I’ve experienced three significant personal traumas in my life. I’ve written about all three before, so I’ll summarize:
- In 1988, when I was 9, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. A few days before I turned 15, she lost that battle. That was 30 years ago.
- In 2012, I nearly died while hiking. Severe dehydration is a real thing. Now I take hydration and balancing electrolytes very seriously.
- In 2017, my wife was diagnosed with Thyroid cancer. While it was caught early in Stage I and was a very treatable kind of cancer, the mere thought of losing her was almost more than I could handle. I learned what my dad must have felt when my mom was diagnosed with cancer all those years ago.
I grew up in an era where the lesson that real men don’t cry was still the prevailing trade wind. To my dad’s credit, he didn’t teach me that. In fact, as he’s aged, he’s gotten even more in touch with his emotions. It has been good for me to see him cry on occasion.
When my paternal grandmother died, I remember looking at my grandfather’s face as he struggled so hard to hold back the tears. I remember my heart breaking for him; just hoping that he would let the tears flow. I often wondered if he allowed himself to cry when he was alone.
If “real men don’t cry” was still being taught when I was a growing up, it was probably beat into my grandpa as a young man.
Apart from those traumas mentioned above, there have only been a few times in my life when I’ve allowed pure, raw sorrow to run its course.
A few years ago, a good friend of mine lost his youngest son — just 3 years old — to brain cancer. There’s no tragedy in life that tears at the heart more than when a child suffers.
I learned that he passed away just as I was dropping my youngest son off at school; a normal day with normal outcomes in our household.
My friend would never get to do that with his youngest son.
No soccer games.
No birthday parties.
No middle school crushes.
Just an empty room, and a new normal that would be laced with pain for years to come.