I know that I’ve been very lucky. My life has been rich.
The industry in which I work has always allowed me to see things, meet people and participate in events that defy the word “standard”, by any definition.
While I’ve met people who’ve done extraordinary things and lived extraordinary lives, I’ve always been more impressed with ordinary folks whose main goal in life was just to survive yet another day intertwined in the mortal coil. In this hectic, often heartless dog eat dog world, it’s the things they’ve accomplish in the minutia of life that wows me. I’m talking about survival.
Case in point:
My friend, Martha was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago. She was the definition of “amazing grace”. That’s exactly what she exuded. She stared her mortality in the face and on one occasion, came incredibly close to dying, but she rallied; she lived. She’s cancer free today and a changed woman as a result. She regards her mastectomy as more of a badge of honor, than a mass of scar tissue. Indeed, it’s one she earned.
The removal of her breast, meant the arrival of her spirit. She is awe inspiring. Remarkably, Martha is magnanimous enough to be grateful for having had cancer. She told me once that her battle with the disease was “just another crucible of life”, at least, in her eyes.
Maybe, but she continues to be a monolith of a strength and courage in mine.
I’m amazed by my sister, Karol. As the youngest of three girls, I was always heralded as the smart, funny one, but Karol is the one with the ability to hurdle life’s vicissitudes and she’s always done so fearlessly.
By comparison, I’ve only exhibited hubris.
Karol buried her oldest child. She lost Holly in a car accident on Valentine’s Day, 1999. Nine years later, I continue to be non-plussed by my sister’s incredible strength and fortitude. She walked her daughter from the cradle to the grave and somehow survived, with her heart relatively in act. I don’t think I could do that.
I hate that anyone has to.
In my life, I will admit, I’m never been a stranger to heartache. The sad reality is that everyone can say that. No one is immune to at least, some degree of pain. The road of life is paved with tears. And while I’ve suffered through ills myself; while I mourned for my niece, grieved with my sister and stood by Martha’s side, I’ve never known that gut wrenching sense of loss; the kind which launches utter perdition.
I learned that a childhood friend died on my birthday.
Jerry had been sick recently. Doctors spent years running her through a gauntlet of tests, but everyone knows what really happened: she died from a broken heart.
Her young son passed a decade ago. I understand that Jerry had a very difficult time with his death. She had many questions, but ultimately, perhaps the reasons how or why he died didn’t matter to Jerry. He was gone; taken from her. She was robbed of the joys of watching him grow up—her soul was augured from her, most egregiously. In so many ways, his death robbed her of life, too.
She was never the same. How could she have been the same?
News of Jerry’s death saddened me a great deal. A great deal. I grew up with this woman. Christmas mornings together and countless other vivid, life affirming events spent in each other’s company. We shared a common past…a common bond. My memories of childhood were hers, too.
Selfishly, I pray that I’ll never know the kind of heartache and pain that killed Jerry. I pray that those around me will never know it again.
That’s my hope.
And as I sit here, now one year older, I’ve GOT to be optimistic about hope. It’s a cardinal virtue and to the enlightened person, it gives scope and purpose. I think many people deem hope to be a wish. True, it can be wished for, but it’s more than that. It’s a golden link that connects human aspiration with Divine truth. It strengthens fragile human will to be able to accept anything and everything that life throws us.
Ultimately, hope allows us to withstand heartache, defy fear and tolerate everything in between. It is the anchor of the soul.
That said, I hope I’ll wake up to yet another day tomorrow.
I hope American GI’s will be home soon.
I hope all heartache is short lived.
I hope I’ll be able to attend Jerry’s funeral, but I wish to God I didn’t have to.