How My Wife's Sudden Passing Catapulted Me Into Social Entrepreneurship
A serial entrepreneur describes his whirlwind romance and how the tragic loss of the love of his life pushed him in a new direction.
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I met my best friend at 14 years old. She was tall, kind, gorgeous and dorky. She wore jeans with Nike sneakers, and I teased her. She taught me who that Jesus dude is, and I taught her about Tupac and DMX. Since then we were peanut butter and jelly. We always had each other's backs. We proceeded with our own lives, but always stayed in touch. She'd visit me when out from Florida in Orange County, or we'd meet in Westlake Village, the city we both grew up in. All of my friends knew the love I had for her, and all of her friends knew the love she had for me.
It was an unmistakable, unbreakable bond. My past girlfriends were always jealous because Kimmy came first, and her boyfriends were always jealous because Drew was number one.
Three years ago, after not seeing each other for a while (I had to take a two-year vacation) she flew out to the OC to visit. I picked her up from Long Beach airport, threw my hands up as I always did, jumped out of the truck as she jumped on me and wrapped her legs around me. She planted an awkward kiss on the side of my mouth and we fell madly in love in that instant. When I say madly in love, I'm talking fairy tale romance.
Unfortunately, she was struggling with addiction problems. And, a few months after our initial rekindling, she overdosed. I knew the pain too well, as I had a crazy early life. Up until I was 22 I had done everything under the sun, from being in a two-day coma, overdosing, hundreds of street fights, jail time, selling drugs, to anything and everything.
However, after reading the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People while doing a year in county jail when I was 21, I decided my daily actions did not reflect the big visions I had for my life. I decided to make some changes. I turned my life around, went back to college and found myself working with an angel investor team. I then went on to start my own companies. That was until I was sent to prison for two years as the result of an incident that took place when I was 22. So, from the time I was 28 to 30, I was sitting in a cell.
Kimmy took the opposite approach. She didn't party at all in high school and didn't even date until she was 19. She was a model and did really well early in her career, but decided that wasn't the life she wanted and found herself heavy in addiction later in her life.
So, she was at a crossroads. Nobody had been able to reach her before me. But this time was different. She had just overdosed and needed help. Plus, I was there, and I was helping her along the way, schooling her and teaching her all about what I had learned firsthand. Even in the midst of her struggles, she's always been the most loving soul and I always saw her as Kimmy -- the pure, dorky beautiful girl I've always known.
The first year was tough, as I was just rebuilding my life and helping her rebuild hers. But she thrived. I taught her about building unwavering mental toughness, which I had learned through my experiences, helped her get into working out, reintroduced her to that Jesus dude and led us on "Giving Missions" to make sure she was focused on helping others.
Since then, our lives have been a fairy tale. We served each other daily, looking for ways to support, love and give. Every night I'd put toothpaste on her toothbrush, leave her love notes and give her a foot massage. She'd write me love messages on the mirrors, in my sock drawer, give me daily massages and love and support me in every possible way. We gave each other all that we had, and fell deeper and deeper in love.
I asked her to marry me about eight months ago on the same beach where we had our first date. We got married Oct. 10, 2015, which was the best day of both of our lives.
About two months ago, Kimmy was in a bad car accident. She broke her sternum, clavicle and foot. She had to stop teaching yoga and was bed ridden. On Dec. 30, while staying with her cousin in L.A., she stopped breathing. Her cousin was frantic and called me early that morning. I was put on the phone with a paramedic because he couldn't speak. I didn't know what was going on, and the first words he said to me was, "I'm sorry for your loss." My heart left my chest and I violently collapsed to the floor.
Since then, my life has been a roller coaster. I couldn't breathe, eat, sleep for weeks. I stopped working, writing, coding and working out.
The only time I feel alive is when I'm giving back to people in need.
This is what happens when we die:
1. Our family and loved ones figure out what to do with our bodies and plan a funeral/memorial.
2. Our "possessions" and "belongings" are then spread around to friends and family, and given to our beneficiaries.
3. Our memory lives, but that's about it. Our physical forms are done. No more. And the loss is like a hole in our loved ones' lives.
All of that stuff we've been working for -- success, big cars, fame, money, private jets, blah, blah, blah -- is gone. All totally meaningless.
The only thing that will sustain anyone's legacy is love.
How many people have you loved? How many lives have you touched? How much good have you done?
This is what matters and is all housed under the "love" umbrella.
My wife was the epitome of selfless love. She would give the shirt off her back to anyone in need. She volunteered at the children's hospital and women's rehabs, and touched and inspired so many lives.
In an effort to heal my own pain and loss, and continue Kimmy's legacy, I've created a nonprofit called The Kimmy Project. Our sole mission is to spread love to underserved communities. We have a goal to positively affect 100,000 people this year.
Kimmy touched countless lives, so people have jumped at the opportunity to volunteer and push the project's agenda forward. I've been able to rally friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers around our mission.
We seek out communities and create projects to serve those communities. Think Project Mayhem in Fight Club, but for good.
We have our core team and gather volunteers for each project. Eventually, I envision project managers in each city we'll be providing support. Ultimately, I see our organization serving international needs.
Our next project is what we've dubbed the Skid Row Takeover. For two days straight, March 26 and 27, we'll be providing resources and support to one of the most notorious and heavily populated homeless communities in the world. Skid Row houses somewhere between 2,000 to 11,000 homeless people in a 54-block area in Los Angeles.
As an example of our support, some of the resources we'll be providing are:
- Lunch for both days
- Preserved and packaged food for later consumption
- Women's hygiene supplies with purses
- Pet food
- Jackets and coat hangers
- Toiletries for everyone
- Trash cleanup
- Beautify and painting
My whole life I've wanted to change the world through business, but it wasn't until I experienced the greatest loss of my life that I realized my vision was falling short. My "plan" was to focus on personal and professional success, while eventually creating enough value to make major contributions to society.
My wife's abrupt and early passing has taught me that today is my whole life. Tomorrow is a myth and yesterday already happened. It has been the most aggressive awakening I could have ever received, but I have vowed to turn the negative into a positive.
It's this broken world, inefficient systems and self-serving agendas that create imbalance. The goal with our project is to give the underdogs a voice, to help those who can't help themselves. To the forgotten people that society left behind and ostracized because of the labels they were given, I'm ready to break the chains of tyranny and oppression, and create opportunities for those who will never see them in any other way.
Rather than let my wife's death be the excuse, I will let her life be the reason.