I had just gotten out of the Marine Corps in 1994, when I started working at Hollis-Brookline High School in Hollis, New Hampshire. I was a full-time substitute teacher and coaching basketball and soccer. I love every minute of teaching and coaching, but I wasn't a curriculum guy and I knew I wanted something bigger than teaching in one building. I wanted to be a speaker and travel working and inspiring students all over the country.
I spent hours at night in my bedroom. A small room in a house I shared with three other guys. My roommates would laugh at me as I practiced but I laughed too. It was a dream. Farfetched too. Who wakes up and says, "I want to be a motivational speaker?" I guess I did.
I heard about The National Speakers Association in Arizona. I had contacted them when they told me about The New England Speakers Association. What? There was a speakers organization close to me? Immediately, I contacted them and I was attending the next meeting whatever I had to do I was prepared. Nothing was stopping me.
I am not sure of the timeline although it was about April of 1995 when I connected with New England Speakers New England. They were having the New England Speakers Association Speakers School Conference and the keynote speaker was Mr. Ray Pelletier. WOW! He was amazing. I sat there in awe of his presence and ability to tell stories. I ended up driving him to the airport and sitting with him for a couple hours before his flight. I thought I was sitting with a star. I'll never forget him. God Bless his soul as he rest in Heaven. He was an amazing person and very influential in my career as a speaker.
There was this one lady who had taken me under her wing since Day 1. Her name was Margo Chevers. She sat on the board. She was a past president of The England Speakers Association. When she spoke, I was attentive to her every word. She gave me tips and tools, advice and wisdom. She was my coach and go-to person when it came to speaking. We talked quite often. I knew her personally as well as professionally. Margo has been so instrumental in my career as a speaker that has now spanned over two decades.
On August 9th, 2018 I received a phone call from Margo that I will never forget. As a matter of fact, it was the first phone call I've ever received with this message. Margo had been diagnosed with cancer a while ago and with Chemo and the care of doctors we all thought it was in remission and she was doing ok.
Well, this phone call she had told me how much I had meant to her. She had told me where she was and what the doctors were saying. The doctors had just told her that the time was here where she needed to start putting her affairs in order. I'm silent as I am listening. Speechless. What do I say? I just listened and told her too how much she meant to me.
Margo had shared a lot of her personal life with me over the years. The raising of her grandchildren and the situation how it all happened and the day to day of the girls and her mother. I knew she had served not only many speakers and audiences, but she was truly a selfless person of love and compassion for others. Her and the girls had visited my home on Cape Cod. They were special.
This phone call though was that call you make to those people in your life when you want to say something and don't want to regret you left the world without reaching out. I felt it. My heartbeat was racing.
I'm still at a loss as I write this, but I have to honor her. In our 20 minute conversation she shared what she has done, how she has lived, the lives she has touched. She was in a good place. I even felt her smile a little. I thought to myself, "Yeah, you've done a lot and made a difference in many people's lives, especially mine."
I once heard in my speaking career, "Are you after TITLES or TESTIMONIES?" Yeah, I get it. What is Margo's title, "Speaker?" What's mine? Interesting as I write that because I just interviewed with a Head Casting Agent for a new reality TV Show with FOX Television and one of the questions they kept asking me was, "What is my title?" I didn't really have one because I've always gone by, Jeff Yalden. I'm a speaker. I'm Jeff. I do mental health and suicide prevention. I speak motivation and life. I've never cared about titles, but the testimony is what I hope when I pass is what they'll talk about when I am gone - not the title.
Margo. Yeah, she is Margo. Like, Mike. Or, LeBron. Oprah. She is Margo. She deserves that and I am going to honor her.
I'm only 47 years old and she called me to tell me how much I meant to her. She has meant the same to me and I am at a loss of how best I can tell her story, but I don't want Margo to go without people knowing her legacy and I can't tell that with a title, but the book I am going to write will be, Margo, The Testimony.
I guess that is all for now as I sit here with tears in my eyes thinking that a dear friend, a great coach, and lovely lady that has been so instrumental in my career has been told by the doctors to start putting her affairs in order.
Oh gosh . . . .