A few months back, I wrote a blog called Life is beautiful, where I talk a lot about the shitty things life can throw at you, but how you can also rise above them.
I know that life’s hard. Believe me, I’ve been through a lot of it myself. I’ve survived an alcoholic father, a drug-abusing brother, my parents divorcing when I was five, another ugly divorce when I was seventeen, a heartbreaking child abuse case where I and my wife seriously considered adopting my nephew and many, many other things. Any one of those is enough for one lifetime. Yet, still they came and, I’m sure, more will yet.
Still, I came through them all and I’m stronger, wiser and, I hope, a lot more humble for it.
But right now, as of today, I’m finding myself worrying about a few friends and family going through a lot of pain.
One man I know is desperately trying to hold on to his marriage. He’s gone through a lot in his life and I think he’s going through something I went through a while ago. He thought he had many of the rough elements of his earlier life under control, only to find out they’ve just gone underground, but still exert their influence on him, just more subtly.
Then there’s another friend who lost his daughter in a horrific car accident five years ago today. She was only trying to get a couple of friends home safely, but instead she paid a terrible price for her caring deed. That man has turned to talking to groups about impaired driving and what it can do.
My mother has, in the last year, broken her arm up near the shoulder where it couldn’t be cast, and in the past few months, has had first one, then a second, then three more discs collapse in her spine, leaving her in pain for months.
And finally, there’s a brave little boy in Clarkston, MI who’s been battling brain cancer since he was four. He defied the odds and celebrated his tenth birthday this past Thursday. After seven surgeries and several chemo and radiation treatments, he decided the toll they took on his body was too much and refused further treatment for the tumors that showed up late last year. He decided to take on the rest of his life on his own terms. An unbelievably adult decision for a nine-year-old boy to make and an equally hard one to honour for the parents.
That little boy died a few hours ago.
I’ve seen so many heroic people fighting for what’s important to them. Happiness, accountability for past sins, love, teaching others, grappling with age, dignity.
In that previous post, I said
Sometimes we just feel like giving up, packing it all in. How can it get worse that it already is, right? And that’s when we can see how much more hurt can be piled on. There’s always more. But you know what? It’s never more than we can handle. We can think that we’re done, that we can’t handle it. But we can. And then something will happen–something really bad, something really good, something really earthshaking, or something small–but something, and you’ll feel alive again.
And you’ll open your eyes like it was the first time.
Don’t ever give up. Life is beautiful.
I still believe what I said. It’s a little harder tonight, knowing there’s one less bright spark on the planet with that little boy’s passing. It’s hard to understand why this can even happen.
We see people like Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston and hundreds of others who are given every opportunity in the world and they piss it away and wind up face down in a tub. All that talent, all that potential, gone.
But what did a little four-year-old boy do to deserve five years of hell? What did a 21-year-old woman at the start of her life do to deserve what happened to her? What about their potential? What about their talent? Why were they not allowed to explore them?
I wonder sometimes at the cruelty of this life. I wonder that life can be this hard.
And yet, I see a man turning the tragedy around. Doing what he can to ensure her short life made a difference in the lives of others. I see a little boy who ultimately brought a community together. He spawned a worldwide cancer awareness campaign on Twitter.
We’ll never know why these things happen, but at least we can point to what came after and know there’s hope. There’s always hope.
And we can realize, when we look at our own family members, our friends and those loved by us, that, even at least for today, we have them with us. We can look at them and smile. We can tell them we love them and that we’re happy they’re in our lives.
We can tell them that, because of them, these people who may not have done anything particularly special other than just be who they are, because of them, life is beautiful. That they are our heroes.
Go tell someone you love them. Right now.