On the morning of September 25, 2020, it hit me out of the blue, and like a ton of bricks, that I hadn’t seen any recent posts from my friend and former client, Damon Taylor. And while the optimist in me said to check Facebook, my gut told me otherwise. With my gut winning out, I slowly typed Damon Taylor’s obituary into Mother Google, and my worst fears were instantly confirmed. My friend was gone, and I was 28 days too late.
Damon and I started working together in March of 2019. He had recently joined our club and had expressed interest in working with a trainer as he was trying to get back into shape after a traumatic event. Damon had gone to Oklahoma City to visit his daughter and her family where he was brutally attacked by a group of thugs and left for dead outside of a restaurant. This was back in early 2019 and the temperature that night was well below freezing. The result was frostbite in his left foot where he almost lost his toes. When we first met, he was still wearing a protective boot however thankfully on the road to recovery.
Damon had a unique background serving as a Marine from 1988 through 1995 fighting in both the Gulf War and Iraqi Freedom. Upon retiring from the military, he started his own financial planning business based in the North Dallas area. When we met for the first time he was super excited to get started with his training and further wanted my help with his nutrition.
While alcohol had been a part of his life during his time in the military, the experience in Oklahoma City pushed him to leave the bottle behind and further caused him to find his way back to God. There’s always a silver lining in every adversity and Damon lived that philosophy to the max. We agreed to train one day a week and he committed to doing 2-3 more workouts per week based on the program I created for him.
Beyond his training, we cleaned up his nutrition and added in the supplements needed to help his body recover and progress from his efforts. Damon was all in from day one and used to crack me up with his “pre-workout” drink. The product is literally called “Hyde” as in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He was already one of the most high-strung individuals I had ever met and with the addition of the “Hyde” formula, he was hilarious to work with.
From March until early August, he made tremendous gains in strength and improvements in his body composition adding muscle mass and dropping body fat. I love working with clients who take their training seriously and Damon was in for the long term. That all changed on August 14th when he went to his eye doctor after struggling to read a simple bill at a restaurant.
His eye doctor directed him immediately to the emergency room where he reached out to me saying he would be missing his normal Saturday workout. This was a Friday evening and I was proactive in following up on Saturday. At that point, an MRI hadn’t shown anything and he was waiting for a CT Scan for further investigation. His last communication was a promise to let me know the results.
On Sunday morning, I received a text that literally took my breath away. It said terminal brain cancer…6-12 months. A few days later, he had emergency brain surgery to remove the major portion of the stage 4 Glioblastoma. While the surgery was successful, there were still tumors in four other areas of his brain where the cancer was impossible to remove.
After 11 days in the hospital, Damon and I met in the cafe at our club to catch up. His doctors from UT Southwestern and Duke University determined to attack the remaining areas with chemo and radiation. The prognosis from his collective doctors from the beginning was that he would not survive. Without treatment, his life expectancy was projected at 3-6 months. With treatment, the best he could hope for was maybe 12-15 months.
As Damon shared his story, I barely had words to communicate. Here was a man sharing not only what he had gone through but also what he planned to do with his remaining time…Lord willing. So often in life, we can empathize to some degree with someone going through an extreme trial. In Damon’s case, I couldn’t even begin to imagine how he felt.
As a Christian, Damon shared that he had peace with God and that one of his final major priorities was to make amends with various people where relationships had been strained over the years. Further, he had already taken all the necessary steps to transition his company to his partners and to ensure that his family would be well provided for.
Because of his lengthy service record, Damon was diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) which qualified him for a 70% disability rating. This insured that he would be well taken care of in terms of medical expenses. He explained that just because you fight in a war, you do not automatically receive the tag of PTSD which would limit your disability rating.
For his friends who fought in only Desert Storm, who were subjected to all the same toxins that Damon was, because of the nature of their service, they in many cases did not receive the tag of PTSD. After leaving the service, it is standard procedure for the government to provide medical coverage for five years. However without the 70% disability rating, after five years, the coverage runs out. Unfortunately, there are many cases of veterans coming up with cases of cancer and other issues directly attributed to Desert Storm and yet they are left to take care of themselves with no support from our government.
In mid-November, Damon took his family to Washington including a tour of the White House to share with them a piece of American history that means so much to him. He was able to meet with Secretary of Defense, James Madison, to ask for help for his fellow veterans. Outside of time with family and friends, the effort to seek further help for all veterans struggling with their health would be Damon’s final and most important legacy.
When 2020 hit and the nation was put in quarantine, everything changed. Damon and I stayed connected via Facebook and phone however we stopped spending any time in person due to obvious reasons. While no one had any idea how last year was going to play out, I kept thinking things would get better and that I would be able to visit Damon again before the end.
To me, quarantine was like Groundhog Day and the time just seemed to creep. Then when our gym reopened in late May, it was as if someone hit the fast forward button on life. Working as a fitness professional during the pandemic was the most difficult time of my professional career and the summer months were really a struggle. I didn’t forget about Damon, however, I was in my own personal career survival mode and I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t keep the most important things in life in their proper perspective.
This brings us back to the moment that I discovered that he has passed away. I thought back to the last time we were together. I certainly didn’t leave that meeting thinking it would be our last time to see each other.
Time is the most precious commodity in life. You can always make more money or replace material things, but the sands of time can never be regained. Leadership expert John Maxwell offers some unique insight into the value of time in the following:
“Given the choice, would you rather save time or money? Most people focus on dollars. But how you spend your time is much more important than how you spend your money. Money mistakes can often be corrected, but when you lose time, it’s gone forever. Your priorities determine how you spend your time, and time is precious.
The following statements may help you put time in perspective:
To know the value of one year… Ask the student who failed the final exam.
To know the value of one month… Ask the mother of a premature baby.
To know the value of one week… Ask the editor of a weekly news magazine.
To know the value of one day… Ask the wage earner who has six children.
To know the value of one hour… Ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.
To know the value of one minute… Ask the person who missed the plane.
To know the value of one second… Ask the person who survived the accident.
To know the value of one millisecond… Ask the Olympic silver medalist.
Your time is priceless.”
As for my relationship with Damon, the 28 days that passed before I realized he had gone to be with the Lord might as well be an eternity because I can never get them back. However, as a fellow follower of Christ, I do believe with all my heart that I will see my friend again one day.
Closing thoughts for my readers:
Dream big dreams and by all means make plans for your future, however, at the same time, live each day as if it were your last. If you have relationships that need attention, I encourage you to act now. If not now, then when? We are not guaranteed the next five minutes so make the most of your time.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
God bless you Damon for your service to our country.