This past week I find myself mourning three people I didn’t know: one child, one columnist, one professor. Two are from our community, one is not.
Regarding the child, I wrote once before about the loss of a child, a tragic burden to their family and our community, because with that child’s life goes all the hopes and dreams everyone had for them.
When I wrote that other column, I had not held a child in my arms that had stopped breathing and had turned blue. I did not know what “limp” felt like. Now I do.
My son, thankfully, is fine now, and seems to remind me daily in his impish laughter and games that I’m in for a lifetime of his brand of humour, so I may as well get used to it.
What that experience gave me was a new degree of empathy, a new depth of understanding of why mourning a child is different.
It is different, most of all, because it seems to break the natural order of things. Children aren’t supposed to pass before their parents. We recognize that the process didn’t go as it is supposed to. We grieve our loss of innocence, and theirs.
It is also a different kind of mourning because we grieve for everyone that surrounded that child. We grieve about the loss of hope. We grieve for the loss of a bright future. We grieve for the loss of possibility. I personally also grieve the loss of wonder, because the wonder of one child eclipses all the wonder in a room full of most adults. As the sign outside a daycare on Queen Street so aptly said last week, “In the eyes of a child there are 7 million natural wonders in the world.” And so I will continue to wonder.
For the columnist, I knew him only through his photo and his words. While our viewpoints differed, I still mourn his death. I do so because although I may not have agreed with what he said, I wholeheartedly agree with what he did. He pursued his goal to write and be heard, and he write until his death … out of desire, conviction and probably necessity.
I get that. And I mourn the loss of someone that knew what they wanted to do, wasn’t afraid to pursue it, achieved it, and loved it so much that they keep doing it, even when the chips were down. He was strong enough to have an opinion and voice it publicly, even knowing it would not meet with the favour of all of his readers. That passion, that perseverance and tenacity, is worth grieving. And so I continue to write – to communicate and express, and have an opinion, even if divergent from the herd.
For the professor, a man with whom I share another passion, that of educating and inspiring, I grieve. He will not teach another lecture from this world, though he continues to reach many through video clips, media stories, and his book The Last Lecture. He played his hand to the best of his ability, and at 47 he was all in, and suddenly the game was done.
I think I can understand the difficulty with which he would have compiled his last lecture, probably a curious blend of calmness and anger. There was nothing he could do to change his fate, hence the calmness, but anger, because again, there was nothing he could do. So, he did the only thing he could do. He did what he loved … He taught. He did everything that he could to ignite a few more sparks … for his students, for his children, for his wife, and for himself.
I have never seen his last lecture and I am not confident that the content would matter in my mourning (not unlike the situation with the above columnist and the content of his columns). I mourn that a dedicated, committed individual, who believed in educating and inspiring has left the planet. And so I continue to do my best to ignite sparks of all sizes in those around me.
One child. One writer. One professor. I mourn the loss of these three people that I do not know, because I selfishly grieve what they meant to me. They embody the very things that I hold dear. In that realization I gain something, I reaffirm something.
In my grieving, my loss and my gain, I will pay homage to the three by doing the only thing that I can do. I will do what I love. I will keep my sense of hope, I will continue to find the wonder, I will express myself, and I will do what I can to ignite sparks, educate, and inspire. I will do so with passion, with joy, with conviction, and with thanks.