by Jacob Parker
“What do you do?” You hear it on a weekly basis, whether you’re at a party, having a drink at a bar, at a baby shower or standing in line at the DMV. I'm in sales, I’m a developer, I’m a paralegal, I’m in SAAS. The answers people give for that question rarely invoke true curiosity from the person asking. That’s not a knock on any profession as all jobs present their own sets of challenges and are rewarding on different levels. In the past, I’ve always answered with “I’m in sales” which has a follow-up question of “What kind of sales?”. The answer to that second question in the past has varied greatly but the one consistency all of those answers had is that there wasn’t real passion behind it.
That changed for me in 2018.
That was the day I started working for Eterneva, a small startup in Austin Texas that offers something that few companies can. Something so special that it becomes your most prized possession. If your house was on fire this would be the one thing you grabbed above all else. Eterneva turns ashes into diamonds…..yes those ashes. I was blown away when I learned that this was possible and I immediately became interested in the company from both a personal and professional standpoint.
Professionally this resonated with me because it was unique and it was delivering something powerful and meaningful. Bringing brightness to a dark time is something that few of us get to do on a regular basis. Think back to when a friend was going through something difficult and you did something for them that truly lifted them up. Did you get a huge natural high? Did you have goosebumps? Did it feel amazing? I’m willing to bet the answer to all three of those questions would be a resounding “YES”! I saw an opportunity to get that feeling every day. I knew it was going to be tough and truth be told I even got emotional in my interview, and on my first day, and on my 2nd day. That’s ok though and I’ve embraced it every day because it’s real and unlike anything I’ve ever done. We hear people constantly use the expression “Light at the end of the tunnel”. This is exactly what we do at Eterneva. Our customers are in a very dark tunnel and we get to help them find the light and it’s a light that’ll shine brightly forever.
This isn’t for everyone though, not everyone in your life that passes has enough impact to be eternalized as a diamond. The loved ones that people do this for are remarkable people and pets! They impacted your life so much that you are crushed when they pass. They may be gone but your love for them never goes away. Our customers want to honor them, to be able to think about them every day and have those precious memories come rushing to the surface. They can be having a tough day and look down at their diamond and feel reassured because their loved one is right there with them. That’s pretty damn amazing!
Personally, this appealed to me for multiple reasons. A few years ago I lost my boston terrier Miss Piggy. She was my ride or die, my partner in crime and the most impactful pet I’ve ever had. She was much more than a pet to me, she was my best friend, and went everywhere with me including work.
Miss Piggy had a serious heart murmur that was detected in a standard check-up. My Vet, Dr. Jennifer Martinson (the best vet I’ve ever had) told me that it was hard to pinpoint how long she’d live but she’s never seen an animal live more than 10-12 months from the stage she was at. I completely lost it, I was crushed, I cried in my car for 30 minutes and just held her tight. I was committed to making her as comfortable as possible and doing whatever I needed to. At this time I was working for another startup at a reduced salary and didn’t even have health insurance. The medication to keep Miss Piggy comfortable and treat the illness was about $300 a month. I didn’t have disposable income at this time but I made it work because she was everything to me.
She required checkups every month and two months later Dr. Martinson found a tumor unrelated to the heart issue and based on the size she estimated she had two weeks to live. This might sound dramatic, but my life might as well have been over at that moment because she was so special to me. There was an option on the table to try to surgically remove the tumor but there was a risk of her not surviving the surgery due to the heart issue. My vet and I both decided against putting her through that. I just hoped for the best and wanted to spend every minute with her.
My boss let me work remotely so I could stay home with her and even came to my house for meetings. He knew what she meant to me. I didn’t go out with friends, I left the house only to go to the grocery store and to get her medication refills. I’ve said multiple times how special Piggy was but I haven’t mentioned how much of a fighter she was. Piggy ended up living past two weeks, past four weeks, past six months, past 12 months after being given two weeks to live. She went 15 months from being diagnosed with the heart murmur when Dr. Martinson had previously said she’d never seen an animal go longer than 12 months. She fought and fought until the end. When it was finally her time to go, having to make the decision to put her down was the toughest thing I’ve gone through in my adult life. You’d think I’d be prepared for her passing after going through emotional devastation for 15 months, but when you lose a family member like Piggy you’re never prepared and the pain is deep. I wanted to honor her in the best way I could and I ended up having her cremated and having her put in a small burgundy wood box along with an engraved nameplate, a paw print and a lock of her fur. I’ve since made a memory box to celebrate her life.
Now after knowing that I can make her into a diamond with a small amount of her ashes I can’t stop thinking about turning her into a sparkling pink diamond and having it set in a black watch so I can look down at her every day and think about how amazing she was.
The story I just told was sad, it was tough for me to write, I got emotional writing it but I was smiling at the end of it. These are the same types of connections that we get to hear about every day from our customers and for that, I am truly grateful.
So now when people ask me ‘What do you do?”, my eyes light up and I get to tell them that I not only help people eternalize the remarkable but I get to hear the stories about the remarkable!