Every now and then, the Lord calls upon you to do your part in sharing or relieving the burden of others. That is why people volunteer at hospitals, or help build homes for the homeless. We have a responsibility as human beings to help people do what (through no fault of their own) they cannot do for themselves. Whatever your strength is, you were gifted with a little surplus that you can afford to "give away" if it means "sharing or relieving the burden of others". My gift is blogging, and in honour of someone who shares and relieves my burden regularly, I want to give a voice to a story that (through no fault of their own) cannot be told as it should. This is a story about a man.
A friend of mine (a real stand-up guy, innovative, ambitious, creative, friendly, fun and incomparably intelligent), had his whole world turn upside down when he was involved in a terrible "situation" that resulted in him being burned over 70% of his body. As if that in and of itself isn't already a tragic and heinous fate to recover from (skin grafts, reconstructive surgeries, physiotherapy, scarring and overall loss of the former physical self), the "situation" as we will hereunto refer to the incident of being burned, also led to an equally tragic situation where my friend has been stripped of his basic parental rights and has been embroiled in bitter litigation for the better part of the last 2 years in an attempt to have access to his 3 children.
Sidenote: Obviously due to the ongoing legal proceedings, even though this is very much a personal blog, I am not at liberty (nor do I have any real desire) to be anymore specific than what I have written here.
This preface is more to set up the framework for the message I'd like to focus on today. The love shared between a parent and their child. It is an impenetrable love. An everlasting love. It is a pure kind of love that really, really does grow stronger when forced to be apart. Think about it. Say your wife/husband was deployed or transferred far away for 3 or 4 years. And in that time, you had very little communication with one another.....even less physical contact, you were for the most part no longer sharing a life together. It would not be improbable that over time, your love and commitment toward your absent partner would grow weak. But with a child, YOUR child, your flesh and blood - nothing can break that bond. A child will search his whole life long to be reunited with a parent that has been absent from his/her life. How many episodes of Maury, Jenny Jones, Ricki Lake and yes, even The Mighty O (Oprah) have filled numerous hour-long episodes of their shows with stories of children wanting to be reunited with their birth parents.
I have kids (I write about them all the time), and I know first-hand what the parent-child bond feels like. It's so different than any other relationship you will ever have in your life. Take the loyalty that you get from your dog, the admiration you get from someone that you've taught something useful to, the dependence of um......an unemployed spouse, and the innocence of a fresh snowfall - and THAT is what love feels like with your child. I remember the first time I sent my daughter to spend the summer with her Dad, and although I worried about her everyday, I knew for certain that he loved her as much as I did, and even though I didn't always agree with his methods, I knew that he would watch over her and protect her every bit as much as I do. (I've digressed, but anyway.....)
In friendship, you get to endure the best of times AND the worst of times with one another - and you don't (or shouldn't) pick and choose. So when it so happened that I had an opportunity to bear witness to a very powerful moment between this father and his children (at a pre-arranged child visit), I was overcome with emotion. The children, despite being separated from their father going on 3 years now, could not have been more amorous with him. The two little boys (big sister was absent on this visit) bee-lined for their Dad, arms outstretched and basked in one anothers presence for the duration of the 90 minute visit.
I wept quietly outside, wrestling with my own emotional turmoil about A) knowing exactly how these children feel about their father, B) my feelings of abandonment as it relates to the absence of a relationship with my own father and C) that just as how my friend had supported me through many of my more emotionally challenging "situations", that I am able to return the favour. What a strange epiphany I had, after really only being privy to this odd circumstance through the eyes of my friend (the father). I had been sympathizing with him about all the experiences he was missing out on being separated from his children. How HE felt about not being the one to see their school plays or help with their homework or even to cuddle them while watching TV. Until it hit me. The people that have it far worse in this "situation", even more than him, are the children. It was evident how much they missed him and how much they love him. I know first-hand what it's like to long for the love of your father, and it was all I could do to restrain myself from begging the authorities to extend the visit by another 30 minutes.
The day before this visit to see the kids, I experienced my own tragedy when my Aunt (whom I loved dearly) passed away, and felt so helpless and saddened by the news. I often choose to go into myself and process my feelings very quietly, but my friend (as friends should) did not let me be alone, even though my stubbornness persisted. Sometimes - you just have to let others do what they believe is truly best. So, I did not spend that grievous time alone, which was in retrospect probably a good idea, and my friend's story does not have to be silenced just because he cannot tell it himself.
Behind every tragedy, there is a person. Of flesh and bones. Even if 70% of it went up in flames.