about that delivery to this day.)

But the tender mercies didn’t end with Colorado.

I moved to Utah and began a new life feeling very much a failure. I didn’t think things could get any worse until they did—when I made the fateful error of heading to the grocery store on a Saturday night. I didn’t have anything else to do, I didn’t know anyone, I had to feed my kids, there was a big sale at a neighborhood grocery store, so off I went. I was convinced I was the only “loser” who grocery shopped on a Saturday night!

Every shopping cart that night appeared to be pushed by a happy, in love, couple with plenty of money to pay for their purchases. I had none of that anymore and had never felt so alone or worthless. When my shopping was done and just when I thought I couldn’t feel any lower, a car drove by me in the parking lot and the driver ridiculed my purchases through his open window. Those thoughtless words uttered by one man devastated me!

In the dark, tears welling in my eyes and feeling SO ALONE and appalled that apparently I couldn’t even purchase food for my children without being persecuted and wondering how I was going to endure the next 40-50 years of my new life, I unlocked by mar, turned to unload my cart, and was stunned to see a man standing there in the darkness. He had come from out of nowhere and without a word, grabbed the purchases from my cart and unloaded them into the back of my car.

When he was done, he paused for a moment, looked into my eyes, and smiled at me—a smile of compassion, and although it was dark, I noticed that his eyes were light blue, his skin was tan, his teeth were white and his hair was dark but slightly graying. And then without a word, he got into an older, dark-colored Suburban I suddenly noticed was parked next to me, and drove away.

I got in my car, completely changed, thanks to that anonymous man, whoever he was, and his kind service to me. For a brief moment I hadn’t been alone, a man had been kind to me (which I really needed at that stage of my life!) and for a moment I felt like everything was going to be ok.

I don’t believe anyone makes it through this life without problems and challenges and sometimes, tragedies and misfortunes. However, if we reach deep enough and look hard enough, we will see the miracles and tender mercies that are ours and will be able to feel and recognize just how much we have been given.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” (Henry David Thoreau)

Never Quit

Last summer, my husband took me and my children to his family cabin in Colorado. It has become a much loved tradition for us: time spent away from work, cell phone service, internet, television, the hustle and bustle of life and instead, a chance to embrace the simple pleasures of life—simple meals, swimming in a river, swinging on a rope swing, biking, going for walks, bonfires, wildlife and everything that goes along with “roughing it” in a rustic setting.

My six year old spent much of his days chasing grasshoppers in the meadow after which, one night he surprised me by inviting me to tour his “Grasshopper Hotel.” I went outside to the front stoop of the cabin and saw an old coffee can and a cardboard box my son had rounded up from who-knows-where and was now using as a hotel for his grasshopper friends. I was stunned to see the popularity of his hotel, there looked to be 40 grasshoppers (or more!) in residence. I couldn’t imagine how he got them to stay—until he showed me that he removed their “jumping legs” prior to checking in to enable them to fully enjoy the hospitality of his cardboard box, coffee can and the grass and assorted weeds he picked to feed them. By bedtime, he had collected even more grasshopper customers; his hotel appeared to be teeming at maximum capacity!

The next morning my husband woke up early, went outside and was surprised to see a very plump and happy- looking bird perched on the hotel wall and EVERY SINGLE customer, but two grasshoppers, had disappeared! The bird had eaten them all.

My son was very disappointed and not too happy with the bird that had destroyed his hotel. But he went to work that very day to establish a new one: a bigger and bolder venture with more customers. I couldn’t help but think that’s how life is, or should be, if we’re living it correctly.

Life happens. Sometimes our plans get derailed or our dreams are destroyed by someone or something. Sometimes a challenge or a loss interrupts you and the plans you have made and are working toward. But do you quit? Give up? Lay down and die? Use it as an excuse for never getting past it and moving forward, stagnating or failing for the rest of your days?

I say NO.

Begin again, start over, rebuild. Carry on. Never quit. Don’t give up. Because, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I loved through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’” (Eleanor Roosevelt)

It isn’t fun. Sometimes it’s a nightmare. But it’s worth it in the end. So, “Let us not pray to be sheltered from the dangers but to be fearless when facing them.” (Rabindranath Tagore)

Never quit.

The Power of One: Make the World Better

I believe in the importance of making a difference in the world for the better and I believe it’s a responsibility each of us has. A few months ago, I had the opportunity to give a speech about making the world better through service to others. Today I thought I’d share a brief excerpt from what I said:

“The endeavor to better the world is timeless.

Florence Nightingale was born in another century, to the upper class in society, but she would have none of it. Instead, her great desire was to relieve pain and suffering, so she became expert in nursing. She headed the Scutari hospital during the Crimean War; the situation when she arrived was one of absolute despair: the hospital was an old warehouse, wounded men were crowded in rooms that reeked of foul odors; the air was filled with the cries of the suffering.

Florence set to work amid beds that held suffering men stretching over four miles and within 6 months, order reigned and the rate of death had fallen from 42 per hundred to 22 per thousand. Suffering was reduced. Lives by the thousands were saved.

No other woman in the history of the world has done as much to reduce human misery as this lady with the lamp. In our century, I’ve been inspired by many people who endeavor to make the world a better place. Today I’d like to tell you about one in particular, a 2nd grader, my son, tasked with “making the world a better place” as a school homework assignment.

He decided he would improve the world by helping a little boy who lost his leg to cancer so he set a goal to earn $10 and donate it the foundation the boy and his family founded to help families of children with childhood cancer.

That was a big endeavor for an 8-year-old who didn’t receive an allowance, but he created a product to sell for $1, he turned our dining room table into a production line and enlisted the help of siblings, neighbors, cancer patients and their families, anyone he could find!) to help. He sold his product at 3 Colorado elementary schools and ended up making not a $10 difference in the life of a young cancer patient…but a SEVEN HUNDRED AND NINETY-SIX DOLLAR difference!

Isn’t it amazing what one person, even a little boy, can do to make a positive impact in the life of another? To this day, that Colorado foundation makes and sells the product designed by my son when he was in 2nd grade as their primary fundraising effort.

You really can change the world if you care enough: one dollar at a time. One little, 2nd grader at a time. One willing person who acts on a generous thought and desires to make a difference in the world. The power of one.”

The Open Book of My Life

“We do not need to proselytise either by our speech or by our writing. We can only do so really with our lives. Let our lives be open books for all to study.” (Mahatma Gandhi)

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak to graduate students of Brigham Young University’s business school who were studying fraud and ethics. The professor who invited me asked me to share my story and my thoughts on how fraud happens and how good people can get caught up in it. I’ve written about my experience quite a bit, I’ve spoken about it to various audiences quite a lot, but it was a different experience to ponder what to say when my life was an open book for all to study in an academic setting!

Here are some highlights from what I shared. I began by introducing myself with Part One of the 2010 Colorado 9News story by Cheryl Preheim. Then I said, “Well, there you have it. That’s me. I’m Andrea Merriman and I’m here today to talk about what it’s like after almost 20 years of marriage, four children, and what I thought was a wonderful life of world travel, financial prosperity, community and church service to have my life and my world collapse in one unexpected moment, the result of something I never EVER imagined would be a part of my life: FRAUD.

It was the worst nightmare I could never have imagined, only unfortunately, it was very real and sadly, it was now my life. You could title it:

Hold On—I’ve Never Smoked, Tasted Alcohol, Tried Drugs or Cheated in School, This Can’t Be Happening To Me!

No Way! I’m A Cougar Club Member and Have $10 Million In The Bank, I Can’t Be Penniless

I’ve Never Stolen A Thing In my Life, Not Even A Grape From the Grocery Store Without Paying For It

But the reality is titled more like this:

Think and Grow Rich…With A Ponzi Scheme

How To Win Friends and Influence People…Then Spend The Best Years of Your Life Behind Bars

What To Expect When You’re Expecting…5-7 Years and Get More Than The Max

Gone With The Wind…And The U.S. Marshalls

Crime and Punishment

From BYU to Federal Prison in 16 “Easy” Years

In truth, however, it’s much worse. You lose every material thing in your life, you lose the immaterial things like your good name and reputation, your wife, your children, your family and your friends, and then on top of that, you lose your entire life and your freedom, as well.

So what does all of this have to do with you? You may be sitting comfortably in your seats knowing you’re eagle scouts, you practice your religion, you’re at BYU living the honor code… something like this could never happen to you. Twenty-two years ago, I was just like you.

So how does this happen? How did a decent man fall so far? How did he do what he did to himself, to me, to his children, to his family, and to his victims?

I was interviewed by the MSNBC show, ‘American Greed’ recently and they asked basically the same question: How does a Ponzi scheme take place? How does a person get caught up in fraud that results in crime? How does it happen?

My answer?

One component of fraud is fear—fear of failure, fear of having to tell others you’ve failed, fear of losing your reputation for success by failing at something, fear of loss of job…But I also believe that selfishness, greed and pride are at the heart of it. You can’t commit fraud without them.

I also don’t believe every criminal sets out with the intent to commit a crime. I think there are good people who make a mistake, try to ‘fix it’ and fail and then choose to cover it up as they continue to work to fix it, but it’s too late. The MOMENT you ignore a mistake or attempt to disguise or try to hide even a small error is the moment your fraud begins.

Dieter Uchtdorf taught ‘Small Errors Can Have a Large Impact on Our Lives.’ He related it to airplanes and flight, but I believe it has application in business as well. He said, ‘The difference of a few degrees may seem minor. But even small errors over time can make a dramatic difference.  Suppose you were to take off from an airport at the equator, intending to circumnavigate the globe, but your course was off by just one degree. By the time you returned to the same longitude, how far off course would you be? A few miles? A hundred miles? An error of only one degree would put you almost 500 miles off course. Guard against the many little rationalizations, little white lies, misleading statements that are true but maybe not the whole truth, and courageously stay the ethical course.’

Stay on the straight and narrow path professionally and personally. (By the way, I believe ‘narrow path’ is no exaggeration.) It’s a narrow path, and when you start rationalizing and messing with the boundaries of it, you’re quickly into the gray and questionable area. And when you step off the clearly defined track of righteousness, it’s a very slippery and surprisingly short fall to the mists of darkness and impropriety.

In addition to correcting your course immediately and frequently, keep your heart in the right place. Lock your heart against things with no eternal value. Do whatever you need to do to keep your heart and your priorities in the right place in the workplace and in your professional endeavors. It can be pretty heady to go from college poverty making $4.90/hour (what I made when I was at BYU) to after graduation making $18k/month—I know, because that was my experience; that’s what my former husband made as an investment banker right out of college in the days when he was a law abiding citizen, prior to creating his Ponzi scheme.

Check your greed. Because at some point, close to $20k/month wasn’t enough. He had to have more and more and more until he sold out his wife, his children and his soul for money. Don’t make that mistake.

How do you prevent a fall like the one that destroyed my ex-husband? I think Mosiah (in the Book of Mormon) said it best: “But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves and your thoughts and your words and your deeds and observe the commandments of God and continue in the faith of what ye have heard…even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember and perish not.”

I apologize for the seriousness of my comments today, but I not only feel very strongly about the importance of living a life of integrity, I’ve lived through the nightmare that results when a person fails to do that professionally. So here’s my last bit of advice, courtesy of Benjamin Franklin, before you depart, as many of you graduate and go forth not only to serve but to establish your career, demonstrate to the world of business what you’ve been taught, what Brigham Young University is about and what you stand for:

‘Let no pleasure tempt thee, no profit allure thee, no persuasion move thee, to do anything which thou knowest to be evil; so shalt thou always live jollity; for a good conscience is a continual Christmas.’

Your career and the rest of your life will be what you make of it—make them ethical, keep them fraud free and make sure every workday is, as Benjamin Franklin advised, a continual Christmas through your hard work and ethical business decisions. Thank you for letting me share a little bit of my story with you today. My best wishes and good luck to you all in your futures.”

There was a brief question and answer session afterward. As I drove home after it, I was struck by the thought that again, another unexpected experience has been mine. Had anyone told me in March 2009 when my world ended in a moment that three years later I’d not only be blogging about my unexpected life but also speaking to various groups and organizations about it, including Brigham Young University, I would NEVER have believed them!

Life is great, isn’t it? Hard, but full of amazing experiences. Never forget that wonderful blessings and moments are born of adversity, even from those challenges you can’t comprehend surviving much less enduring. I met some great people that day of my BYU speech—sharp college students with their futures ahead of them, children of friends and blog readers from Colorado, a successful businessman, BYU professor Mark Zimbelman and his cute teenage daughter.

Prior to my speech, the businessman asked me if I was nervous or if it was difficult to speak about my experience. No, it isn’t difficult. But here’s what apparently is: ”There are two things that are more difficult than making an after-dinner speech: climbing a wall which is leaning toward you and kissing a girl who is leaning away from you.” (Winston Churchill)