Friday, November 17, 2006

Heartbreak in the 408

Several years ago the wife of one of our dear friends (and a good friend, herself) died of breast cancer. She was too young, too beautiful, too much the great wife and mother. It was horrifying, and Robert and I promised ourselves that from that moment on, we would concentrate only on what truly mattered. We swore a earnest vow to celebrate all the great things -- both the monumental and the seemingly insignificant -- that life had to offer. No more sweating the small stuff.

In the intervening years, our promise has faded. I've fallen back into old habits of sometimes focusing on the negative things, the little issues that in the big picture won't determine the value or quality of our lives. I lost the perspective sadly brought on by our friend's passing.

But just as I'm fully reverted to old bad habits, I read something that puts life back into perspective. Teacher TMAO, writing in Teaching in the 408 (408 is a school district in California), relates the story of a student facing almost unimaginable suffering after a robbery-turned-stabbing that claimed the life of his father and injured him in ways more than just physical:

"...this high school sophomore who struggled so mightily and tried so hard in your class had his chest ripped up, his liver lacerated, a wound that required 25 metal staples to close, and wiped the kid's short-term memory clean in a flurry of repression, laying there in a hospital bed at the end of the hall, too weak to grip your hand, or the hand of the two other teachers who have come, struggling to speak against the tube down his throat."

This is writing with the power of a defibrillator. It shocked me back into remembering that life is short, the small stuff doesn't really matter, and friends and family are the most important things. Too bad it takes something this sad.



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