Dave will never cease in his desire to shine in a way that helps others find their way. He is a mesmerizing storyteller and author of Letters to William. Dave sees this book as not an end to the story, but just the beginning of reconnecting many relationships locked in a struggle to find their way back together.
His passion is teaching and developing others to become better versions both personally and professionally. When you meet Dave you’ll be drawn to his energy and spontaneity
People may believe they are powerless to others’ decisions, but I believe every prayer will find its intended destination..
I believe reading my personal stories will help you truly process and give you hope when so many are trying to convince you there is none. There is no perfect family or perfect life. These letters will take you on an amazing journey of faith and pain. You will laugh and cry along the way and even learn a few things from Grandpa Champ.
May Letters to William bring sunshine to the darkness and pain. You are not alone.
Buy the book, Letters To WilliamSupport the show
🎶 Podcast Intro: Welcome to the pursuing uncomfortable podcast, where we give you the encouragement you need to lean into the uncomfortable stuff life puts in front of you, so you can love your life. If you are ready to overcome all the yuck that keeps you up at night, you're in the right place. I am your host, Melissa Ebken let's get going. 🎶
🎶 Episode Intro: Hello friends, this is Melissa. Welcome back to the pursuing uncomfortable podcast. Today I have with me, David Koll, or Dave, as he goes by. His story is a difficult one, a poignant one, and an inspirational one. He was estranged from his grandson and he wrote a bunch of letters to him that ultimately he put together into a book. By writing those letters, he learned so much about himself and about the nature of relationships. He's here with us today to talk about all of it. Nothing is off the table. Dave is willing to be vulnerable to answer any questions. I think you're going to find him amazing, like I did. If you want to ask him a question or leave a comment, hop over to melissaebken.com/blog and you can do so there. Let's meet dave. 🎶
Melissa Ebken 0:02
All right, friends, I have David Koll with me. David, what a pleasure it is to welcome you to the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast.
David Koll 0:13
Thanks, Melissa, it is truly my privilege to share this time with you.
Melissa Ebken 0:18
David, if there's anyone, I have the utmost respect for it is you. Your journey where you've been the vulnerability by which you share it. And the willingness to, to be critically honest of yourself is truly profound. So as we get into this interview, and folks will see that for themselves, I just wanted to acknowledge that upfront. David, your book, Letters to William, The Journey of Healing Through the Pain of Estrangement. And if you're listening to this podcast, you might want to jump over to YouTube and get a glimpse of this. He's got a book, I'm holding it up here. And there are several little bookmarks in it. Questions I want to ask and stories to highlight. So enough from me, David, your journey, the thing that struck me first, in the beginning of this book was your brutal honesty. You were in a situation that wasn't ideal.
David Koll 1:26
Very, very true. And I want to say thank you to you, Melissa. Because your your setup here is so helpful to me. Because, when we first talked online about the privilege of joining your podcast, I had to, I always want to explain that I am a I'm an individual who has felt so called and so pulled. And I was so against this process. Inside until I kept listening and I kept praying and kept trying to discern. And as I got to this point, I realized looking back that all of my feelings of being alone and the and the situation I was in with a very, very difficult marriage. With very, very real compounding events. I realized that is the more I felt alone, the more I felt shame, the more I realized that how many I started to believe, am I the only one? And after I started exposing this process to people, which was very, very well below the radar, I started realizing, Melissa, that there are so many people struggling with this. And whether it's in a family estrangement or a relation, a different relationship, estrangement, or even a relationship of self. And faith, you can become estranged, and I believe the more I found this, the more I realized I had to be authentic. I had to be pure and what I was going to show, because at the at the at the core of this book is a book for my grandson. And then, as I wrote, and started to realize afterwards, the letters became an opportunity. And maybe this pain that I was going through and the journey of self discovery I was on, maybe it wasn't just for me, maybe there's another prayer that needs to land. And if that one prayer can find a hardened heart or a soften end state, then I knew then it was worth it. And it's it's a constancy of curiosity in this process. And it's been one that I'm sure as we have a discussion here, we can ferret out a few and unpack a little bit. But it's been a wild journey.
Melissa Ebken 3:57
And we learn from the first page of the introduction that your oldest daughter is having a baby, and it's a child that you'll never see. And the book unfolds with working through all of those feelings in that process. And we get a glimpse into your marriage and the children that you had and how all of these things, as in your words, none of this happens in a zero sum situation that there are so many factors and so many levels and layers to all of these stories. And it really struck me right here in my heart when I was reading the story about your marriage day. And your reflections on that. Now, can you tell us a little bit about that for those that haven't read the book yet?
David Koll 4:46
Sure. Sure. And my ex wife and I, my wife at the time, as I started to write to my grandson about this and you captured it very well. As everyone wants a simple answer, everyone wants a simple one line solution. Oh, Mom and Dad are getting divorced, here's your answer, or why do you have a difficult relationship with your parent? Oh, here's your answer. And it's a sentence. But what all of us and us, me included, realize that there's so much nuance and you said it perfectly, the layers. And so when I think back to the beginning, I knew I had to share with my grandson and others that if I could capture that, that essence, it would also unravel others who who have been forced into a narrative, a narrative that isn't that isn't real. It's it's a narrative. Others tell about a reality that they have very little little knowledge about. And I wanted to capture that because when, when we first got married, my oldest daughter was it was one of those wonderful situations to where my wife prior to marriage got pregnant. And me being that guilty Catholic, I said, Okay, we're getting married. And I write about that in the book about after I think about that. What a terrible proposal. I never thought about it prior, I just thought that was my duty. That was my responsibility. And as I thought about the impacts to the relationship, even write, I'm sure my ex wife, Lisa, at the time probably had a thought while when she was a small child saying when I get married, the proposal is going to be this and it's going to be this knight in shining armor. Not some ding-bat in a driveway in Marshalltown, Iowa at nine o'clock at night. And so it really set the tone for where we were going, but we were, we were in such a difficult place. And I describe it in the book about how so many marriages start with hopes and dreams and excitement and, and prayerful aspiration. Ours really started from that first step of how are we going to do this? Why are we doing this? How can we do this? And both of us were dealing with demons at the time that really made it so, so difficult. And I wanted to capture that, because when you can see where you've been, where you've been, and you can see the beginning, you get a chance to see the journey, or lack of one. And that's the hard part is we see everyone from where the point of time is today. But we don't see where they've been along the way. Does that make sense?
Melissa Ebken 7:42
Absolutely. It's like looking at an iceberg and you can see the bit above the water, but you don't see the tremendous amount underneath it.
David Koll 7:52
For sure. For sure.
Melissa Ebken 7:55
So you have this beginning, and then the birth of your children were all very difficult, very dramatic. And I want to say traumatic, for all involved, for you, for your wife for the children that were being born. Do you want to say a little bit about that?
David Koll 8:14
Yeah, we we've always thought, or at least I've always thought and I think this is somewhat hilarious. Whenever we get into a neighborhood and I travel a lot. And we've been relocated a lot as you read in the book, with my business jobs that I've had. We're the one family that always seems to be that one that has the drama. You know, no one can go and say, Oh, our birth was great. Everything was wonderful. And you know, oh, the baby's beautiful and healthy. Oh, thank goodness, and away, you go. There's, we always laugh, there's always a story. There's always a nuance or something there. And what I started also to realize Melissa, is so few people know, their birth story. We all we all will hear our end of our last day story, because there will be a eulogy Dave was this Dave was this and I'll get four minutes of a, of a pastoral sort of reality and comic show. And we'll, we'll be done. Right? Dave was a funny guy, or Dave was very alone or whatever the case is. But I have found it fascinating that our birth stories are can be just as remarkable. And it just so happens my three biological children. All had significant story from my, from our oldest, Kate, who the book is primarily about that was our first birth and we had zero idea how it was supposed to go. And we were in such a significant problem in our marriage, even at six months in that we had no idea how to how to put those two things together. And I talked about her first day and I wanted to capture it in the book as something intriguing, so I made it a The Great Escape. And how Katelyn tried to escape our oldest tried to escape without anyone knowing it. And what she was doing was foreshadowing the birth of each subsequent child. Because due to a low amniotic fluid situation with mom, we didn't realize that this was a pattern in her birth process going back 35 years ago now that the M, the amniotic, the amniotic fluid is there to protect the baby. And what happened was the chord would get wrapped around our children, all three of our children had this happen. And we were so unaware, medically, but each birth had significant trauma associated with it. So Katelyn was born, and we I created it, The Great Escape. And then our second daughter, Alison. When she was six months in utero, the cord got wrapped around her neck, and she stroked inside. And so at the six month mark, she had a grade four hemorrhage, which created significant neurological, physical motor skill damage, which she has cerebral palsy and epilepsy. And it created a little nuance here.
Melissa Ebken 11:21
I want to pause here, if we could, if you don't mind, the way you write about it in your book, that moment when you woke up, and your wife is crying hysterically, and tells you that the unborn child has a problem in her head and your response of Oh, yeah, like, you're gonna know that. I love that. That very quickly, you trusted this woman's intuition. And it was confirmed later, but there was something transcendent working among the three of you in that moment.
David Koll 12:00
And it was so important, and it gives me kind of the goosebumps even thinking about it again, because at that morning we were in such a heavy stress environment. We were relocating to another job. We were in temporary housing. We were arguing and difficult. It was just one of those really bad adult moments, right? And then my ex wife, Lisa wakes up and she's crying. And she says, there's something wrong with the baby. And she knew, and if it I don't know why it was that moment. But I listened. And I said, come on, honey, that can't be it. It won't be it, isn't it. It's not it. And, and then she said, I know. We have to go. And I said, okay, let's go. And we went in. And it just so happens, we went to St. Paul Children's Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, which is by far one of the best in the region, it was all working out. And we went in and they were they were given us the poo-poo, right? Don't worry, it's nothing, don't worry. It's nothing. It's Braxton Hicks, you know, not that no big things to worry about. And my ex at the time was, or wife at the time was saying, check the head, check that baby's head, I know there's a problem. And the technician was doing oh, it's nothing. It's nothing. And I'll never forget, she stopped mid sentence. She stopped mid sentence and she was putting the ultrasound wand different angles, and more angles and her face contorted. And my wife at the time was saying, there's something wrong, you need to be sure there's something wrong. And the technician said, I'm gonna come right back literally dropped her wand and left. And two minutes later, we had four or five white coats in the room. My wife's hysterical, and they're all looking at the image. And they said nothing. Turned around, walked back out. Next, I have seven doctors in because we're at a teaching hospital, St. Paul is a teaching hospital. And so they were all they all came back in. And they said we have some very, very bad news. Your child has had an internal hemorrhage. It's a stroke. Your child will probably not make it for the next 30 days. And they walked us through all of the significant trauma that our daughter Allison was going to be going through. And that that was one of those moments where you realize, wow, now everything is going to change. No matter how this goes. It's even going to be further opportunity for us to figure it out or be buried by it. And it we didn't. We went through all of the process. And Allison was born full term. You know, at nine months, her due date and she was born, as I say in the book, and they were almost disappointed because our last diagnosis was Allison would be born, her head would swell and that she would probably die in our arms and to have her still with us and doing it everything she's doing and obviously there's some other stories with Allison in the book, but it's so miraculous of how she has endured how all of those around her have endured and that blessing that we received by her.
Melissa Ebken 15:16
One of my favorite moments in the book was Allison and the bicycle.
David Koll 15:21
Yes, yes. Now I fact, I like to say that I am the gift to how to train and how to ride a bicycle to my children even to the neighborhood. With with Allison's cerebral palsy, Allison, after a couple of years, we realized that Allison's motor skills and she the damage due to from the hemorrhage for the stroke would has caused cerebral palsy. I wanted as much as I could, to create an environment for Allison, that would be as normal as we could possibly make it. And Allison has this gift of drive. We're going to do it, we're going to get it and I want to and I said, Okay, Allison, do you want to ride a bike and I said, here's how we're going to train. So we put her on a bike, and with Allison, she couldn't hold the handlebar very well with her left hand due to the cerebral palsy, and she could get some movement out of her left foot. So we knew we'd have to overcompensate with her right side. And so we practiced first going down grassy knolls to where he would crash and fall, but it wouldn't hurt and it wouldn't cause too much damage. And so we finally got to the point where we said, okay, Alison, we're ready to go. Are you ready? She goes, yes dad, and we went out. And we got on a flat surface around the lake. To one of those little neighborhood ponds. And we said, okay, Alison, I'm gonna push, you ready? She was so fired up, she goes, I'm ready dad, and I gave her a shove Melissa, and she was going, and she was going and I was crying hysterically and celebrating the miracle that she can ride her bike. And then she started picking up speed. She started speeding. I could see that she was struggling to keep up with the pedals. And then I started like, oh, slow down, slow down, I started chasing her. And I noticed there was one of these big bricks in the middle of the of the path that are kind of flow the traffic from one side to the next at the corners. And Alison started heading right for that brick. And I took off running. I said, Allison slow down and then she started to kind of veer to the right. And I think, okay, she's fine. And I stopped. And then I realized it was only a subtle veer. And if she missed the brick, she was going into the busy street down below, and now I was really running and she hit that brick dead center, over the top, over the top, roll down the hill, I'm running, I can't see her you more, she comes up to the top, completely laughing and grinning. And she says, Dad, I have no idea how to stop that thing. And I said, the next time we work on breaking Allison, that's my fault.
Melissa Ebken 17:58
Note to self, when learning how to ride a bike, it's important to learn how to stop. Yes. But I love that she just jumped up and came back at you, it was like, Hey, we should learn how to stop.
David Koll 18:10
Dad. Dad. And that's always been Allison. And it's always been her personality. And then what you what the reader will see and you've seen in the book is, I found that after end of these stories, they almost naturally became lessons or, or opportunities to share back to my grandson saying, hey, in life, you're gonna get on, you're gonna have to just get on the bike, and you're gonna have to pedal and you're gonna have to move. And we think we can prepare for everything. And we ended up paralyzing our steps instead of being encouraged to be courageous to take them. And so I found a lot of if not every one of the letters I wrote, started to take on a very purposeful. The story would start, and the lesson would kind of come out in the writing. And as everyone will know who reads this, I'm not Shakespeare, but I think the opportunity to let your pen flow, and I call it letting the ink bleed. Because too many people came up to me. So after writing the book, or since writing the book, and they're like, how did you write this? And I said, No, that's the wrong answer. Allowing it is your first step. And if you just let your pen kind of make those scribbles, it's amazing how the pen will find its way. And you don't have to edit truth. You don't have to edit authentic, you just allow it. And it really becomes interesting.
Melissa Ebken 19:39
That's one of the more beautiful things about your book and the stories. You didn't gloss over. Or you can tell that you didn't go back and make the emotions pretty. They're gritty, they're authentic, and they're so real and so relatable. My life experience is so much different than yours, but when I read these stories, I connect through that authenticity, and through that genuine expression, so thank you for that.
David Koll 20:07
Well, thank you for the Thank you. And it's one of those. I, I knew writing it that. And when I first started writing, it was going to be just, I just thought it was gonna be a cathartic sort of one day release, oh, my daughter will will bend, we'll get back to what we normally do, we start, we stop, we'll have these breaks. And it'll be just one day. And after I kept writing and kept writing, the weeks became months and months became a lot of months. And the writing almost took its own. But I knew that I couldn't. And I say this in the book several places. I couldn't let this feeling consume me. I was afraid I was afraid of it. I was really afraid of it. Because if I did, it would if I let it eat, it would consume but I had to be aware of it. And I had to I had to write it. And I liken it, whether it's the Holy Spirit, or it was I was feeling this compelling to, to let it find its relevancy on paper, and let it get out of me internally and let it find residents externally. And so it really allowed me to not be editing on the fly. It just said, Okay, let's, this is how I feel. And there are several letters. I start off with, I'm in a horrible mood today. That I hate today. It's it's two days from Father's Day, it's the worst day of my year. And those are my
Melissa Ebken 21:43
Yeah, oh that letter. That was hmm.
David Koll 21:45
Yeah, I wanted. And I want because I think there's a there's a place for pain, right. And the more that pain becomes purposeful, or the sacrifice, or the, or the struggle, the friction. I've I see this in our in our own, and we have seven between us now. So my four non biological children and my are three originals. I call them the hobos in that in the book. Anytime you can own your couch and own the house within it and still be on mine, you're a hobo, in a loving, loving sense. And that's why I say my wife sighs explode when the kids come to the house and behind the scenes, it's, it's the best day we could ever have. But to have, but to have that awareness to who we are. And what we are. I think what you said there, Melissa is, is so many of these stories are shared experience. And too many times they're held in darkness. And if we can allow those to be exposed, that's been my my, if it's a mission, if it's an opportunity, it's whatever I can do to really allow others not to feel alone in this in this journey. Because the evil will try to convince you that you are alone, that it is your shame, and it will never be reconciled. And I'm here to tell you, that's a lie. It's an opportunity to become better first inside. Because it's counterintuitive. The pain is coming from someone else. So you want to react and I did that for years. I'm right, you're wrong, I can show you why. And what I realized is, wait a minute, what if just, and I'm saying this with purpose? What if I am the problem? A little bit? And once you start your question with it's not me, but maybe it is, you can start to now let light into places that you maybe wanted to even keep quiet for yourself. And that that is when I believe the letters get written.
Melissa Ebken 24:00
That gets right to the heart of this podcast in the goal in the hope that we have so many external factors in our world that encourage us and tell us and preach to us and pressure us to stay out of what's uncomfortable, stay comfortable. Don't go into the other stuff. If you have difficult relationships, cut them off, get them out of your life. But in the heart of this book, and I think in the heart of true lived experience, that living into that uncomfortable space and going through those uncomfortable waters. That's where the real growth the real, and I don't want to say the word magic but the real possibilities and opportunities lie that when we're not afraid or maybe even when we are afraid that we lean into that. Oh my goodness, so many more things because
David Koll 24:55
You just gave me goosebumps again. That's I had a conversation a a reader went through a friend called me and got my, my phone and, you know, phones in the book, everything's in the book anybody wants to call, I highly encourage it because I love anything I can do. But I got on the phone today and they, they were talking about this concept of time will heal all wounds. And I said the problem with that is it's a great statement, it eases everything. But the heart isn't a clock. The heart does not have a clock in it. It's it's, it's the only organ in our human body that isn't controlled by the brain. And if you start to think about that, and you think about how the heart needs to find its way, and it will continue to hold on to things if we don't go into the heart and release it. And that's a very, very difficult and anybody and I say this early in the book, anybody is going to tell you that this is easy. This is not a a book that says if you just follow these three steps, you'll be you'll be back to a great relationship. It's no, it's not true. And we have to be okay with that. And because perfect is a lie. That's the other thing about this, whether you're living any life is we're always held to a standard self, first of saying, Oh, we got to be perfect. And no you've got to be a better version. And once you become just a better version day in and day out. And believe me days, I'm waking up going God, please, yesterday, I don't think I was how can I become? And if you can just be open to the possibilities. I believe this book and others who have different same similar sentiment, will will open that possibility to allow as I say this a lot to allow the prayer to find its intended destination. Because if we can go first to self and say what if? And if what if is uncomfortable, that's okay. Just be okay with that. It's okay, you know what, I didn't do it right then. Maybe with a little bit of, of perspective here and diligence here, I can find a better tomorrow than I am today. And that in the end, is the mission. And that's what to me makes this podcast so special. And that is such a purposeful solution, because everybody is telling us delete them, excise them, detoxify. And it's only in the friction that you find an edge of sharpening. And it's only in that process that when you're honest, you can say as I did it for for years and continue to say, well, that's that, that it's, it's easy to step back into that behavior, but it's more powerful and long term, if you step out of it.
Melissa Ebken 25:33
When and you've leaned into the most difficult journey of all, you leaned into the story that you may have been wrong.
David Koll 27:36
And, and most it's so hard because those around you, I mean, close, it's hard to let go of hurt. It's hard and I didn't want to. But the more I prayed about it and thought about it and became about it. The the hard part is those around you have a status quo of negativity as well, the ache, they have heard the negative story, they want to continue it, they want to perpetuate it. That's their status quo. And so it's it's really one to where it's not. It's it's you yes, but it's also the your your, your inner circle has to have has to come to grips with. It's okay. We don't have to carry the balance sheet that says they did more wrong to you. And so you, I say this, it's not, estrangement, like a horrible balance sheet that will never balance. Because we're always in constant sort of comparing your hurt was greater than mine, or my hurt was greater than yours. And we we never reconcile. It's always the tax the tax of this and it's always taxed higher and higher, to where it's a circle that you can't get out of unless you stop it. And that's the hard place and people ask all the time. Yeah, but it's, you know, you had an easier. No, it's still I still carry around every relationship I have as if it's a soap bubble. And I don't I want to be careful with it. But I never want it. I never want that soap bubble to be considered perfect. It's because it never will be but it's ours. And if that relationship is one day you see someone it's so much different than zero. And it, can you build on that? And is it okay just to have a phone call? Is it okay just to have a letter of awareness and so I love it when the readers send me a note. I haven't talked to my sister in two years, I just talked to her. I'm so tired of apologies over gravesites.
Melissa Ebken 30:25
That is profound. Yes. And Dave, when you leaned into that possibility that you may have been wrong, whether you were or whether you're not, when you leaned into that it changed that perspective a little bit from keeping score on that tally sheet, to getting your perspective to what you want, as opposed to how well you're doing or whether you were right, it's, and I.
David Koll 31:00
It's such a, I'm thinking about, because there's so many times I want to react and say I'm right, I'm not wrong. I'm right. That did not happen. That is a lie that did not and I want to I want to course correct the narrative. And there's a letter I write to William, where I'm getting in a plane in the morning, and I'm walking down the aisle of a plane, and an individual stands up and says, there goes Dave Koll, the homewrecker. I mean, not just saying it under his breath, he's screaming it on a Southwest Airlines flight. And I'm walking down the aisle. And my peers in the meeting we're flying to are with me in the aisle. They have. And it's one of those life realities to where I'm walking, and I remember processing it saying, what? I he using my name. Who is this guy? And why is he screaming at somebody? He's screaming at me. And I ended up turning and realizing quickly who it was what he was saying. And I, I could feel my soul wanting to defend. And at that moment, it was, Hey, have a nice day, turned around, went back and sat down. And the first thing that came to my mind was, how do you blame an echo? How, as much as I wanted to defend my honor, and my pride in front and embarrassment in front of my peers. Something came to me in my soul that said, how do you blame an echo? And how many of us are carrying around stories that are just echoes of two or three or four or five that have been carried through the chain? And why wouldn't he scream if he thought that's what happened? If he thought that's what he was told. But these narratives get out of control, and they get life and the lie needs to be retold. It just keeps going and going. It'll just cut in the middle to stay alive all the way. But the truth has to chase it, and how we deal with that. And that was where to me as as difficult as it is as hard as it is in these situations for all of us. If we can just pause, just pause and say, what if? What if what he heard he believes is true. He's protecting his friend, he's protecting his best friend. And in a situation, I obviously I would hope you wouldn't do it again, anybody. But it allowed me to further drive self awareness, and also find opportunity to deepen my own processing of this pain.
Melissa Ebken 34:03
Let's talk about the dreams, the wonderful gift of the dreams.
David Koll 34:10
Now, I have said for years that it's not witchcraft, I believe it I believe it that there's two I have two there. I think there's two types of dreams. There's the dream of your mind that just has a an escape, right? The it just your brain just takes a vacation and allows anything to fall in. And I also believe that this is a the dreams are used and you go into the Bible and you can go find this. But dreams are used by the Holy Spirit and others to communicate and to share and to encourage and during this process. I would have dreams of meeting my grandson. I would have dreams where I would literally hold him and I could physically in my dreams, feel him. And I could, I would wake up emotional. And so appreciative. The Holy Spirit allowed that moment that when I would be at my darkest moment, I would, there would be a dream, and it would come in, and it would be my grandson. And one of my favorites, I'll never forget, he, he would come to me. He came to me, and he raised him up, and I held him. And he said, Grandpa Champ, and he said, my name, and I said, Oh, my gosh, William, thank God, you know who I am. And we went through this, but I truly believe dreams can be used to allow you to see to feel so I'm a big believer in an intent and feeling and allowing dreams to come in, and to be present in a way that it's a pretty precious gift to me. And those were moments in this journey to where I needed them. And they came. And so it was really, really important.
Melissa Ebken 36:13
Things got pretty dark for you, I you write it with, again, honest vulnerability of how dark and hopeless things were. And I want to, I'm not sure what I want to do. But I guess I want to thank you, again, for your vulnerability and for your honesty, it gave me another entry point into other situations and experiences and difficulties in my life when I have felt helplessness. And your honest expression of that. And, you know, finding rays of hope to cling to in the midst of that was really powerful.
David Koll 36:57
Thank you. It's just as you are saying that I can feel my my emotion come in, right. And I can feel those those moments. And hope, I write to William in a couple of letters about hope. And I, I tell him, Don't ever let someone sell you hope. Because that's what God gave you innately. It's in your heart, that's what propels us one day to the next, it's hope. And it's when you see that suns, those sun's rays come up or go down. Or when you when you feel that that warmth, or see something of just amazing beauty. That's hope, you see hope you can feel it. And but that doesn't negate the constancy of that battle. Because evil will want you to feel that you're hopeless, it will want to tell you, you don't have enough in the tank give up. And I'm no different. I'm not. I'm not some monk, I would wake up just just truly saying, What am I doing? Why is what is this ever going to find itself and it was so difficult and on days, that when you wake up, and everything's telling you to give up, and your friends, and all in their best moments, oh, don't pay attention to her, she's this and she's better off, you're better off without her. No I'm not. Your, you know, your heart knows the truth. And so everything is, is there. And I wanted to capture that. Because I knew if I wrote these letters to William or if anyone was going to read those, they had to be an authentic description as best I could. Because I know that others are in that same place. And I never want wanted it to be read to where, nah, that was nothing. No, it is so hard. And so sometimes difficult. And the more I told myself, and felt the prayers of others or felt those moments, the more I realized, I'm not alone. I'm not and and he's your your faith, your opportunity, your your, your, your spirit, is is sitting there saying to you don't don't give up. Don't Don't, don't allow this and today's a hard day, tomorrow's a new one. Work through it and find that better version and the and I think mastery in this life is is is just in that every day realization that you have what you need. It's not more It's you have what you need. And even though I cried myself to sleep, and begged God for this to reconcile, I'm I knew the prayer would find itself, I knew it would come in, I knew it would find me first. And if I knew I could heal me, then it became a possibility to heal others. And therein lies the truth. And that that opportunity is so real and anyone listening, I think we do a disservice to to people in this moment in these moments of desperation I because I say estrangement is is a poison you drink every day. You drink it every day. And others around, you don't see the side effects of it all the time. They think you're just doing what you do unrolling but you've got to figure out a way to keep those side effects from becoming visible. And what I realized was the only the only antidote, the only thing that I could take to solve it was prayer. And the more I prayed, the more the virus dissipated. And I could feel myself when I wasn't prayerful, and I'm not a, listen, I am not the you want to say God does the most with the least he is doing it with me. Every day, they are laughing in heaven going this moron, this is who you chose. But the more I found myself in those depths, the more I listened and heard. And it's not witchcraft, it's just allowing your soul whether it's God or any spiritual solution you want, allow it to find residence in your heart, and then pay the mortgage for that for that to live there, be open to it be available for it. And, okay, today, it wasn't a good one help me out tomorrow here. And that path becomes illuminated. And that's what I want from anyone who reads the book is this path can be illuminated. It can be illuminated, and you can find your story. You can find self, not in perfection, but just in the ordinary. And once ordinaries achieved, you've got it.
Melissa Ebken 42:41
What happened on April 19?
David Koll 42:43
Oh, Melissa. On April 19, a prayer found its intended destination at its most darkest. And this was one of the things about the letters when the publisher asked about the letters I said there's one only one asked about the letters is we will never change them. We can cut pieces out. But we can't take we can't change them. And they were very initially, well, you know, and I said, I said if this, if this is going to work, it's gonna be real. And so we ended up moving a lot of letters around to try to make sense. And those are the readers will see that. So there's no timeline associated. But the letter right before April 19 is the letter I wrote. And I was at my darkest time. I thought the overburden of all of this was going to suffocate me. I was trying to to breathe the day before. And I knew that I had to breathe. And I knew that I had to just hold on. And I'm driving in the car and I get a text from my ex wife that said, if you want to see William he's he's at this address right now. Now, my son William, is also named William and we explain that in the book, but he's a long list of Williams and I had just had dinner with William which we call Red Dog is his nickname. The night before and I texted back. Do you mean William Clifford my our son? And she said no. And now I don't have my reading glasses on. I can't see a thing without them and I'm driving and I'm trying to figure it out Melissa and I'm like, and I could feel my heart just pounding, pounding. And the other thing about April 19, it was good Friday. And as I am driving in that car, I had to pull over to the turn lane because I couldn't control what my heart was saying to me. In my mind my system was getting ahead of my ability to process it. And so I texted back. Is Katelyn okay with this? Is are you sure? And she said yes and yes. And I drove to the address. And I, I don't know how I turned the car. I don't know how I moved the vehicle to propel it forward, but I pulled into the driveway. And I immediately thought I was at the wrong driveway. And the house was dark, the doors were shut, there were no cars in the driveway. And I'm like, Oh my gosh, she gave me a wrong address on purpose. And this was just a bad deal. And I thought, no, no, no, no, no, this can't be it. And I looked at the address again, it was the right. I got out of the car. And I started walking towards the door and the door opened up and there was my middle daughter, Allison, and she was waving me to come in. And now's when I know this is going to happen. Every prayer. There were 1000's of I mean, not just mine, but so many others. I can feel them landing. Each step I took they made my muscles move. And as I opened the door, I walked in and it was a long hallway. And there was no one in the hallway. All I could hear was it was like a pet store. There were dogs barking in the all this commotion. And I thought, my goodness, what kind of houses is where all these flippin? Where's grandma? Where's grandpa? Where is this child? And out of nowhere came around the corner, my ex wife carrying the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. There he was in physical presence. My grandson. Two and a half years after he started his first breath, he is now breathing in front of me. And I remember processing this in trying to in real time. And I happened to get some form of video going on my camera because I thought I was going to be able to take a quick picture. And I handed it to my daughter, Alison, I said, can you capture this. And at that moment, my ex wife was handing me, my grandson and to feel his physical presence. When for so many days and weeks and years, I could only write about it or feel him spiritually was overwhelming, it was it was overwhelming. And I could feel myself losing sort of my control and I was crying and and I could feel him become unsure. And then he reached back for grandma and I gave him back to her. And he turned over his shoulder to look at me again. And I could feel him studying me. I could feel him looking at me. And she, my ex wife did a perfect thing because she took him and sat him down in the living room on the floor. And she went and got two little a black car and a red car that he loved to play with. And he sat there and he looked at me and I went over and I sat with him on the floor. And Melissa, he started showing me how the cars work. And what in my mind, he wasn't saying, Grandpa, where have you been? Grandpa why have you abandoned me grandpa? Why is this grandpa? What normal adults would have said is how come? How come? He didn't care? All he wanted was to get me up to speed and say Grandpa, these are my two favorite cars let's play with them. And we played with them. And then he got up and he walked over the credenza, and he brought up a book about firemen back and he sat in my lap. And I read the page on the book and he would look at me and study my face, and I could feel him say to me so your Grandpa Champ. I've been waiting. I've known I've known you. And the more we went through this book, the more those looks and those feelings, and it finally became time to go and and I stood up and I held him up in front of me. And he just stared at me looking at me and processing. And here's this little two and a half year old, gorgeous soul. And my ex said, he is really studying. And what he was telling me was everything I wanted to feel and hear was he knew he knew we were one knew we were together and that it's okay And that no matter what, from this moment on, we can't be apart. We're together. There may be distance, there may be this, but we have felt our physical presence connect. And it is a remarkable, transformative, amazing feeling to believe you won't, but prayer that you pray that you can. And then at the end of that, realize from this point on, it's okay. It's okay. And no matter how and what and what becomes, it's okay. And that was my April 19th.
Melissa Ebken 50:46
Do you think he had the same dreams?
David Koll 50:48
Oh, there's probably going to be a few people to go okay, Dave. I know he did. I know he did. And I found this back. And I kept hitting me, as you know, in the Bible. So many parables, so many stories about a childlike faith. And I am convinced that when you were born, you have and know the secret of heaven, you know, the secret. You were just there. But, but to the attrition of becoming human and man. We nullify that awareness. And I think that's why Jesus said, Have the faith of a child or don't ever hurt the faith of a child. And that, to me, is what was so precious and always is with this crazy kid is he knows. And he's been telling me and influencing me, too. It's okay, grandpa, it's okay, Grandpa Champ, you're gonna be fine. And he's been there all the way through this. And I just had another dream. We're in New Orleans now where we live, and he's up in Omaha. And I just had another dream about him two nights ago, where he came to me and we were fishing. And he was telling me this story. And I couldn't understand it in the dream of why are you telling me this story. And I woke up and I'm like, alright, we got to figure out, we got to figure this out, gets he's coming to me again. And he wants something from me. And he wants to tell me something. And so I know, he knows. And that's the that's the preciousness of the relationship. It's the preciousness of no matter what. And it's the opportunity that I think this story, these letters, I pray, will find residence in hearts that not just for those that are hurting, but also for those that have hurt. Because we are all in this process and the only one winning is evil. It's okay. It's okay to say, wait a minute, we got to stop this. My grandpa used to always tell me, Dave, the only hole that could ever be filled on this earth that's been dug by man is with God. And if you're going to fill it back up with with pain, it'll never balance. But if you can fill it back up with forgiveness, or just an opportunity, you'll find you'll find that its not so heavy. There's still bad days. Don't ever let anybody tell you there's not because that's what we have to deal with. But once you figure it out that okay, what's the lesson of the blessing here? Right? What are we what am I trying to get? And if I can hear that and feel that then I can be relevant and present for it. And there's so many prayers that are waiting to land and that's what I say at the end of the book. I write from William's perspective back to me a letter at the end and I say why and Grandpa why? Why did this happen? Why did why were we allowed to meet and I said I don't have an answer. But I think the simplest answer is the real one. The door that was typically locked in someone's heart for some reason was left unlocked that day. And a prayer found its way in and if if we open ourselves up to that possibility, then it's okay. Still hurts. Still hurts. But it's okay.
Melissa Ebken 54:43
That's beautiful. Do you still have a relationship with him today?
David Koll 54:47
We do and I always like you know, that crazy kid I know isn't gonna matter a much on the for the video but he
Melissa Ebken 54:56
Alright folks jump over to YouTube to see this Sir, yeah,
David Koll 55:01
You can't print that smile. But, and this is the same. This is the same thing I talked about this with at the final part of the letters and some of the challenges I have in the book. And as you read, I tried to step out of the letters to input little Champ's Challenges for the reader to, to attempt to even further and make some compelling or irrelevant arguments or statements. And the relationship with my oldest daughter is people would say, oh my gosh, it's broken. It's why aren't you seeing her more? Why aren't you talking more? Why is she so angry about this? Or why is she so happy? We have to be true to the possibility that this may be the relationship and it's okay. And I think about my oldest daughter all the way to our youngest daughter who's a junior in college, they are so different. And the relationships are different and the proximity and the continuation of things are different. And we have to be okay with it's that can't be the same across and Katelyn and I are still there are days there are bad days. This this book process was very difficult for Kate and very, very unsettling. I she has all the right reason to say Dad, why? How come? Don't and I have to be okay with Kate it's it's it's, it's being pulled honey. And this is not about me. This is about what could come out of this for others. And she's she's still processing. And it's okay. And it's not easy. It because I go back to the rule. What if, of course, she's hurting, of course, she sees this. She doesn't want to be ostracized, she doesn't want to be vilified. She does. I get all that. But
Melissa Ebken 57:13
I didn't read it, that she was a villain ever, or vilified. I read it as there are a lot of people hurting in the story. The only real person I felt was vilified was you towards yourself. And I don't know that it was vilifying I think it was you being honest.
David Koll 57:33
When I when I wrote this, when the letter started to become a possibility for publication. If this was going to be I'm right, you're wrong. And I'm going to prove it to all my 14 friends, then it would be horrific. And what I wanted this ultimately to be as a almost a sort of public apology and an awareness of self to say, man, your mom and dad were some really bad husband and wives. But they were very, very pretty dang good mom and dads. And in that it made some very, very difficult realities. And there's so many of these relationships and marriages out there that could hopefully if they're in the middle of it stop, stop hurting each other the kids are there. That's such a it's such a hard reality for me to own is we thought we could keep our weapons and guns pointed at each other metaphorically, and not have that impact the relationship of our children. And that's where the reality of vilifying is, you know what, let's just be accountable for it. Let's own it. And we still have, you know, there's always gonna be trolls. We got trolls out there on the internet. Oh, you know you did this. You did that. No. I know what we did. I know how we did it. And please read the book and realize that I know why Katelyn's hurt. I know what she's hurting. And I know why they are hurting. And I know how possible it is to find forgiveness.
Melissa Ebken 59:27
David, one last thing before we jump off here, you listed the address in the book that well the house number that you're driving to on that April 19. It was 7911. Do you know what that sends me? When I read those numbers? Heaven Hell. 7911 Okay, Heaven Hell. All right. I'm sorry. We're out of time. Dave, I thank you so much for your story for your vulnerability. This book it's called Letters to William, The Journey of Healing Through the Pain of Estrangement. The link to buy this book is in the show notes. Make sure you click on it, make sure you buy several copies, share them with all of your friends. Dave, it's been a blessing. Thank you so much.
David Koll 1:00:20
Thank you for taking the time to listen and a prayer will find its intended destination.
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