We were at the start of another new year and I was hustling to kick off my first Social Connect PHX of 2020 on January 28.

The date was already set, the Success over Struggle panelists lined up and arrangements were made with my sponsor, Dave & Busters Tempe.

I was at my mom’s house when I noticed my dad’s car in the driveway. As I walked into the kitchen and greeted them hello, Mom looked at me and in her quiet voice said she needed to share some news.

There was something serious going on. My parents divorced in summer 2017 and my dad only came around the house if he needed to pick something up. He wasn’t his usual “talk politics and world news” self. Instead, he seemed more reserved and somber.

“Tisha, Dad learned he has an aneurysm in his stomach,” Mom shared. “We’re not sure of the date of the surgery yet, but once we know, you’ll need to be there to help him.”

Mom was leaving for a month in late January to go on a medical mission trip to the Philippines. With the news coming so suddenly, she couldn’t change her plans to be here but assured me everything would be fine. We expected him to be in surgery all day and a week in the hospital to recover.

I was officially on duty to be his caregiver.

When the date was finally scheduled in mid-January, Mom called and said, “We have a date. Hopefully you’re not busy on January 28 as it’s already set.”

Of course. It had to be THIS date. Not the day earlier or later.

I casually mentioned to Mom that this was the same date as my Social Connect quarterly event I had been working on for a few months and everything was already confirmed to reschedule to a later date.

Nonetheless, it was no biggie, I would make it work as my sole responsibility was dropping my dad off for surgery and being back late evening to check in on him.

As the weeks went by and we neared both events, I started to feel overwhelm kick in organizing my schedule of where I needed to be that day. I learned that the hospital wanted someone in the waiting room during Dad’s surgery in case anything happened, which meant I was really cutting it close to getting to my event to host it on time.

Thankfully, my sister Sasha could tell the stress was building up. She offered to be my support and flew in for few days from Northern CA to relieve me that day so I could do both. God love her! She’s always coming to my rescue.

She checked Dad in first thing in the morning at 6am and I arrived an hour later dressed in a sweatshirt, jeans and Converse au natural without makeup or done hair with my car packed to the brim with my event outfit, materials, my curling iron and make-up. No stranger to getting ready in public bathrooms at my events, I was going to make this work.

I stayed with Sasha as long as I could until 3:15pm in the hospital waiting room until I had to jet to the event.

When I walked in, my good friends Nat and Jodi had shown up early knowing the situation to help me unpack and set up.

As soon as he saw me come through the door, Nat gave me a once over and bluntly, yet politely, said, “Tisha, your event starts in a half hour. You look like a hot mess. You go get ready and we’ll take care of things out here.”

I zipped into the bathroom, threw my event outfit on, plugged the curling iron in, started putting my face on and 15 minutes later, I emerged as a new person.  Hot mess gone! Or, at least it was a good cover up.

Nat smiled and tossed me a compliment and before I knew it, the guests were arriving and I was already one very exhausted girl. Yet, when you’re the host, you show up even if you know it’s going to be a very long night.

No one except Nat, Jodi and the D&B event staff knew what was going on behind the scenes of my life.

No one knew I was ready to drop because I was already tired, but I put on a face that everything was okay to lead this event and ensure everyone there had the experience I promised.

Until, I decided not to hide and at the start of my Success over Struggle live panel on the microphone, I publicly shared with the audience that today was the day of all days and I needed grace; that my dad was in the hospital undergoing major surgery that surely would have its share of side effects; that my sister flew in to be my rock and that once the event was done, she and I were headed right back to the hospital for an all-nighter.

Love. Grace. Kindness. All things I received from my guests that night to help carry me through one of the most mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting days.

I even recall falling asleep on the railing of my dad’s hospital bed that night that Sasha had to drive me home. When she opened my front door, I made it as far as the family room couch and fell face flat in my heels, outfit and full make-up. It was definitely one of those “too tired to do anything” nights.

In the days that followed, what was supposed to be a week-long stay turned into almost a month when my dad suffered from internal bleeding and was rushed immediately to the intensive care. He was on life support fighting to stay alive. My sister extended her stay and my mom cut her trip short to fly back to us. Throughout the month of February, there were even more hospital visits and sleepless nights as dad started to pull through slowly. Now a lifetime patient on dialysis, his road to recovery is on the mend, but not anywhere what it was before the surgery.

While the story I’m sharing is unique to me and my family, we’ve all had days, months, years like this that have tested us and our strengths.

We have no idea what people are going through unless they choose to share and ask for help.

Don’t be too quick to judge before you know the real story behind the scenes. Take the time to listen or to reach out and ask how someone’s really doing.

Treat every single person you meet with respect and always show love, grace and kindness. It costs you nothing and goes an unbelievably long way. To my guests who showed me love on January 28, 2020 and continued to ask how Dad was, thank you. It truly is what kept me going this season.

Rule of Life Lesson #120: