Episode 182 Rod Knoerr The Secrets to Thriving in the Storms of Life

This transcript is from episode 182 with guest Rod Knoerr.

Scott DeLuzio   00:00:00    Thanks for tuning into the Drive On Podcast, where we’re focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio. Now let’s get on with the show. Hey, everyone, welcome back to the Drive On Podcast. Today, my guest is Rod Knoerr. Rod is the author of the book. Don’t Waste This Storm. In the book he discusses his secrets of, of prospective shift during the storm’s life sends your way and how it allows others to experience things that they never could have imagined. We’re gonna be here today talking about the storms in his life that he’s gone through and how he’s found that new perspective and helped him navigate through those storms. Welcome to the show, Rod. I’m glad to have you on  

Rod Knoerr    00:00:56    Scott. It’s a pleasure to be here and I, first of all, wanna thank you and all the veterans who might be listening, our families of veterans for your service to our country. Thank you so much.  

Scott DeLuzio    00:01:05    Thank you. We were talking before we started recording here. One of the things that I feel very fortunate about is that I get to live through a time when there are people like yourself who are very appreciative of the work that the men and women of the military do. Not just the military, but first responders and everyone like that, because not too long ago in our nation’s history. You were talking about this yourself, but there were those people who didn’t appreciate it and outright resented the military and the stuff that they were doing. Having someone like yourself, come on, thanking people. To me, that’s a breath of fresh air. Knowing that there’s still people out there who do appreciate our service.  I appreciate that.  I thank you for, your perspective and your attitude, on things as well, because that’s definitely appreciated, as far as I’m concerned,  

Scott DeLuzio   00:02:04    Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, a little bit about your background, before we get more into your story, into the book and why you’ve written it and how it can help some people. 

Rod Knoerr    00:02:16    I’m here in Michigan.  I was telling you earlier, I grew up in a kind of blue-collar family. My relatives were factory workers or farmers. I always knew I wanted to help people. And somehow I asked a pretty dental hygiene student to dance at 18. Let’s just say that was the beginning of a 40-year history. I became a dentist, always wanting to serve people, and encouraging people. After eight years of being a dentist. A lot of people don’t know this. I actually sold the practice and took four kids.  I went to the seminary. I was in church work. I left dentistry for a 10-year period then came back to dentistry 20 years ago. When I came back to dentistry, I didn’t realize that something that I faced as a businessman really affected how we went through my wife’s health situation.  

Rod Knoerr     00:03:04     I purchased two dental practices to retire dentists back in the early two-thousands in an area that’s predominantly General Motors, factories, and workers. Near where I grew up and within a year or so General Motors filed for bankruptcy and all of the retirees lost their dental insurance.  I told my dear wife, I said, we’re highly in debt. We could go bankrupt.  I literally realized right then I looked at my staff and I said to them, we’re not just going to survive. We’re gonna thrive. I used those back in 2006, 2007, whenever it was. We did some creative things. I worked in other dental offices. We paid it off. I didn’t go under, so then you fast forward a few years. My wife’s go after a two-year health, really bad health storm that wasn’t terminal.  

Rod Knoerr    00:03:57    She has a weird blood test and we find out she has terminal cancer and they give her 18 to 24 months to live. That’s kind of the backdrop. And she passed away six months before COVID hit. In early June of 2020. I was feeling a little down and I thought it was because of May, which was Mother’s Day. The first one with Beth in Heaven. Our anniversary was the day before Mother’s Day of the year we got married and I realized that’s not what I’m feeling hopeless about. The George Floyd situation occurred in May.  I felt the hopelessness of our country. I had thought about writing the book and I learned from what we learned going through terminal cancer. That’s what stimulated me to start writing the book. That’s where we shouldn’t waste this storm.  The subtitle really says it all. Hope-Filled Thriving, not just barely surviving the storms of life.  

Scott DeLuzio    00:04:59    That’s a good background of who you are, but I want to go back a little bit and kind of dig into some of this. Your wife of 40 years, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. 

Scott DeLuzio    00:05:15    Almost 40 at that point. I know we all die at some point, right? That’s just the reality of death and taxes. Those are the two things that you can count on <laugh> but the death of a loved one is never easy to bear. Before we started recording, you were talking about how you had this partner that you were going through life with, that you could rely on and now she’s not here and that’s not an easy thing to deal with. Did anything change in your relationship knowing that any day from the point that she got that terminal diagnosis?  Any day forward from there, that it could be your last together? Did anything change in that relationship and how did it change and what did you guys do to navigate through that?  

Rod Knoerr   00:06:05    I think I learned a lot about being her support and advocate, and I think of spouses of veterans who come back and are dealing with things. I learned a lot about that, but I think the initial reaction I talk about in the book when you’re hit with a storm of life, whatever it may be is to kind of hunker down, isolate, quit living, and wait for the storm to pass.. They will end, but some way or the other, they could go on and on and on.  I think that was the initial reaction we had. In the book, I talk about the perspective shift I call it. I couldn’t put this in words as we were going through it, but as I reflected back. I called it the who, what, when, where, why, and how perspective shift. I think any storm, it could be coming back from the service, it could be losing a loved one, it could be cancer.  

Rod Knoerr   00:07:05    It could be financial, or relational. I think that there’s this initial reaction to say, why me? I’m a good person. I’ve served  people, whatever. You wear yourself out saying why. And then the second question is when is it gonna end? And you wear yourself with that. Well, there are certain storms, like, well, even COVID <laugh>, I saw that in the people around me when I started writing, when is it gonna end? Then the third one is, how can I get myself out of it? What should I do? What can I put my energies into research, whatever I realize Scott, the first two questions, if you believe in a higher being, oh my God knows why or we, and yet the energy expended. It’s a victim mentality.  

Rod Knoerr     00:07:56    It’s a pity party mentality. And not to say we didn’t have it. I did. I mean, we were going through another health storm and then thinking, we’re almost getting through it.  My wife was the kindest generalist, most gray-filled serving woman on the face of the earth.  I started to say that but then, a few months later she was spending three weeks in the cancer ward at a university game in Michigan. We had moved out of that, but I said something to her that that was just, it said at all, I said Beth, it’s not about us. And she knew what I meant. I said, you it’s not about us when I told you about the who and when, where, why, how well I did the, why the, when the, how now let’s do the, what, the, where, and the who I realized, what are we, what were we supposed to do with the gifts?  

Rod Knoerr    00:08:51    The experience that we had up to this point in our life, where we now found ourselves, which could be hospitals, clinic cities, we never planned on with who is now around us. When you take that mentality, you start to see opportunities and purpose. We took a cancer care unit. I’m gonna tell you, somebody higher than us was working through us, but you wanna find hopelessness going to a CA answer center where virtually everybody’s bald. And they’re not the guys that have hereditary baldness, they’re women. All of the curtain shades were pulled in all these rooms, but they want you during your chemo to be getting exercise. You gotta walk for miles around this cancer ward. My wife started putting encouraging sayings on her window. She put some Bible verses and thanked the staff on that floor.  

Rod Knoerr    00:09:43     I would purposely do my quiet devotion time in the family lounge instead of my wife’s room. We would just encourage people, staff, janitors, people we’d see by the end of the three, we saw so many more windows open, encouraging little sayings. We didn’t do anything that big, but what that does for you when you’re in the midst of a storm. There’s that saying, it is more blessed to give them to receive. I’m getting shivers. That is what we discovered about my wife. She physically was doing awful and yet it just lightened her up. That perspective shifts. And I think our human nature is well, I told Beth at one point a few, about a year into it, she wanted to start making videos for her. We had 11 grand shows over the time.  

Rod Knoerr     00:10:38    We now have 13. She wanted to make videos for their big events.  I remember saying to her, when you start preparing to die, you’re gonna quit living. She never made the videos, but as my book will show the things we did, she was in Romania on her forced MIS trip of her cancer. When they said you can’t travel, your immunities are too low. She gave a testimonial in this little village. She talked about when you’re in the storms of life, go listen to God and go. And then at the end, she looked at those Romanians and it was such a blessing. She summed up what I’m trying to tell you. She said when we come to Romania, everyone tells us how blessed the Romanians must be. She looked at those, let you, she said, we receive more from you than we give to you. That was what we found that gave us that strength in the storm, serving others.  

Scott DeLuzio     00:11:29    You find a purpose in serving others, right? You’re that cancer ward trying to get treatment for your wife at this point. She’s in there trying to get treatment for herself. And every day she probably wakes up thinking, okay, I have to come up with something motivational or, a Bible verse or something that’s going to help other people to bring light to their day. Because like you said, you walk outside that room and all the shades are drawn. It’s dark.  It’s not that bright encouraging environment that you would hope to have. Instead of focusing on the doom and gloom of her own diagnosis and her own situation, she’s now thinking of how to help this other person, this person down the hall who maybe doesn’t have family who’s coming to visit, right.  

Scott DeLuzio    00:12:30    Or this other person who, maybe getting close to them, to their last days to help them see some bright message, some encouragement, some positivity, some reason to keep fighting. and, and that becomes the new mission. I know when you were talking earlier about how you are, you start to think, why, why is this happening to me? Why is this happening to my family? I lost my brother in Afghanistan while I was deployed there as well.  I remember that the night after finding out that he was killed, that I remember just yelling out and saying, why him? It was me talking to God, like why would you do this? Why would you take such a good person from us? And in that moment, I realized that I’m not gonna know the answer.  

Scott DeLuzio     00:13:35    Oh, only God knows the answer. There’s an answer out there, but maybe I’m not meant to know the answer. And I just have to be okay with that. and from that point forward, I kind of just stopped asking why him? Why not me?  I stopped doing that because I realized what could be it gonna do if I keep beating myself up over this. What is that going to do? It won’t bring him back. It won’t change anything. It’s just going to just make me go crazy, trying to figure out the answer.  

Rod Knoerr    00:14:06    Well, and the other thing I realized after her passing. We’re still here for a reason. And if we’re spending our time grieving or angry and so many people are there, there’s no value to their existence. They can’t be used. I’m not saying it’s easy and I’d be another to bring up veterans because it sounds like, oh, just serve people and everything will be great. I will talk about four things. I found that really helped us, not just survive but thrive, service was one, but one of them is community. And what I mean by that is, I’m a person of faith. I think the devil does worse when he can isolate us by ourselves. And didn’t COVID do that? I’m not against the government. I’m not saying that, but due to it, we were all quarantined, and then we got our mind going and we went on this pity party pit and then even Facebook and on and on.  

Rod Knoerr     00:15:02     I didn’t wanna be a part of Facebook because everybody was just spewing anger and frustration. I’m gonna talk a little bit later if I have time, my wife’s name, be the hope. I started a Facebook group and I said, this is to talk about simple acts, being the hope to others. There’s no talking about politics, no talking about anger. And if you are, I’m taking you off. II believe good things happen every day. Let’s talk about that and let’s raise our spirits. My hope is with this book, we can drive that thing into millions on Facebook. Be the Hope Community and I think we luckily were part of it. I don’t wanna sound like we had it all figured out when the storm hit.  

Rod Knoerr    00:15:46    I had a men’s breakfast that I went to once. We had a women’s group and we started a couples group in our home. We were in a community.  I wonder when that storm of terminal cancer occurs, if we hadn’t been in the community, would we have had the energy to seek it out? I’d like to think, yes, but I think so many people don’t. I think the other thing is everybody thinks it needs to be a community where you’re all, I don’t know yet. I’d have to talk to counselors, but does it need to be people that are going through terminal cancer? Does it need to be people that are dealing with PTSD? We had people in our groups going through stuff. And a lot of times I get up for that six o’clock breakfast thinking, oh, I go, I gotta go because I need it more times than not. I was supporting an older guy whose wife was sick or had just died. This was like a year before Beth passed. I just think being in that forum of, of just doing life together, there was a value, not at the same difficulties or same storms, but I don’t think most people when the tough times hit they wall off. And that was a key for us not doing that.  

Scott DeLuzio    00:17:01    It’s easy to isolate and not do anything right. When you don’t feel like getting out of bed in the morning, because you’re so depressed or you’re just sick of dealing with things it’s easy to just not do it and just stay in and not go out and socialize with other people, or do the things that you normally would have done. It’s really easy. I don’t say humans are lazy, but we like to do the easier thing. We tend to gravitate towards that sometimes.  

We’re looking for that, that comfort and it, and if something is a little bit hard to do, we’re gonna tend to stay away from that. Not a hundred percent, but it just seems like that’s the easy way to do things. Like you were talking about when you’re dealing with a loss of any type, sometimes people think that the grieving process is just something we need to just get through. We just need to make it one more day and eventually, it just gets easier with time. Which, that’s not necessarily true. That’s like survival mode thinking that that’s not the thriving that you were talking about,

Rod Knoerr   00:18:22     I went to a grief recovery group right after Beth passed away for six, eight weeks.I’ll go through the stages of grief and dealing with anger and all that.  I didn’t have a lot of that stuff, but you paid to go to it. You got this booklet and you could repeat it as many times you want. Beth died in  August. In January I thought I’d go back. And this was just prior to COVID hitting.  I don’t need to keep grieving. I need to go to somebody that answers the question now that I don’t have a partner, what am I, and the same with veterans. I’m thinking, okay, I’m back, I’m out of the service, whatever. Now what do you kinda get used to this way of life and how do I fit in?  

Rod Knoerr     00:19:06    I can’t imagine, I’ve never thought of some of the parallels. I remember there was another widow that had gone through that last one in the fall with me.I said to Marty, “What do you think?” I know what you mean. So this social widowers group in Grand Rapids, they do once a month social events and have contacted me. I had an email list and I contacted the leader and I said, I wanna start a group for widows and widowers and use some of what I did through cancer to see if what worked in cancer would work for people of lost, loved ones. And I said, we found encouragement and serving others, lifted the depression, got rid of it.  I remember she said to me, oh, that’s way too much.  

Rod Knoerr     00:19:46    That’s way too much for a widow or widower after they’ve lost their loved one. So then COVID did about a month into the self-quarantine. I texted a message. I said, could we talk? There’s something worse than losing a loved one. She goes, what? I go, put self-quarantine on top of it. She goes, oh, I said, could we try my idea on zoom? She gave me a couple other widowers.  I knew we started with five and we did it for about a month. And I remember June 29, of 2020, we had our first meeting together in a park, socially distanced. As I talked about a neighbor or a coworker, praying for them, encouraging them over a few weeks, you could see the difference in their demeanor as they got out of looking inward and pity party to just trying to look outside of themselves.  

Rod Knoerr     00:20:43     There’s so much with the VA and other things. I don’t know the exact parallels, but I think some of these things in my book sometimes lead to another journey. What I did at the end of every chapter, I have what’s called refuge reflection questions, and it’s a way to take the storm. We went through and used some of the up to apply to their storm and see if there is something here I could learn? That was what I was really doing with widows and widows. And it works. It really works.  

Scott DeLuzio   00:21:15    Part of the reason why I wanted to have you on the show is because it is a different perspective that you have. You don’t have the military background, you have combat experience or any of that kind of stuff, but there is still a parallel between the military service and the type of storm that you went through in that there’s this transition. And there’s this change in, in who you are and, and who you identify as right? For all those years, you identified as someone who could rely on coming home and having this partner that you were with to be able to talk through problems and go through just day-to-day life. Just the things that you were dealing with, you are able to rely on having that person around now, all of a sudden, it’s like ripping off a bandaid.

Scott DeLuzio     00:22:21    And then all of a sudden it’s gone and, or flipping a light switch, whatever analogy you want to use. It’s a completely different world that you’re now living in, you don’t have that person around. And, there is some grief that goes along with that. You obviously have to grieve the loss of that person. But, when you think about the military and military service, when you leave the service you had identified for all those years, that you’ve served whether it’s five years, 10 years, 20 years, or more, you’ve identified as a military service member. And that was a big part of your identity and who you are.  And then all of a sudden you take the uniform off for the last time. Now you’re a veteran, but what does that mean? What kind of status is that there there’s nothing really, that goes along with that, other than some benefits, the VA, and a free meal on veteran’s day at Applebees or whatever

Rod Knoerr   00:23:37    I hope it’s more than that, but yeah, I know what you mean.  

Scott DeLuzio   00:23:39    Yeah. But it’s a big change and it’s a big shift in who you are. I heard your story initially. I thought of the different parallels at first, obviously, there’s not that direct military connection. Like you said, sometimes hearing somebody else’s story in a different perspective and a different situation might help you to pick out some pieces that can be helpful to you in your life. 

Rod Knoerr     00:24:08    I just thought of another piece, I think is helpful for veterans.  I talk about four things that were helpful to us to thrive. One was service. One was community. The third one is gratitude and attitude of gratitude. And my wife had gone on through months and months and months of insomnia with her other health situation prior to cancer. I mean, awful, awful, awful. And one night it’s gotta be a God thing. Because I’m just not that creative. I said, Beth, let’s pray to the ABCs. Or if you’re not a prayer person saying the ABCs of gratitude, she looks at me. I said you say something or someone that you’re thankful for. This starts with a, I’ll say something with B, you say C. And we had Z covered. My son-in-law’s name is Zach Scott. We never got to Z the rest of her life without her falling asleep.  

Rod Knoerr     00:25:01    And I think that from focusing on what you don’t have, what you wish you had, why I’ve been wrong to what you do have, that was huge. After she passed away, 40 years of marriage, I started doing that every night. Because I wasn’t falling asleep. I’m telling you that it’s not our nature to do that. We’re focusing on what’s not right, what we wish we had. Like it even though COVID I went through COVID differently than everybody else. I just had a different perspective. I was like, that’s what motivated me to write the book, but gratitude. I can’t say enough about it.  

Scott DeLuzio    00:25:39    Well, and as you’re talking about that, talking about the things that you do have, and not the things that you don’t have.  I think back to my time when I was in Afghanistan and going into some of these villages where literally they have mud huts for houses that they’re living in. Their walls are mud. They have straw roofs. That they’re very primitive in terms of, what we’re used to and how they’re living., they don’t have electricity running to the houses. They don’t have running water. They sometimes have 15, 20 people living in one small house.

Scott DeLuzio    00:26:13    Small building. And yet the kids that are outside playing, might just be kicking around a ball that is falling apart because they’ve had it for years and years and years. And it’s the only thing that they’ve had. They might have gotten it from one of the soldiers who came through 10 years earlier and that’s just the only thing that they have to play with for the whole village. And they’re happy as can be. They’re not sitting there worrying about why don’t I have electricity so that I can have television and an Xbox and the internet and all this other stuff. They go out and they just make the best of what they have. And I think focusing on what you have versus what you don’t, it gives you the ability to be much happier. I think in some of those cases, some of those people just didn’t know what they didn’t have.  

Rod Knoerr    00:27:15    They didn’t know what they didn’t have. 

Scott DeLuzio    00:27:17    They didn’t have the internet to go on to go. Look, to see how Americans live and compare their lives to somebody else, the way we do with social media. You go on social media and you’re, you’re comparing your day to day life. With somebody else’s game that they’re, they’re posting on social media. and so you look at that and it’s like, oh man,  I wish I was that cool. And I wish I was that good at whatever. but they don’t have any of that stuff. And that gives them the ability to just focus on what they do have. And they were  

Rod Knoerr     00:27:51    We found out, we found out the same thing going on, those mission trips to Romania. I just came back and realized I needed to slow my life down. And I have a chapter in the book, which, like I said, has so many lessons. We had a relationship with an oldest son restored in the midst of her terminal cancer.  I have a chapter called storms of my own making when we’re kind of stressed and not at peace. We think it’s somebody else’s fault. Maybe you’ve made the choices and thought you could do things faster than you could or whatever. Everything was about serving other people in the community, the church, my five kids, but I was doing too much. And I learned that in the book. But like you said, it started by going to Romanian, seeing people with almost nothing more at peace than I was.  

Rod Knoerr    00:28:38     And then <laugh> this one, maybe doesn’t make sense, in the midst of well, and I’m thinking a lot, I’m realizing the spouses who have someone come back and they’re not the same and this. Which was what I had with my wife. You’d ask how our relationship was. When you have those traditional wedding vows richer, poor sick us health, better worse. The last five years of our marriage was not health was worse and richer or poorer was poorer. I didn’t work a lot in whatever the best five years of our marriage were the worst five years. It doesn’t make sense, but it does. You’ve begun to realize what’s important. I learned to serve my wife, her, I dunno if you heard of the five love languages, Gary Chapman wrote this book a number of years ago, and my wife’s love language was an act of service.  

Rod Knoerr    00:29:45    I wasn’t doing it on purpose, but what do you think I did the last five years of her life? I served her and she felt loved. I thought, man, if you’ve never read that book, get it. And you need to start SP saying your wife’s love language. But like I said, we always had a good marriage, but I was doing her love language, not intentionally, just I had, it’s what she needed., I learned how to support her and our marriage grew. And I’m thinking about some of those veterans that come back, if we can encourage the spouses who I’m sure are different, how do I do it? That if they can find ways to encourage, they can have that relationship again, it’s gonna be different, but it very well is gonna be better.  

Rod Knoerr     00:30:26     The fourth thing I bring up, which is laughter, you’re thinking, what do you mean laugh when you have terminal cancer? Well, you wanna cry. but laughter and support, I guess, both. And I mixed him. One night I could just see my game as the supporter of the one going through it. And I just said to her, one night I said, Beth, what can you ask? Or no? I said what’s today. She goes Monday. No, she goes, Hey, whatever. No, I said, I’m gonna give you the answer. Today is the day you love me more than yesterday. That night I said to Beth, I said, what’s tomorrow?” She’s smart. She goes during the day. You love me more than today. Yep. And then I don’t know, a few weeks later she’s the one that always served everyone. I said, Beth, what can you ask for? And then I gave her the answer. She’d always have to repeat the answer. I said anything anywhere. Anytime.  

Rod Knoerr    00:31:32    When I was going to seminary, I had a prof who had sons the same age as my oldest son. He told us this, it was a counseling class I took. He said I tell my sons this every night before they go to bed, I love you. No matter what I did for the next 15 years 20 or whatever, parenting, our 30th wedding anniversary, our middle son was about 20 and he gave a toast and he said, dad, you always told me. And he had some moments, stupid moments in high school. But when there is that underlying knowledge of unconditional love. They know that I even think with kids with sports, they almost think, well, if I don’t do well enough, you want to love me. No, no matter what it means all the time. And I think I took that thought to Beth.  

Rod Knoerr     00:32:21    She heard I, the what’s today, what’s tomorrow for the rest of her life until the two days she was unconscious. Before she and I think of the support, it goes both ways. When you show love, you receive love. she became more demonstrative and her love to me, not that she wasn’t, but that one, but now the humor. T(e other thing is I would, I talked about doing the ABCs of gratitude. Well, you gotta bring some humor, some support. So I finally won. I would do this. Occasionally I’d go. A is for adorable. Beth B is for bodacious. Beth C is for, and I OD is for drop-dead gorgeous. And I said X is and all the smiles on her face,  months away from dying. But the best one in terms of humor was what’s your name?  

Rod Knoerr    00:33:13    She goes, Beth. Beth can not Beth Fritz can. I said you gotta say, I’m gonna keep asking you, repeat what I tell you. She goes, what? I go, Rod’s hot. My wife’s this quiet, mild manner. I can still see the blush. Well then later I would say, and I don’t know German, but I know the two words for hot grandma in German. <laugh> but that smile. When you’re in a tough situation, we gotta smile. What’s the other, is it, it just lightens the moment and people think, well, that’s being, you’re not honoring the pain they’re in. I don’t know if it worked for us.

Scott DeLuzio   00:33:56    I laughed too because it’s important because if you are spending the last days of your life having that pity party and just, yeah, sad and just beating yourself up. You’re not giving her the best that she can have, especially towards the end there. and even for you going forward, obviously, you’re, you’re still here.  but your memories thinking back on those last few months, you’re able to sit here and tell us this story with a smile on your face. Right. And, and you have, I, I mean, it’s, it’s hard, but you do have those good, positive memories that you’re able to laugh about and, and still remember in, in a positive way. I think that’s important too, to be able to hang on to some of those fun and lighthearted moments.  

Rod Knoerr     00:35:04     I was thinking about when we first talked about the Be The Hope, because  that made me think I want to connect with the veterans more because of my vision. My wife had a favorite Bible verse, Jeremiah 29:11, that talks about hope in it. She hosted a young mom’s group from our church. Right when she was diagnosed with cancer, they asked her to do it. And she said, no, because we hadn’t told anybody. And I called our pastor’s wife up and I said, Beth, will do it if I have to make the meal and serve it. She would make dinner for 25 young moms every month and did it all three years of her cancer the year before she passed away. She was two years into cancer.  

Rod Knoerr   00:35:48    She was given 18 to 24 months. She started what’s called the word for the year. She gave me a little canvas and they could paint their words. They could hear her word for two years into terminal cancer for 2018 was joy. So we get to 2019 and we decide to go on a vacation down south. We thought that cancer was in a short remission in 2018, came back in the fall and she started chemo. We go down there, we get back. The young mom’s first one in January and she did the word for the year and her word was hope. And she put her Bible for her side effects, looking at it right across the room.  The next day we went to the oncologist, no warning. He was a great oncologist with not a lot of people skills. He said, if you thought about hospice, I’d give Beth three months.  

Rod Knoerr     00:36:43    About a week later, I’m sitting in church and I see Beth’s name and I see be the hope and I wrote it in my journal and it wasn’t until I told her about going on that mission trip and her giving her testimonial five days after we got back. She opened her eyes and heaven. And about a week later, I called up, I got on with Vistaprint where they can do business cards and I described this and that’s what they designed. It was like, wow..The hope was an idea. I have the, not-for-profit status. I’m working on the legal end of it. One of the little things, what does the couple do when they’re a year into an 18-24 months terminal cancer sentence, there’s an abandoned girl scout camp across the road from where we lived in Southern Michigan.  

Rod Knoerr     00:37:35    We bought it. It was like an old 2,500-square-foot building built in the fifties, mostly wooded with a small lake. We’re gonna be opening that I hope. There’s not enough energy here, be the hope retreat.  I put in the back of my book a lot of my visions for what it is, but when I started to be the hope widow widowers group. I told ’em it wasn’t about it. Wasn’t a support group. And there’s a time when you need support, you need professional counseling. When I wrote the book, I was kind of putting in the epilogue some of my vision for the future. And I realized I don’t wanna call ’em be the hope support groups. I’m gonna call them the hope purpose groups, because that simple nature, we wanna just be a victim.  

Rod Knoerr   00:38:26    And I see so many people in our country wanna be a victim or the government wants to encourage them to be a victim. Everyone has a value, no matter what situation you have gifts, you have something to give someone. And that’s what I want. To be the hope group. And I never had thought of veterans or veterans’ families until we talked last week. And I thought, yeah, to get in an environment where  I don’t have all the answers and it’s not instantly you do that. And everything’s great. I don’t, that’s not where I’m at, but over the course of the best three years, it just more and more, we started to find out yeah. To see that purpose where you’re at. I, I put in the, in the book, it’s not where you’re at, it’s who you’re with. And I think something, people, the situation’s gotta be right.  

Rod Knoerr     00:39:17    The job situation, where I live, what I have, believe it or not, that veteran and their spouse or their children. And who’s around, ’em their family. That’s what makes their life. And not that other people don’t. The year before Beth passed away, we had five kids. We didn’t go on enough dates. And finally, we were getting close. The last one was in college and we’re down to, I think, two still in the house. And we were driving to a funeral dinner for one of her cousin’s parents. And I <laugh> on the way I said to her, I said, well, we’re on a funeral dinner date.  

Rod Knoerr   00:39:59    She looked at me. The whole point was we were by ourselves connecting for two hours. Yep. That’s all that matters. Now you fast forward 3, 4, 5 years. I gave her a diamond ring when I was in, this is in the book when I was 19 years old, dead broke in college, that $400 ring, I thought I was gonna die <laugh> but on Valentine’s day, well, when she had inpatient chemo, we were spent Valentine’s day in the hospital and I went out and I couldn’t have real candles. I got the boat of candles and my daughter decorated like Beth would decorate. I bought her a red blouse to take her stuff off her hospital guard.  And they had steak on the menu and I took the song. That was our first dance. You make me feel brand new and I will never forget the tears running down her face. It was our best Valentine’s day. It was for a cancer award. And again, everyone wants to find their life based on the circumstances.  

Rod Knoerr     00:41:08    It’s all about your perspective. And like I said, we learned a perspective shift. I, unlike most people where someone dies quickly. This doesn’t make me arrogant. Scott. I don’t regret those last three years. The second last chapter in the book is go big, go home. And we just did just live. We at different points, we’re gonna cancel doing all, anything leading in because, oh, what if Beth gets sick? What if we can’t? Isn’t that what you do when you get hit with a storm? You just, again, you disconnect. We didn’t go to my 40th class reunion cuz it was in September and she might be scheduled for inpatient chemo. She got diagnosed in June. That was the only thing we canceled in the next three and a half years. She didn’t do inpatient chemo till January. And we found that and if we have to cancel, someone will step up and take your place. The tendency is the pity party. They isolate the wall off and just be a victim. If that’s all you get out of this book, I, or what I’m saying or the hope that I think that’s so huge that, that mindset, the mindset.  

Scott DeLuzio     00:42:26    And when you think about the people that you’ve lost, right. In your case, your wife, but there’s other people who are listening, that they may have experienced a loss yeah.  If you think about those people and who they were, the types of people that they were, would they really want you to just stop living and just sit around, wasting your life and for what, what, what good is that going to do? Just sitting around and not doing things, not experiencing everything. Everyone eventually is going to get to the end of their lives. And then they’re gonna look back and say, man, that was a waste. What did I accomplish? What did I experience? What did I do all because I was sitting there having my pity party for the last X number of years? What good is it?  

Rod Knoerr   00:43:28     I think we do that even without the loss of a loved one if, with any storm, that’s the tendency. Actually, the one husband was a veteran, but they have kids in the house now. I kept thinking, how could you do a, be the hope group to get these kids? I mean, they’re never gonna have a dad mm-hmm <affirmative> and yet to somehow honor their memory and somehow take their memories, the gifts, the blessings of their dad and apply them to other people in their life. Is there a way to see purpose, have a purpose group for them? And then I thought, with veterans, families do in some way, cause like you said, there’s no value to the pity party, but that’s all of our tendencies.  I think that’s oh, it is a human nature thing.  

Scott DeLuzio    00:44:19    Then when you hear stories of people who get over that pity party and they go off and they achieve all these great things in their lives, it’s like, wow, that’s so inspiring. How are you so strong and able to do something like that? It’s that perspective shift and just kind of changing your mindset. 

Rod Knoerr    00:44:45    I gotta say the big thing I want to add to it is I’m noticing, cause I moved a grand wrap as I lost a lot of my community. I’ve tried to fit in and then things have changed. I told my one daughter, I said, I need to find a new community because you can do all these things. And I look like, look, he’s on fire. He’s doing great. If you do not have people around you, you’re gonna get sucked into that victim vortex. Well, that’s a new one. I never used that, but that’s good. That’s a good one. <laugh>. It really is, and I’m noticing it right now this week. It’s like, okay, where can I get out there? And get involved. Get around people more. I can sound like this.  

Rod Knoerr    00:45:27    Rah cheerleader, just start serving people to be better. Just start laughing. It’s not that easy. There’s gotta be that support and yes, it might be spouse to spouse, but it’s more than that. It’s more than that. It’s gotta be other people that would be all I could say, and we luckily had it prior to the major storm hitting and we were a little more mature too into life, a long time, but really in our marriage, we didn’t have that. Support, if we got hit with it, I don’t even wanna know how ugly I, I would’ve gone through it. It would’ve been awful.  

Scott DeLuzio    00:45:58    And with the military, sometimes it’s hard to have that type of support because they’re constantly moving every couple of years. They might be moving from one base to another. And so getting around a group of people that you can have that community and that support from those other people could be difficult. But there are groups of people on various military bases and they get together for different activities, different things.  

Rod Knoerr   00:46:29    It can be athletics. It can be recreational. You’re laughing. There’s this sport called pickleball, which I laughed at when I was in college. I played racquetball while retirees play it while I’m hearing it’s moving down the average ages down to 50. Well, I finally played it. It was a whole new community of people that wasn’t. What communities like that could be through your kids, if your parents and you meet some parent, well, then you take the step and say, Hey, to go for a coffee. You try to connect. But I, that would be the biggest thing I would be in these, be the hope groups, if this movement takes off like I hope it does is I can’t tell you how much that is the most to me as important as anything  

Scott DeLuzio    00:47:10    It’s been a pleasure speaking with you today and I’m sure we can go on for hours and hours talking about this stuff, but, I wanna give you a chance to let people know where they can go to get a copy of your book. don’t waste a storm and any other last kind of closing, thoughts that you might have for people?  

Rod Knoerr   00:47:31    Well, again, I just, again, to thank the families, not just the veterans.  It’s a generational thing with many of the veterans’ families. Remember this will be the hope movement. If you wanna be part of it, go on Facebook to Be the Hope. And it’s the public trying to start a movement. We all want government programs or faith-based organizations to change the world. I’ve always said, I think it’s, it’s just one good act of kindness at a time. Or as I say one, be the hope moment at a time. That would be that you can get rid of this storm. You can get it on Amazon. west oh, press was who I published it through. I don’t have a website for Be the Hope, but if someone wanted me for speaking, I’m rod [email protected], or they could go on the Be the Hope, Facebook page and find me that way. Anyway, I can encourage that or in some way,   I’m there for you guys.  

Scott DeLuzio    00:48:32    Okay. And I will have links to the book.

Rod Knoerr    00:48:35    I say guys that men’s men and women. Okay. That’s, that’s a mission when we say guys. 

Scott DeLuzio   00:48:40    Understood. I think that is understood, but we’ll make sure that everyone is included in that as well. I will have links to everything in the show notes to your Facebook page, to your link to the book, and everything so that people can find it. If they want to check it out, they can grab a copy of the book. I really do encourage people to get it because, I think having that perspective shift and changing your mindset on how you’re thinking about things and getting out of that pity party like you were saying. It really does help, move things along, and make things better.  I appreciate you coming on and sharing your perspective and hopefully, some people are out there listening to this and, and taking it to heart.  

Rod Knoerr    00:49:28    That’s the only reason I wrote the book that there can be a battle with what we went through for others. Thank you.  Scott DeLuzio     00:49:34    Thank you. Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website DriveOnPodcast.com. We’re also on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube at Drive On Podcast.

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