Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘human’

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.

Sunday musings 10/12/14

In life, as in baseball, there is a complete canon of unwritten rules. Call them The Human Contract. It exists for all but those who live their lives entirely alone. Quite different from the so-called “Social Contract” in which government attempts to provide for the less fortunate among its citizens, The Human Contract at its core allows for a smooth set of interactions among humans within a defined space. It bends and stretches depending on when and where it is applied, but it is ever-present wherever ¬†one finds more than one human being.

A very funny comedian brought it up on morning drive-time radio in the context of what is–and isn’t–OK to do while on a commercial flight. Taking off your shoes and socks and putting your feet on the seat back in front of you, or eating a tuna sandwich were a couple of his examples of humans breaking their contract. Many of you who have befriended me travel for a living and I thought of you.

Most of these unwritten rules are, you know, unwritten because they constitute something which approaches the intersection between common sense and common courtesy. Like, don’t floss your teeth in the van after you made all of your travel mates late waiting for you anyway. The comedian was way funnier about it, but you get the picture.

Reading the comments for yesterday’s CrossFit.com WOD I was reminded of the Human Contract and how it, like politics, is local, derived in, and particular to, a specific place. 9 years ago I lurked there for 3 or 4 months before I posted anything so that I could get a sense for the local customs. Learn the unwritten rules as it were. Some of them are universal. Do your homework. Know what you are talking about before you start talking. Expect to support your statements with something more than “I think” or “I feel”. Be polite; tone is as important as content. None of that has changed in the years since 2005. Every other space has equally well-defined “rules of the road”, and it is equally important that one spend the time necessary to learn them.

The preamble for The Human Contract if it were ever to be actually written would doubtless begin with something along the lines of “That which unites us far exceeds anything that may divide us.” This is most certainly true in the CrossFit world, both in your local Affiliate communities and in the Cyber-gym, and it is equally true for every airline passenger.

It behooves you to do a bit of research on the local version of The Human Contract before you make your entrance, too.