My brother in law Chad Isaksen recently lost his battle with Leukemia. He
died Sunday September 1, 2013 at about 10:30 AM MST at his home in Saratoga
Springs, Utah. Chad was a military man having served two tours in Afghanistan as
an US Army helicopter pilot. He also served as a US Army helicopter flight
instructor in Tennessee. Chad is survived by his lovely wife Tara and his four
children; Caleb, Tanner, Kinley and Ainsley. Chad was only 31 years old when his
body gave up the fight that his spirit would never surrender.
His courage in the face of death was outstanding and very becoming of a US
Soldier. Not that he would define himself that way. He was much more than that.
He was a loving husband and father, a great son and brother, a faithful Mormon
missionary and so much more.
Chad’s death was preceded by that of his younger brother Seth on July 4th
2005. Seth passed very quickly and suddenly from an accident that caused him to
slip into a coma, he died within 24 hours.
The Isaksen’s have now suffered the loss of their two youngest children. What
a change of events from most families in which the youngest typically bury the
At the 2013 FILA Grappling World Team Trials I dedicated my win to Chad. I
have never done that and I had never planned on doing that. It just seemed like
the right thing to say at that time. (Watch the interview here)
As I prepared for the 2013 FILA Grappling World Championships in London,
Ontario, Canada I wanted to win for Chad. Just as my training was hitting a
higher gear I sustained an injury that sidelined my training and which could
have kept me from competing at all. This was in the beginning of May. The
tournament was in the middle of June. Some nights in training I couldn’t move
without being in pain. I had no strength. I couldn’t lift weights like I wanted
to. I couldn’t drill or do much of anything like I had planned.
I fought the best I could throughout the world tournament winning matches
against tough and seasoned opponents. In the finals match my injury was a major
factor which kept me from being fully competitive against my finals opponent. I
was fortunate to even have gotten into the finals under the circumstances.
However good fortune gave way to a superior force and I lost a close 2-0
After the finals match I sprawled out on the arena floor and wept for my
brother in law and his affliction. I think on some level I hoped that maybe if I
could win that world championship in Chad’s honor it would help his chances of
winning his battle with leukemia. Of course I knew there was no direct
correlation but it made me feel like on some small level I could give a piece of
me to Chad. I couldn’t help but feel guilty for not being able to pull off that
win for him.
During Chad’s battle with leukemia I couldn’t help but think; “How happy
am I with the life I’m currently living? Is this really what I want to
experience out of life? If Chad dies from this how will it affect my wife and
how will I live my life differently because of it?”
I think we all ask ourselves these questions at some point in our lives but
for me these are questions that are worth answering now. I’ve come to see very
vividly how fleeting life can be. Chad was a strong vibrant soldier capable of
taking on the world and within less than a few weeks he was reduced to a
struggling chemotherapy patient. All of his previous physical powers swiftly
left him. There was nothing he could do to stop that. It was hard for us to
watch him decline like that.
Luckily the US Army enabled Chad and his family to move back to Utah to
pursue treatments at the LDS hospital in Salt Lake City. This at least gave
those of us who loved him the opportunity to be with him and support him and his
family in their fight for Chad’s life. We had many great times with Chad while
he was here. We shared campouts, family dinners, and more time to visit with
Chad and his family.
We hear a lot about ‘quality time’ these days but I’m not so sure that
quality makes up for quantity in some cases. Just being in the presence of those
you love can make such a difference even if there is little ‘quality’ about it.
Being together means so much more when that option is no longer a possibility.
Tonight (September 7, 2013) was Chad’s viewing. He looked so unlike himself;
he laid there a spiritless shell surrounded by loved ones. Even though it was
another moment in saying goodbye it was one of peace and hope. Tomorrow morning
will be our final goodbye as we lay Chad in the earth.
I already miss him. My wife misses him greatly. Our children miss him. We
will always remember him as wildly vibrant and full of life, always ready for
new adventure and challenges. We hold a strong faith and hope that one day we
will all return to live with Chad and God again in our heavenly home.
This hope notwithstanding I can’t help but feel a screaming drive inside to
reach higher in my own life. There is no time to waste sitting on the fence in
life. There is no time to waste in not pursuing your greater purpose and your
higher goals in life. I keep asking myself “How will I live my life differently?
How can I better strive to attain my goals?” I keep thinking to myself “I want
more! I want to do more and be more in my life than what I’m doing and being
I will always remember the faces of Seth and Chad as they lay in their
coffins and I will always hear the screaming drive in my head and my heart to
live more now, if not for myself then for those whose time was cut short. I hope
to live the rest of my life in such a way that it pleases God and those who have
gone before and that I can become a man of great renown and become someone who
does great things and helps others do great things. I hope to live in such a way
that my family feels compelled to honor the Ruiz name. Be it long or short this
is the road I must follow.