It was February 13, 2019.
This day would forever change my life, and the lives of so many others, in ways that we will never fully comprehend.
I was sitting in Nashville, Tennessee, working with clients when my phone rang.
On the other end was a familiar voice that asked, “Are you ok?”
My immediate response was, “Sure, everything is great!”
My friend pressed me again, “Did you see the news? I thought you were at that dental office that just had a shooting.”
Within minutes, I received multiple text messages from concerned friends and colleagues, asking me if I was OK. I eased everyone’s minds by letting them know I was out of town and safe. While my response reassured their wondering hearts, mine was filling with fear and terror. Once seeing the breaking news, I immediately texted a friend of mine, Harry Weaver, asking if his wife, Kelly, was OK. Kelly worked at the dental practice where the shooting took place, and I had to know if she was safe.
Little did I know that it was him, Mr. Weaver, who did the shooting, and that he had killed his wife, Kelly, who also was my friend. Over the next few days, my heart wept, and I wasn’t the same. I mourned the loss of a local dental colleague, the loss of a church member and my friends.
“What can I do to help? Lord, please show me how I can help this dental practice, and the people hurting from this tragedy.”
On late Friday evening, my phone rang, and it was one of our local dental sales reps from Henry Schein, Ben Kolbusch. He wanted to tell me about his client and friend, Dr. David Guy, and wanted to know if I could do anything to help the practice after this tragic incident. At that moment, without hesitation, the word “yes” flew out of my mouth. I didn’t know what I really was saying “yes” to, but I was all in, and that decision would leave me
“What can I do to help you?”
Saturday morning came, and a meeting between Dr. Guy, his wife, Jane, and myself commenced. All I could do was ask a simple question, “What can I do to help you?” There
we all sat, fighting back the tears, holding back emotions of the moment and struck with grief. We hugged and embraced. They shared with me the story of the shooting: How Dr. Guy had lost Kelly, his dear office manager of 18 years, and family friend of 30+ years. Kelly had been Dr. Guy’s office manager for nearly two decades. She had died at the hands of her husband, Harry Weaver, and in the arms of her sweet friend and coworker, Sabrina.
My next question to Dr. Guy was, “Let’s travel back to a time before Wednesday, and you tell me what you and Jane had been talking about weeks and even years before
this event. What kind of conversations were you having about your dental practice? What were you wanting to do at the ripe age of 69?”
We began a conversation about his nearly 40 years in business, the career he has had and what his name means to the community. As they shared their stories, I could see their smiles showing up at that moment. Many, many stories of love and patient care, kindness and service were shared with me. We talked for hours about what they had envisioned before this horrific incident. My notebook was filling up with ideas, dreams, and values
that were important to them.
After talking, I followed up by asking, “Would you still want to work if we could make that happen for you?” This was a difficult question for Dr. Guy to answer, knowing the tragedy he had experienced and the grief that he was dealing with and would continue to embark
on; however, I don’t think that question had crossed his mind yet. I did not want his career to end with this tragedy or the 40 years of his practice to be defined by this one moment. That was not who he was.
So, we talked about multiple scenarios.
There’s always scenario #1, which was to shut the doors, move the charts and let someone else care for the patients. We talked about scenario #2, merging with the dentist next door, working for a year or so or until he felt like he was ready to retire. That way, his patients would not have to come back to this office of what was now a crime scene. And then, we talked about another scenario, #3, which was selling his practice and getting him a job where he felt that he could work until he didn’t want to work anymore. This way, it would get him away from Clinic Drive, and allow his patients to go to a new place that wouldn’t bring back horrific memories.
So, I wrote the scenarios down and asked Dr. Guy and Jane to think about them and pray about their decision over the weekend. I would return on Monday to work on his existing business while it was shut down. It could not pause for the next two weeks. I needed to keep the inner-workings of his practice going for him. The weekend passed, and I canceled appointments with my clients and all my travel for the week, dedicating my time to Dr.
Guy and his practice, not knowing what would happen. I reached out to a few friends and colleagues who I knew could help support this business and keep it alive while we were figuring out the next step. The response was incredible…absolutely incredible!
The time clock began.
Ten days were remaining that the practice would be closed to grieve and to regroup. Dr. Guy left a lovely voicemail for his patients to let them know he and his ladies were grieving and figuring out the next step for him and his patients. So, that Monday morning, Dr. Guy met with me at his office as we sat and talked again. He and Jane had decided that the best option was to get away from Clinic Drive and for him to continue working.
He was not ready for this tragedy to define his career, although he did not want to make the drive every morning, worrying about what patients would be thinking of when they were in the dental chair. As he looked around and saw the walls torn from the bullet holes and the baseboards ripped away from the bloodstains, he could feel confident about that decision…and so it began!
Monday morning was the start of a whirlwind.
Dental Support Specialties offered their services. Mary Beth said anything that she could do, she was there to help. There we went. Supporting a dental practice, entering checks into the computer system, calling on outstanding insurance claims, cleaning up the disaster left behind in the office and making appointments with potential buyers that would allow Dr. Guy to move on with his practice. Knowing that we were going to sell the practice, the cleaning began. We sorted through four decades of history. We boxed up files and papers, deciding what would go to Dr. Guy’s house, what should be thrown away and what would be included in the sale of his practice.
On Tuesday evening, a meeting took place with Dr. Kevin Martin, a potential buyer. Dr. Martin had always been fond of Dr. Guy. In fact, the first phone call I made to inform
anyone about the sale of the practice was to Dr. Martin. I felt that God had called him to help in this way. That evening, the conversation that happened between Dr. Guy, Dr. Martin and me proved to be right.
Dr. Martin asked Dr. Guy, “If I could purchase your practice, would you be willing to work with me and join our practice? Would you be confident that your patients would come and join my practice?”
The return of hope
I could see Dr. Guy light up. I saw the return of hope in his heart. Over the next few days, we worked out the details of the contract to sell the business. We continued to work patient accounts so that Dr. Guy could pay his bills and his employees. They did not choose to be shut down for two weeks. And they certainly did not choose this tragedy.
Next, we wanted to figure out what we could do to honor Kelly’s memory. How could we honor her presence of 18 years and allow the patients to remember who she was –her kind spirit, her God-fearing heart and her commitment to her faith? There was a beautiful locket in Kelly’s desk, and on that locket was the word “peace.” On the back of it was a bible verse: “Peace surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). I wanted to take a photo of this locket so that I could find a way to honor Kelly somehow. I asked Dr. Guy how he would feel sharing with each patient a small memorial of Kelly’s life, and he began to weep.
His heart filled with joy as he began to see that he had a calling from God to fulfill a responsibility far larger than being a dentist at this point. He was responsible for sharing his faith, her testimonial and bringing others to know God’s greater purpose for their life here on earth.
In those seven remaining days that I worked closely with Dr. Guy, we sold a business of 40 years, we signed associate contracts, we moved equipment, we moved a 40-year-old practice base, and we created a legacy. As the week went on, through all of the heartache
and trepidation, beautiful memories were made. And beautiful memories of his patients were surfacing as Dr. Guy cleaned out his office. There was a story behind each lovely gift from his patients throughout those four decades, and he shared the stories behind these gifts with me.
Those seven days that I spent with Dr. Guy were no longer a charitable donation of my time. It was God fixing my heart, getting my mind right and creating a beautiful friendship through Dr. David Guy, a 69-year-old dentist who had been living six miles away for all of these years. Here we were, selling, moving and creating a legacy, all in less than a week. Never in a million years could you think someone who lived through that tragedy would have a restored heart. Yet, here we are now.
Ten months later, a man (Mr. Weaver) has been sentenced to life in prison without parole. A dentist has found his calling beyond his dental crafts, which is witnessing every day to patients who walk through his door and sharing his story of perseverance, love, and heartache. He is happier now than he has ever been in his entire 44 years of practicing dentistry. He enjoys practicing in a group, collaborating with other dentists of all ages and, most importantly, sharing Kelly’s testimony with each person who walks through those doors.
Here I am; my heart is full
I have meaning in my life, calling to what I know I should be doing and affirmation that what I do every day has the ability to touch someone
or to mean something to someone even if at that moment I might not know what it means to me.
This horrific tragedy that occurred on February 13, 2019, has brought our community together, our dental profession together and our churches together. It also has created more purpose and more drive than we had on February 12th of this year. I encourage you to be a part of something. Be a part of a community or an organization. Don’t just stand alone. Stand together. Make the first move to help someone else by sharing your knowledge and your talents.