Life is hard

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.


15 thoughts on “Life is hard

  1. Seconded. All of it. My godson has been fighting off a brain tumor for almost five years now but he’s taking a turn for the worse. There’s obviously no fairness in life, and I think trying to find a reason why that is… well, it’ll drive you batshit crazy.
    My sympathies to the boy’s family. I’m going to go hug my kids again before I go to bed.

  2. 😦
    I want to comment, but there’s nothing to say.
    It’s awful and it really makes no sense. I feel the same way about the chronically ill/terminally ill/disabled kids I work with, always wondering how some low-life idiot is going to go around spreading misery, commit crimes, live off the system, murder people–and probably live a relatively healthy LONG life, completely able-bodied.

    • At times, I think there’s no justice. Then I think, at least those kids were able to touch someone else’s life in a positive way. The low-life idiots may never experience that. It’s a small thing, but it’s significant.

  3. What a touching write Tobin, but there Must be a plan whatever it is so many lives have been touched and so many made aware. Still so many hurt… Yet so many joined together.

  4. There’s a sadness in you with this post. We can only hope that the people around the ones who suffer are good people, caring people, proactive people … The other sadness to me is the helpless one in this world who doesn’t get treatment, love or care … people starving, people in war zones. What kind of plan could ever have put them in harm’s way with no one to help them, no one to hold theirs hand, and whisper I love you? Not a day goes by that I don’t know I’m blessed.

  5. Agreed.I work in a cancer center and whenever I feel like complaining I look around.I might allow it fo a bit,in my own home sulking while eating a whole bag of chips,but I don’t allow it to consume my whole being.Death is permanent, troubles are not.

    • Thank you Carol. If I’ve learned nothing else, I’ve learned that troubles come and go. Sometimes they seem to come all at once and never seem to leave, but eventually they all do.

      And, in the end, we’re stronger for having overcome them.

  6. I firmly believe everything happens for a reason, but sometimes it’s hard to figure out what that reason is. Maybe we aren’t always supposed to know because it isn’t about us.

    I am in awe of a 9-year-old boy who made the decision to take control of his own health care and of his parents who supported his decision. Had they lived in Canada, it may not have been allowed.

  7. You were writing from a heavily burdened soul, Tobin. Sometimes I don’t write in the middle of pain because I don’t want to muster up the energy to end it on a hopeful note. But you took the more courageous route. I hope writing it helped you as much as it helps your readers.

    • I don’t like seeing people in pain, especially those I care for. But sometimes, when bad stuff like this happens, I just need to look at my own kids, as frustrating as they can be, and my wife, as trying as she can be at times, and realize how lucky I am. And, as frustrating and trying as I can be (and God knows I can), I hope they feel the same way about me.

      It’s a tough old world out there. We gotta stick together and watch for the little miracles. They’re there, if you watch for them.

  8. Thanks Tobin. It is only through shared grief and our ability to draw on the strength of others that we are truly capable of healing. As one who knows, I truly hope the family of the little boy in Clarkston, MI are able to draw on each others’ strength to overcome the long emotional struggle that lies ahead, and that they can take some comfort — cold though it may seem right now — in their son’s bravery.

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