Hello everyone. I hope you are all well today and life is trending the appropriate direction. This piece is going to be a little bit personal for me today. It will be difficult to write at times. However, I felt compelled to abandon my previous intention and wax philosophical on this subject instead. I felt inspired on the way to my day job this morning, and I have no idea from whence it came. Nevertheless, I believe it is a subject that we can all benefit from in these times.
History is a mosaic of figures that overcame difficult odds. Helen Keller, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and many more. If we searched through modern day examples of successful people, there would likewise be no shortage from which we could choose. What do they all have in common besides their successes? What could be the tie that binds them? I would render to guess it is the inability to say, “I quit”.
I think this topic spoke to my heart today because, I have seen a lot of suffering and a lot of loss around me lately. It seems almost on a weekly basis that there is someone in my hemisphere that is going through something tragic. It is especially exacerbated by the times we live in and the period our country is going through. I find it all odd. As if, we do not have enough to worry about already?
My life, and my wife’s life have not been easy ones by any stretch of the imagination. I know that is a large factor that draws us to one another. We both understand what many people do not. We are able to stand by one another through hardships that most would not be able to. Because we both know how to take a punch, we know how to dust ourselves off, we know how to get back up, and we know how to get back in the fight (all figuratively speaking mind you). We are survivors. We always have been.
It has really been a matter of reflex for us. We don’t know any other way to live. We have had to scrape and battle for every good thing that has come into our existence. I am realizing as I age, that this has been a gift. The adversity and the challenges of life have indubitably been a blessing in disguise. But, what about those that have not faced adversity, or suffered? At least, not much?
Recently, an old friend of mine had her best friend pass away very unexpectedly and at a young age. I could not help but offer the best words of comfort and condolence that I knew how. This rang hollow, as I half way expected. She asked me continually, “How can someone go on without their other half”? For that, I did not have much of an answer, at first.
This part is not easy at all for me to write about. I do it in hopes that it may help someone, somewhere. As a young man deployed to the Middle East, my best buddy was killed. I won’t speak of the how or the why or the details. What I will say is that I grew closer to him during our deployment than perhaps anyone I have ever met. We worked together, spent all of our off duty time together, and grew to know each other on an incredible human level. He was probably the only person at the time that I thought truly understood me. That loss, the first crushing loss of my adult life, was beyond devastating.
For years I chose simply to ignore it. I left it in abeyance until there were periods of grief that I could not keep from revisiting me and haunting me. I would weep on and off for hours, shake my fist, curse God, and curse my existence. It went on for years until, I just couldn’t do it anymore.
I found help that was long overdue in counseling, therapy, and psychiatry. Through that, I also found solace in my faith once again. The greatest exercise that helped me overcome my grief and my guilt, was that I wrote a letter to my fallen friend. I left everything out on the table, and I left nothing unspoken. I printed it, proofread it, read it to myself, read it out loud, read it to my therapist, read it one final time, and then I burned it. Afterwards, I put that weight down and walked away from it forever.
My therapist asked me toward the end, “Is there anything else you want to ask me”? I replied, “I still will never understand why I am still here, and he can’t be”. Her response was, “Because your time was not up yet”.
I had heard that explanation many times before. But this time for some reason, I believed it. It didn’t sound cliché to me at this appointed time. It speaks to destiny, and a pre-ordained life to a degree, which I have relatively mixed feelings about. Although, I still think there is something to it. I have had so many near fatal accidents and near fatal instances on the job that, I know for a fact, nothing can happen by coincidence or luck.
I heard it said once, “I don’t pretend to know what God’s plan is, nor do I pretend to agree with it a lot of the time. But, I trust it”. I believe I have finally thrown myself in that camp as well.
If faith, religiosity, or God is not your thing, it’s ok. You still have a place here. This is just from MY point of view. It does not have to be everyone else’s. I do not have definitive answers any more than anyone else.
What I do know, is that we cannot succumb to despair. I kick myself thinking about everything life had to offer me that I missed out on, because I would not crawl out of my despair-hole. There is nothing I can do to change it now, other than go in the opposite direction. When we give up due to despair, grief, guilt, shame, sorrow, or anything similar, we rob ourselves little by little of the lives we are supposed to have. We are the thieves of our own joy and our own destiny.
The last thing I was able to muster with my friend who lost her best friend, is to take comfort that they will never suffer again, and we should all be so lucky. That all the troubles of life and the world, are over now. That they are in a better place than we could ever dream. And, as long as you have all of your memories, they’re never really gone. All of the love you have inside, you keep it with you forever.
That is what I take comfort in.
We overcome despair with our love. With our friends. With our family. With our surroundings. With our passions. With our goals. Our children. With something as simple as a sunset. Things you don’t even have to spend money on.
We rise again with inner fortitude, and a refusal to say, “I quit”. The human heart is much stronger than anyone gives it credit for. In the end, it is all up to us. This YouTube clip I will embed is a song by Stephen Marley. I was never much for reggae until recent years. However, I have always played it when I needed comforting during hard times. It works for me. Maybe it can for some of you too.