Jan 17 2013

Two Sides

The two faces of theater.

At some point or other, we all experience change. But change wears many masks. Like the two faces of the theatre.

Comedy and tragedy.

There’s the category we call good. Falling in love. Winning the lottery. And then there’s the bad. Sickness. Losing money in the stock market. We grow up believing that the two are juxtaposed to each other. One can cause spontaneous fits of laughter and good cheer. But seldom does the side we call “bad” cause bursts of the giggles.

Comedy and tragedy.

Two sides to the coin we call life. There are good days and there are bad days. And I for one, have learned not to cheat tragedy out of it’s just rewards. When I’m down, I feel it only right to be very much down.

I can remember the stereotype super hero who laughs in the face of danger. So what does it look like to laugh in the face of tragedy? It sounds a bit sacrilegious.

But I have experienced such irreverence. Only a few days ago, my mother-in-law had a stroke. And in the midst of a high-stress, potentially tragic moment, laughter could be heard emanating through the thin veil of her ICU cubicle. And on more than one occasion.

Comedy meets tragedy.

At first I thought it just a coping mechanism. And perhaps that’s part of it. But as I watched and listened, I realized it was deeper than that. A room full of people, who love each other, did what came naturally. The conversation did not change because of the surroundings.

And as the days unfolded, the jokes kept coming. The doctor came in to check and asked my mother-in-law to open her eyes. She had been very groggy and dizzy and didn’t want to. The first time she ignored the request. The second time he asked she responded, “I’m paying a lot of money for this.” And the room broke out in chuckles.

Laugher didn’t change the circumstance. She still had a stroke. But in the last few days I have learned a valuable lesson. The greatest tragedy is the loss of levity. Having a stroke isn’t funny. But the ability to find some small piece of humor in the midst of calamity makes the darkness feel not so oppressive. It’s like taking the reins of a run-away horse.

We cannot control our circumstances but we can control how we respond.

And maybe it comes down to Mary Poppins.

A little bit of sugar  helps the medicine go down. 

 

 

 


Oct 18 2012

Collateral Damage

Death danced outside our door again.

His fingers long and reach beyond

the body that they claim. 

When my husband got home last night, he shared about his day. It began with a roll-over of a van full of kids and ended with a ninety-year old man being struck and killed by a motorist.

He posed a question. “What do you call it when you do the right thing but pay a price anyway?”

Two young boys witnessed the old man breathe his last. Their mom had stopped to be a witness. A good Samaritan. Death’s fingers found their way into her minivan and touched her sons. A picture they will never forget. An horrific image.

Collateral damage.

I have often thought to myself, “And that’s the last post on PTSD. Because, seriously, how many more can I come up with?” And then something happens.

“Unintended damage, injuries, or deaths caused by an action…”

Oh yeah. That happens.

Unintended damage.

Death takes one life but touches a sea of others.

Collateral damage.

I’ve struggled to explain what PTSD is like. Or better, what living with someone who has PTSD is like. In order to convey the width of impact it has in our lives as a family I end up sounding dramatic. I start talking about death and destruction and people’s eyes glass over. Who wants to deal with that?

Exactly. Who wants to? But some of us still get to.

And then I back off a little and talk about the affects instead of the causes and I sound like a victim. Look what it’s done to our family? Whine.

So when these two words came out last night as my husband was reliving his day, a light bulb went off.

What do you call it when you do the right thing and pay for it anyway? He was talking about the woman. The good Samaritan. She stopped to help but paid a price. But as he was talking, I realized he could just as easily be talking about himself.

What do you call it when you serve the community and do your job well and you end up dealing with unintended injuries?

Collateral damage. 

May we learn to respond to life’s unintended injuries.

 

God, give me grace to accept with serenity

the things that cannot be changed,

Courage to change the things

which should be changed,

and the Wisdom to distinguish

the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,

Enjoying one moment at a time…

-ReinholdNiebuhr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Sep 6 2012

End of Watch


17

Alexander is 17.

His father, Officer Youngstrom of the California Highway Patrol, was shot in the head on Tuesday. He made a traffic stop in Walnut Creek. Just doing his job.

Maybe that morning, Alexander’s dad drove him to school. Maybe the night before, they had talked about who gets to use the car this weekend. As of 6:05 pm last night, Alexander’s life is forever changed. He’s only seventeen and he lost his dad.

17 weeks.

The countdown has begun. At the end of seventeen weeks, I can lay that fear aside. In seventeen short weeks, my husband turns in his star and his gun. Retirement. The uniform will hang lethargic in the closet. No more traffic stops. No more wrecks. And we will step around the thin blue line. But, there have been countless days that I have embraced the chance that I could be in Alexander’s shoes. Saying goodbye to a hero.

17 weeks.

I think of Alexander and his family and I hold my breath.

But prayers aren’t prayers unless they are exhaled. Breathed out. Spoken. So I force myself to breath and I pray.

17 prayers.

God, grant your peace.

May your presence reside around the Youngstrom family.

May the tears of Alexander’s mother be counted.

May the tears of her children water their hearts and bear the fruit of wisdom.

May Alexander know that his father is a hero.

 

God, grant your provision.

May the family feel the prayers and thoughts of all who hear.

May the arms of the community embrace Alexander and his siblings.

May Officer Youngstrom’s wife know that she is our sister.

May there be strength in unity.

 

May Officer Youngstrom’s brothers in tan, be granted the gift of grieving.

May we find compassion for the perpetrator and his family.

May God give us the grace to count each day.

May we never forget those who risk so much to serve us.

May we know gratitude.

 

God, we ask you for your Grace.

May you grant us the eyes to see.

 

End of watch. 

Officer Kenyon Youngstrom, after a valiant fight, succumbed to the injuries he sustained after being shot on Tuesday morning. Officer Youngstrom was a dedicated officer and soldier who gave his life serving the people of California. He now joins a distinguished group of heroes whose names are engraved upon the CHP Memorial Fountain and who will forever be remembered for their valiant service and sacrifice.