Senior Says: Living each day by kindness leads to lifetime of less regrets

He closed his eyes, folding his hands in his lap. “Her name was Joyce, but once she got to college, everyone started calling her Joy, and it stuck. It it was the perfect name for her too.” He smiled softly, remembering, “she really was a joy.”

Forty six years earlier, Brock Knoll was working at a school for children with developmental disabilities. That’s where he met his wife, Joy Hartwig, who was student teaching in Des Moines at the time.

“We were getting to know each other as friends,” Brock laughed as he continued, “and then this one night I was kind of moping around my apartment, and my landlady, who was tired of all my complaining, said, ‘Well, why don’t you just ask that one girl out?’ And so I did.”

Two short years later, he and Joy were married.

Brock is a current resident of Willowood care facility. He grew up in Cedar Falls as an only child, living with his parents in a small house on Grand Boulevard. As a boy, he attended Cedar Heights Elementary, and later on he attended Cedar Falls High School. Brock was not the best student, however Grandview college in Des Moines accepted him on probation after graduating.

Following his marriage in ’72, Brock moved back to Cedar Falls and found work in a machine shop at Viking Pump, where he ended up staying until retirement.

In 1990 he began taking night classes, and by 2000 he had an undergraduate in psychology and a graduate degree in mental health counseling from UNI.

While Brock was blessed with many things throughout his life, the one thing he loved the most was his wife, Joy.

“I think like any marriage, we had our ups and downs, but we learned, and if I’m a better man today it’s because of her.”

The two were married for 42 years before Joyce passed away in 2015 from emphysema.

“I don’t know how I got through it, and maybe I didn’t. Maybe that’s something that you don’t get over, you just get used to.” His voice broke.

“Back in 2004 I was diagnosed with cancer, so I had surgery and radiation, and things were looking fine until Joy got sick. We found out that my cancer had come back, so we started looking more toward controlling the cancer rather than curing it. After she died, I stopped taking treatment, and I’m in hospice now.” He paused. “I’m happy. I’m anxious to see her again, and I may not be the poster child for hospice because I’m smiling all the time, but I’m happy.” He chuckled, looking down at his lap. “The love that my parents had for me and the love that Joy and I had, that’s what life is about to me. And I’ve just been so blessed.”

After hearing about Brock going into Hospice, the residents of Willowwood lit candles to show their love and support for him.

“The fact that people who don’t even know me all that well would do something like that for me,” his voice broke, “it was so kind.”

And the kindness Brock has been shown in his 67 years has taught him an awful lot about how he thinks people should live their lives.

“I don’t want to make it sound trite, but I think the best way to describe it is it’s not about you, so get over yourself and just be kind. I think one of the biggest regrets I have from my generation is that we’re handing over kind of a broken world to your generation. I heard somewhere that in every major religion there is some iteration of the statement: do unto others as you would have others do unto you. I look back on how I treated the woman that I had promised to marry and love, and I realize that I didn’t listen and I didn’t ask and I wasn’t patient and I hurt her. And I’ve wanted so much to have those moments back, to do it differently, to be kind and to treat her as I would have wanted to have been treated.”

He paused, thoughtfully wringing his hands.

“I think in a way, if you have no regrets, what have you learned? If you can’t look back and say I would change this about myself, then it kind of means that you’re the same person now that you were then, so, have you really grown? Have you really learned? Has anything really changed?”

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