Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘parent’

Everything Changed. Forever.

“Just like that, everything changed. Forever.” –Beth White

Let me tell you a story about strength and love. It’s a story about the love parents have for a child, and about what appears to be super-human strength in expressing that love. The story starts with sorrow, at a funeral, the event that marked a forever change after a life both agonizingly short and blessedly long. The details make this particular version of the story very powerful, but in the end the heroes of my story would tell you that the details only describe their own individual version of a story that is told millions of times every day in millions of families around the world. Theirs was just more than a bit harder, and so the love and the strength was just a bit easier to see.

I’ve not asked if I could tell this story in its truest form; I will shelter the family by not using their names. Yesterday’s funeral was agonizing, as are all funerals when young parents bury a child. It’s hard work to raise a child, you know. Children don’t naturally come equipped with the “software” necessary to survive and thrive in a family group, much less a town, or a state, or a country. Equal parts love and leverage must be applied to instill in a child all of the trappings of civilization, lest the otherwise unquenchable twins Ego and ID ride roughshod over any and all who come in contact with that child. “Crazy hard” is how one could describe the process with a standard issue, healthy child, but words simply don’t exist to describe what it is like if a child is challenged physically or mentally from a very young age. My only advice to young parents-to-be is to be prepared for the biggest change you can ever imagine, the change that comes along with each subsequent child. No one is ever prepared for what comes when that child requires all-day, every-day care.

Where does the strength come from? The love I get, especially from parents steeped in the beliefs of a Religion based upon and built from a foundation of love. But the strength to bring that love to bear every minute of every day in the face of the crushing sadness of a child who you know you will lose, who will never follow any kind of normal path? Where does that come from? You can’t use our typical, run of the mill metaphors for this. You know, like “ice in their veins”, because no one who projects such unvarnished and unquestioning love can be filled with ice anywhere. No…no, I think it is molten iron that flowed through their veins. Yes, that must be it. Iron.

Literature is filled with the stories of children neglected in the face of tragedy, or families torn asunder by either the suppressed pain at the injustice of an impaired child, or by the not unreasonable finite amount of love and strength in a family, with the other children, the marriage, or both left to fend for themselves as all energy is directed to the most needy family member. Not in this family. Theirs is a marriage forged in commitment deepened by their challenge. Theirs is a family tied closer because Mom and Dad never did that at all, never stopped parenting the other children, never stopped supporting those things that made each child unique in his or her own way. Never stopped working and worrying their way to preparing the other children for their own life’s journey.

Engulfed by love and raised by these iron-willed parents, this very special child lived more than a decade longer than the most optimistic expectations offered as a baby. Not just lived, though, but thrived. Because of this we attended a funeral where grief was all-consuming. A child much-beloved was lost, and we gathered in the hundreds to console his family. Will there be relief at some point? A sense of burden lifted? Of course. How can there not be? Relief, though, will not ever be the most powerful emotion for Mom, Dad, or siblings. This was a child who was loved fiercely, with ferocious strength and resolve by each member of the family. Everything has changed.

There is no word in any known language to describe a parent who has lost a child. Writing this it occurs to me that we are equally bereft of a word that would so name a sibling. Interesting, no? To have a child die before a parent is so unnatural that no part of the human race has ever come up for a word for it. This family lived for 21 years in the knowledge that it would happen to them, and yet when it did the loss was a crushing as a bolt from the blue. To feel this loss must be part of what it is to be human, no matter the details. It is the one place, the one thing that we all must certainly have in common. We need not experience the loss ourselves to have true empathy with those who have experienced it. So wired are we that understanding is unnecessary; we feel the loss as one.

We went to a funeral yesterday to share our love for a little boy who barely made it to manhood. His life was a triumph of love and resolve, of strength almost beyond belief. His parents would offer that each of us could have done it, done what they’d done if it had been demanded of us, instead. Every parent in the church checked their pulse, looked to see what flowed through their veins. In the end we all found the very same thing: tears heated by the loss we each could feel, for the little boy, his siblings, and his parents. A desperate hope that we would never find ourselves in that same place, at any time, for any reason.

Just like that, everything changed. Forever.

There’s (Still) No Place Like Home

From Sunday musings…

The unforeseen consequences of otherwise positive trends can be quite interesting. Like a pebble dropped into a pond, one never knows where the ripples will end up and how powerful they will be when they get there. For example, our mobile economy has largely liberated our young people from place. In turn, despite historically “easy” mortgage money, the prevailing trend in our young people is away from owning a home and toward serial rentals.

Domiciles as opposed to homes.

What makes this all the more poignant is watching how desperately our parents’ generation clings to their places, how they cling to their homes. It’s more than staying in their home communities; they hunker down and bunker into the physical space that is the home itself, oft times beyond the point of reason. Clan White witnessed this as my Mom and Dad dug in and insisted on staying in the same house in which they raised their kids long after it was actually unsafe to do so. Sadly, Beth and I are about to embark on a “Groundhog Day” journey after a dismal diagnosis was announced this weekend and her folks hunker down in the home.

Why is it that a house becomes so much more than just an address, a place to lay one’s head? Why does it become so hard to leave a space even after it is clear that the space itself has become a problem? At least a part of this is quite simple and straightforward, and holds an important lesson for our young transients. There is a substantial emotional commitment to place when you own it. Once you’ve made that commitment the four walls of the house come to contain not only the life you are living but also all of the memories of the life you lived.

It’s funny…even houses that folks really don’t like become so full of memories that they become almost impossible to leave. The house of my youth long ago outgrew my parents’ life, and yet there remains my Mom, bouncing around like the BB in one of those big glass box mazes. My in-laws live far, far away from the people and the things they will need, but for the moment they, too, have dug in their heels. On balance the comfort of home trumps all objective reasons to leave a house.

And the lesson for those of you who are early in your journey? At some point it clearly seems that finding your place is important, and once having done so making that commitment to the physical space that will become your home appears to be important, too. The details about the space may very well be irrelevant. Heck, as our folks demonstrate the physical attributes may even be a net negative at some point. Still, there’s just something about having a space of your own, something about everything that goes into actually owning your home.

As trite as it is, our parents are holding fast to this to the very end: there’s no place like home.