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My Rock Bottom Moment

Originally posted in 2008

I think I hit rock bottom several years ago when I returned to Canada after spending almost a decade studying and working as a chiropractor in the States. After leaving my position in the States and spending a few months in Korea improving my Korean language skills, I returned to Canada, ready to resume my professional career.

Though I enjoyed some aspects of being a chiropractor, I was more interested in helping people restore health through water fasting and dietary and lifestyle modification. But I didn't have the resources to start up a fasting clinic, and I felt that it made sense to first work as a chiropractor in Canada to get a feel for the Canadian health care system, to save up more funds, and then to begin a fasting clinic.

Because I had no intention of building a large chiropractic clinic, I began visiting existing clinics, hoping to rent space to build my outpatient practice. To my dismay, every clinic that I visited was involved with rehabilitation care for personal injury cases, mostly related to car accidents.

While I acknowledge that people who get into car accidents do tend to need and benefit from chiropractic care, I was wary of this type of practice, as my experience was that such clinics were involved with padding large medical bills so that the lawyers involved could sue for more-than-fair compensation for pain and suffering - the higher one's overall medical bill, the more pain and suffering could be claimed with hopes of a big pay day for the injured and their attorneys.

One time when I was practicing in the States and deemed a car accident patient to be fully recovered after a few hundred dollars worth of treatments, his lawyer gave me a call and patiently explained that the total medical bill needed to be in the thousands, so could I continue treatments for another few months?

I fully acknowledge and appreciate that sometimes, severe car accident-related injuries do require long term care. But my experience was that the vast majority of such practices continued care for longer than was clinically justified, and I think it's safe to say that it was about the money.

So after spending about three months visiting clinic after clinic and not finding the professional environment that I was looking for, I made the decision to never practice chiropractic again. There were other aspects of the profession that I was disenchanted with, and the bottom line was that I couldn't imagine being a part of it again.

After giving my future some thought, I decided that the best move - one that I felt was the most personally meaningful one - was to go to Korea, where I could teach English right away and hopefully find a way to save enough to start a fasting clinic there. My backup plan if I couldn't start a fasting clinic was just to stay in Korea and offer my services as a chiropractor to an orphanage or hospice.

So I packed my bags and purchased a one-way ticket to Korea. My parents were living and working in upstate New York at the time - my father was the senior pastor of a Korean Presbyterian church. When I made the call to tell my folks what I had decided, they were devastated. But to my surprise, they seemed to understand my reasoning.

Though I told them that I was going to take a 30-minute cab ride to the airport in Toronto to head off to Korea, they insisted that they would drive back to Toronto and send me off. I strongly protested, and they told me to stop being ridiculous, that there was no way that they could let me just leave for Korea for who knew how long without seeing me off.

At that point in my life, while I had a deeper sense of appreciation for my parents than I did before I visited Korea a year earlier, living close to them wasn't a top priority. And I felt bad about having them make a long drive just to see their somewhat dispirited son leaving the country. But I knew that I couldn't stop them from coming.

So a short while after, my parents made the long drive to our condo where I was staying with my younger sister. We had dinner together, and then it was time to go to the airport. I hugged my sister good bye, and when I let go, though I felt a big lump in my chest, I was surprised to see her eyes glistening with tears. She and I had grown quite close during the months that I lived there, and to see that she was genuinely sorry to see me go startled and saddened me. But my parents were already at the elevator, so I had to turn and leave.

The ride to the airport was a silent one. After I checked in, my parents and I found a little coffee shop just outside the international gate where we sat quietly, waiting until the last possible moment before we had to say good bye. My future was so uncertain at that point, and we had no idea when I would return.

I felt so sorry towards them for not becoming what they had hoped for, at least on a professional level. I also felt sorry that I was saying good bye to about a decade of education and work experience, all of which they and I made big sacrifices for.

When it was almost time to part and we bowed our heads and closed our eyes while my dad prayed for me, I was a complete wreck, crying silently and consumed by what a big disappointment I was.

We stood up and walked to the gate, and there, I put my bag down and gave my mom a big hug - nothing unusual there, as I had been hugging her for many years at that point.

When I let go of my mom, I knew that I wanted to hug my dad. It was a new feeling, as the Korean culture and my upbringing had conditioned me to do nothing more than to give my dad a solid handshake in such circumstances.

When I turned to him, I saw his hand come out for our customary handshake. I ignored his hand, crossed an invisible but almost tangible boundary, and forcefully embraced him. As I held him for a few seconds, I felt his entire body stiffen like a oak plank. And before I could say anything, he quickly turned his body and began walking away.

Though I couldn't see his face, I noticed my mom - she had let out a little gasp and was covering her mouth with one hand, her eyes wet with tears. I knew from my mom's reaction that my dad must have cried when I hugged him. That was the first and only time I had ever known my father to cry.

There was nothing that I could do at that point but say good bye to my mom one more time and walk through the gate, put my bag on the conveyor belt, and look back through a glass wall at my parents walking away.

That was it - that point right there was my rock bottom. Any resentment that I still carried for conflicts that occurred between me and my parents over decades became irrelevant at that moment.

I boarded my plane and flew to Korea. And from the moment that my parents disappeared from my view at the airport, for the next two days and nights, I couldn't stop feeling like I had made a big mistake in leaving my family. All I knew for sure was that I wanted to return right away and live close to my parents, sisters, grandmother, and aunt's family, regardless of what I chose to do to make a living. The kind of work that I did with my life became unimportant compared to the desire to live close to my family and to show them what they meant to me.

For most of my adult life before that point, I almost always felt that my parents' love for me was tied to my performance. I felt that unless I attended the best university, became a successful doctor, and projected the image of a dutiful Christian son, that they wouldn't love me as much and that I would be a disappointment to them. Though I knew that they cared about me, I usually felt that their love was dependent on what I accomplished with my life.

Everything that happened with my parents sending me off at the airport - having them understand my disenchantment with my profession, having both of them cry to see me go - woke me up to the true nature of their love for me. At that moment, I was the opposite of what I had long felt they wanted me to be, and yet, no one in the world cared for me as much as they did. By most measures, my life was a mess, and they loved me anyway.

As I wrestled with these thoughts, I came to the understanding that while my parents hoped that my life would turn out a certain way, they would always love me like no one else could, regardless of what I did with my life.

In realizing this, I picked up my mostly unpacked bags and took the first available flight back to Canada. And I vowed to myself that I would do the best I could to make an honest living, any living, while being close to my family.

Returning home, I kind of felt like the prodigal son. My parents welcomed me with open arms, of course. And within a month, I found a small clinic in which I was able to establish the kind of outpatient practice that I believed in, providing chiropractic and acupuncture treatments, and encouraging my clients to experience their best health through their daily choices. I didn't make a whole lot of income, but I was happily grounded in the desire to just be near my family.

I eventually went on to start a fasting clinic, just as I had originally hoped to do, and through it all, my parents were there for me, providing constant support and encouragement.

Today, I'm grateful to write that I'm closer than ever with my parents. We still differ in some of our core beliefs, but this doesn't matter so much to me. What matters is that they know that I know how they feel about me, and that they feel the love and appreciation that I have for them.

Now that my folks are semi-retired and back in Toronto, I have the joy of seeing them love and play with their grandchildren almost every weekend. I can't think of a circumstance that would cause me to live apart from them again. To be near them as they and I age is a top priority in my life, and I remain grateful for my rock bottom moment, as it allowed me to see and feel the true nature of their love for me.

I know that everyone is different, that all families are unique, and that living close to one's parents is not possible or ideal for everyone. But if there are others out there who feel as I once did - that their parents' love for them is conditional and perhaps lacking - if the reality is that their parents' love for them actually runs much deeper than they perceive due to various misunderstandings and tough experiences, I hope these people will soon have the opportunity to see the true nature of their parents' love for them.


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Thank you for sharing this moving story. A box of Kleenex was not enough when I read it.

The greatness of a man is not measured by his achievements or certificate on the wall but his ability to show his weaknesses.

I greatly admire you for this.
Beata, Vancouver, BC.

This story is beautiful and touching. It is something so many can relate to - losing track of the important thing in life, our families. Thank you for this.

Salam, dear man

Talking about your site and it's technical information is beyond my target now, since I do feel totally helpless to match those wonderful words said about it.

To me, as a non-western Muslim, family is everything. I loved so much the way you talked about your lovely parents. Tears came to my eyes while reading the whole story of family reunion.

In Muslim world, parents are next to God Himslef. Their content is His. When we please them, even at the expense of our own believes, we know for sure that God is pleased with us, too.

In our culture, a true story told by Prophet Muhammad, that a young shepherd used to get his parents milk as their dinner then bring his own kids the leftovers. One night he found his parents asleep, so he stood by their bed till dawn, fearing to wake them up for the milk, and he didn't want his own kids to have milk before his own parents. Allah thanked him for that, as Muhammad told us.

Your story, coming from a western environment, filled my heart with hope, that family is still the core of life, the only real life available.

Bless you always

Thank you for sharing your story. Very touching indeed.

This is a wonderful story, beautifully told. I conduct a monthly writing workshop during which the participants write and share stories from their lives. Thanks for giving me an idea for a future topic: "A Rock-Bottom Moment".

Hi Dr. Kim, What I liked so much about your story was your humility. The world & movies preach pride all the time & demean weakness but real humility is beautiful & a sign of strength, that you can admit your mistakes & go forward, learning from them & letting them help you do better.
You are a great guy, wish I had met you before I got married, ha! TY for sharing things from your life with us! TY for promoting health & how to be & get healthy instead of, as your story, shows, having huge medical bills & etc. It's rare to find someone like you in this day & age & that is a big reason I frequent your website & use your products. Thank you for your integrity! It's also nice to know you were raised knowing Jesus, the coolest & most wonderful One of them all!

Sincerely, Renee

yes, me too, with the kleenex! i wasn't prepared for reading such an honest, moving, intimate reflection...thank you.

my parents are both dead now, but the pain and sadness of unresolved conflict remains... my parents weren't loving, and yet...the longing remains also.

at 63 my advice - if asked! - for anyone who wanted things to be different in their relationships with their parents would be not to wait too long to talk honestly with them, because there is a point beyond which it really is too late. and though this is probably true in all relationships, it is particularly true with our parents - especially when there has been a complex and difficult history with them.

Dear Dr. Kim
That is one of the most moving testimonies I have ever read. There is nothing more important after Our dear Lord than ones family.
I personally lost both my husband and daughter this past year, and just a few weeks ago I almost lost my remaining son. That would have been my entire family in less than a year. My son and I had some issues before this and praise be to God they are no longer there. We both realized that we are all that we have. The most important thing in life is love and forgiveness.I pray that your letter will reach many, many people. I know one in particular and am sending your email to her. Keep up the good work and may our dear Lord bless all your endeavors.
Sincerely Charlene Langley B.C.

That unconditional love you describe of your parents for you is an accurate and beautiful picture of the love God through Jesus has for his own. All our performance, good deeds, religious practices, etc are not measures he uses to love us. He loves us because it is his great pleasure to do so. My hope for you is that you know this love, too. Thank you for sharing this tender moment in your life.

God had a plan for you - it just took you getting to that bottom point that you made that choice that was His for your life. Really a beautiful story!

Dear Ben, Your care for your family extends to every one that comes in contact with you. I was so moved by your "rock bottom" I am still going true the emotions you felt. Keep on writing, put all your stories together and publish, I will be glad to have a copy. It takes strenght to admith to weekness. Love and blessings to you and yours
David Nakov

DR. Ben Kim,
You are the love in the world that I wish there was more of.
Thank you for being you and for sharing your story.
each of us that has a chance to read this will benefit in some way.
My son who is now 28 just moved away to Hawaii 14 hours away from home.
He is finding himself. I hope that he too will know that family IS the most important part of life. NOT WHAT YOU DO...NOT WHAT YOU HAVE....NOT WHERE YOU LIVE...only those people who love you and that you also love.
I often ask people? If you only had 12 hours to live from this moment on, what would you do?
The answer is always the the end its about the ones you love...
Laheib, Michigan

Thank you so much for sharing that touching story. It brought tears to my eyes and touched me in several ways. For one, I am at one of my rock bottom experiences so it encouraged me. Another, I too moved away and regretted it but lived with my decision for 1 1/2 yrs. I wish I had the strength and humility to do what you did and would have turned around knowing I was making the wrong decision and went back home. I have been subscribing to your emails for a few yrs now and I want to thank you for sharing alittle more of your life so that we can know you alittle better.

Thanks, Dr Kim for sharing your story. It truly is a great "coming of age" story. When you share a story such as this, we all get to grow with you. That "coming of age" moment is never easy, but when we can suspend our ego and share our vulnerable side we can make great strides in our humanity. Bless you, for all you do. Shelly

Hi Dr. Ben

Reading your article really encouraged me in a number of ways.
I'm going through a particularly hard time and it's really been affecting me negatively. I feel so far from God right now but I know that he is in fact near and he is at work in my life, as he is in yours.
I too come from a Christian Korean American family and I can kinda relate to you, especially now that I'm a senior in high school and thinking about what I want to do with my life. I'm interested in becoming a PT or an OT but my parents prefer that I become a doctor. I can also relate in that I told my mom how I wanted to go as far away from home as possible. I'm having second thoughts about it now.
Well, take care! And may God continues to bless you, your family, and may he bring prosperity and fruitfulness to your new career!

P.S. I'm really glad that I stumbled across your website. I love learning about the things you discuss in your article. And it gives me a reason to actually check my e-mail haha.

Thankyou for sharing your story.Sometimes we do not know how fortunate we really are, until we are faced with the prospect of losing all that we hold dear. Hitting rockbottom was your lesson to understand what is more important than success, the love of your family. Love truely makes the world a better place :)love and light, Cindy

I have been reading your articles on health for several months now and after reading your moving article about your "rock bottom" have found one more reason to really like you. Thank you for sharing. It was refreshing.

I have been far away from my family across the US for four years after my husband and I moved for him to take a job. I am now separated from my husband, so I am living with my family. Though the pain of the pending divorce is intense, the joy I get from being reconnected with so many family members is a positive. I wish he, too, could understand the joy of family. It's impossible, though, because his family life as a child was devastating. Life is really so much more fulfilling when there are people around to give and receive love.
You couldn't have sent this story at a better time for me.

Thank you for sharing this moment with your readers. My eyes filled with tears and my heart with compassion for such a touching moment in your life. And at a moment when I was wondering wether I should move my family closer to our parents or not it seems like an omen. I admire you for your conviction and integrity which is very uncommon. Very insightful. I commend your parents as they obviously did a good job.

Thank you Dr. Kim as always for your honesty. What a beautiful story. I believe there are no mistakes - especially when we listen to our gut feeling - trusting our inner voice. It leads us to these "blessings in disguise" realizations that stick with us the rest of our lives.

Hmmm. What's up? JUST LAST NIGHT hubby and I watched a movie called "In the Wild" about a young man who left his family and travelled across the states having various escapades and becoming beloved of many people, then on to Alaska (his great dream). He did all this because he was extremely angry with his parents and rejected all their values. He could love these people and accept their lifestyles, but wouldn't even give his parents word where he was. When he got to Alaska he found and lived in an abandoned bus and lived alone. He wrote about everything he learned and this was turned into the movie. Very touching. So, now, we have a 19 year old son who shows no sign of leaving physically, but emotionally he seems to reject our values. I worry about him constantly. Your comments show things from the son's side, and so do those of most of the people who have replied so far. It's very hard to have to wait for the child to come to these realizations--I wish we parents could fix things for them! (It's in a mother's nature to want to protect her child.) But then, that would be the thing that would send them away, no doubt!

I'm not sure how old the "Rock Bottom Moment" post was linked to today's post (7-23-14) from Dr. Ben Kim. I didn't see the movie, but I read "Into the Wild" and in the true version, Chris dies before he can reunite with his parents. I have no firsthand knowledge of families since I was raised mostly in an orphanage and a foster home, bit I think it's very sad when real families somehow disconnect. Maybe if your son read the book, he might have a different perspective on family life. Chris was apparently ready to go back to "civilization" and his family when he had a couple of unfortunate incidents that lead to his death. I hope you and your son have reconciled whatever differences you've had by now. I do have firsthand knowledge of being a teenager, and it totally sucks. I used to think having a "normal" family made everything easy, but I have since learned that is not the case.

Gosh, Dr. Kim, this is exactly how I know feel about my parents and my husband and I are praying that our sons feel the same way about us. I just hope that it doesn't take my sons as long as it took me to realize the importance of my parents. My father was a non-affectionate man. Because of that no one in my family showed any emotion. My husband came into the family hugging and kissing my mother and none of us ever did that. I wanted to but for some reason couldn't. I had a health challenge that really showed me how precious and uncertain life truly is so now I hug and kiss both my parents at the beginning of each encounter and at the end and I always tell them that I love them and they reciprocate. I am thankful that our relationship have grown and changed. I too differ still with them on things but now know that it's perfectly ok. Thanks so much for sharing this, Dr. Kim.

I love reading these experiences because I think they help us heal the emotional wounds in some way just how eating well heals our bodies.

I recently had a hard decision to make. Without much guidance I looked to Robert Frost's poem, "The Road Not Taken" (a copy exists here:

The expression, Sorrow shared is divided, Joy shared is doubled, is kind of along that route, where when we share our life experiences, it helps others along the way.


I could not have read this story at a better definitely going through similar feelings, I've had many struggles trying to bridge the cultural and generational gap between me and my parents. I admire your courage to reach out with your story, Thank you so much for sharing.

Dear Dr. Ben Kim,

Thank you very much for sharing your story. True enough that relationship is far more greater than any achievements in life.
Both of my parents (80 years old) are still living, every member of the family want them to feel loved and appreciated.We are very
thankful to God for them. I will remember you, your family and your ministry in my prayers.
God bless

You are a great man to say what you said in this article. you have my greatest respect. Judy DaFoe

Dr. Kim,

It is so refreshing to hear of somebody of your profession and stature to connect with humility, frankness and love. It is so inspiring that you followed your path and that your parents let you do it while embracing you in unconditional love. It is only through letting go of those you love that we find the depth of their love for us. I am so glad that you experienced this firsthand and took the risk and felt the feelings of having been a disappointment to yourself and family. In doing so you found that really it may have been a disappointing situation but it was not you who was a disappointment--as a matter of fact you came through with integrity of following you path according to your truth--and your parents God Bless Them didn't try to control, manipulate or otherwise own your experience. They allowed you your life. How precious. Far too often there are those who never get to this experience of unconditional love. I too had this experience with my parents before their transition at my age of 45 or so. And I thank God for it--because before then I never really knew what true love was and had never really felt loved by anybody. Such an experience is a saving grace and your bold itimacy of sharing this experience with your audience is honorable and helpful to so many people. Thank you for being a humanitarian. Blessings to you.

Dr. Kim,
Always read your articles with interest. This one definitely touched my heart. My parents live in India with my sister and they recently visited us for six months. Both my parents are close to 80's and honestly I have gone through the same experience of separation. Its difficult to live away from your loved ones but I guess thats how life is. We make choices but we are responsible for those and eventually learn to live with them.
Thanks for your heart warming articles.

Your article "My rock bottom and why I'm grateful for it" is a big eye opener that every start-up professional should learn from. If this was written 30 or 40 years ago, it would have changed my entire perception of what live and living is and should be. Be that as it may, however, it is a touching revelation and honest admission that can go a long way to helping a lot of young men, and also women, on their personal and professional pursuits. Perhaps, we have a shared regional tradition and family upbringing, which is unique to most Asian families.

Thanks and more power Dr. Ben!

It is great to see you finally see the reality. Sometimes, people just get too idealistic about things that can greatly affect the way to see the true reality. It is all about wisdom. It is very important to have clear mind to see what reality is and what you can get the best out of a situation.

I think growing in developed world (either in the east or west) has such common problem. Materialism, peer pressure to keep everyone getting ahead and make themselves feel superior. At some point, they feel unwell and try all sorts of things to regain the lost soul and spirituality.

this note is to both of you and Will and thank you...i am a DC but not for long because i made a big mistake in my life and cheated people by wrapping myself into this false way of making a living
( accident/injury clinic, keeping lawyers and patients happy because of the money...gosh this is so corrupted) and not seeing a way out because of i rationalized it somewhat so as not to get severely depressed and curbing the anxiety i felt via believing that chiropractic treatment is beneficial to all with or without pain but not letting the third party payors know right, what an utterly low place to be guys... can't understand why my enduring deepest thoughts for two decades of having a holistic center working and restoring people back to true health including natural hygiene, fasting/cleansing and nutritional store where people pay cash could not materialize .. now i thank God deeply, for pulling me out of this disasterous corrupted way of life and closing the clinics via the US authorities..Dr. kim i thought you should know that you are right, this profession of ours is pervasive with this corruption i've attempted to leave it at various times in the past 20 years even studying aviation, real estate and construction and i have felt ashamed, frustrated, angry, guilty for some years now...thanks again and thanks be to God.

Great Story Dr. Kim - I did go into Yahoo to vote but they wanted too much personal info, so sorry but I don't want my name on Yahoo's list. However, I still wanted you to know that your story was absolutely inspiring and creates a "feel good" feeling. TX

Awsome...I enjoyed your voice so much!
warmest regards

Vesna from croatia

Dear Dr. Kim,
I enjoyed your notes on you and your parents.
It was very touching.
I have a sister in law that is Korean.
It is a very nice culture.
She and my brother live in ;Az.
Many years ago she made a visit to my mother in help her any way she could.
She brought her two young sons with her.
She cooked for my mother and did whatever she could to help.
She is extremely respectful to us.
She told us about Kunchi and told me the Korean word for thankyou.
Grace Day

I will be turning 50 next month and grateful to say, I value my parents more than ever. They are my best friends. I have gone through a rough time, being unemployed for the last couple of years and even though they are both in their seventies, they have been all out to help me out, morally and economically. Who else would do that?

I deeply regret that during my teen-age years and early twenties, I was not so appreciative and understanding of their love and caring. Of course, 'girls', friends and other people's opinions were what I was thinking of.

I am incredibly grateful I still have my parents and I see the pain they still have after decades of having lost their own.

Sometimes we never know what we have until it is gone.

Thank you Dr. Kim for sharing your inspiring story.

Your story brought tears to my eyes and made me realize a lot of things about myself and my relationship with my parents. Thank you so much for sharing such a touching story.

Thanks for sharing your 'rock bottom story'. Sure can relate.

I left a decent job after twenty years (as an LVN). I worked in a medical office for wonderful M.D., although a conventional M.D. I began believing that optimal health could be attained without pharmaceutical drugs.

To make a long story short, I quit that job and now work at a less than desireable job with an uncertain future and no beneifts. Life has been difficult but have found peace that at least I do not have to "push drugs".

You never strayed from your core beliefs! Now look at you!

And happiness will be yours. Have an open mind. :)

Dr. Kim,

As a fellow Korean-American, I can relate. All my life, I've been trying to live up to the high expectations of my parents. I entered a PhD program at a very elite university, but after many years do not think I can finish. I have never failed anything, and I do not really believe it is entirely my fault. I actually did very well. My committee chair is a very difficult person to work with. I had to move to Florida because my wife was living there and pregnant. I thought the local state university would be very welcome to have me as a visiting instructor or adjunct; however, all I met was jealousy. I love being a professor and enjoy working with students. However, the chair was just interested in using me to save money. I've been distraught for the past couple months. I've been feeling down so I could not focus on writing. I've been following a mostly vegetarian diet and exercising rather intensely and this helps to counter depression.

Hello Dr Kim,

I am only a most recent subscriber to your website. The clinical information you have so unselfishly and so willingly provided these past months to me here in Australia (as I said I am only new to you)with no monitory gain expectations in return in this day and age of commercialism is just amazing. To read a moving account of your own personal life reveals to me that you are much more than a practicing clinician but a great human being as well. Thank you for sharing your story. I believe good Karma comes to those who are upright in the community and care for their fellow human beings. Thank yon once again for sharing your private story.

Kindest regards,
(Frank Kovacs)
Adelaide, South Australia

I have never before commented on anyone's website, but I felt compelled to do so today. Having just relocated to be closer to my parents and in the midst of a mid-life crisis/career change, I can intimately relate to your story exactly. Growing up with traditional Chinese parents in the U.S., there were many misunderstandings and conflicts that caused hurt feelings. Only after trying to run away and living apart from my parents for many years and the (thankful) maturity that comes with growing older did I come realize that their love, though it may have seemed at times (just like in your family situation) to be dependent upon my accomplishments in life, was actually as unconditional and bottomless as love could be. I am just grateful that I've been blessed with this realization before it was too late and that we can enjoy one another for as long as we each have on this planet. Although I initially came upon your website for health information, there seem to be no coincidences in life, and I thank you for having posted such a poignant story that resonated with me right now.