On December 19, I went to the funeral of a neighbor. He was a 51-year-old man who was a handsome and vital person with a bright compassionate and beautiful wife and an adorable 10-year-old boy named Alex. Understandably, his wife and sister were in agony. I know a bit about that agony, having lost both a wife and sister.
But I couldn’t take my eyes off Alex. Sometimes playing with his young cousins in the pew of the church and sometimes sobbing. Every time I looked at him or even thought about him, I experienced almost unbearable pain. Beyond the obvious, there are other reasons for that.
Yesterday, December 20, is the 38th anniversary of my car accident. 38 years since I have moved my legs, danced, made love in the traditional way, showered or toileted by myself or even cut my own food. I woke up today thinking of my old house-a trilevel multiple steps throughout. This was the house we started our lives in, the house we had to leave. The house that I would go back to on day visits during the early days of my hospitalization.
The house where my then six-year-old daughter sat on my lap in my wheelchair and said she was glad I wasn’t hurt worse in the accident because: “now I have my daddy back.” I cried then. I cry now. I cry for little Alex doesn’t have his daddy back. And I cry for this body the has suffered so much over all of these years and endured. And I cry for this good man who has gone through so much suffering as it gets worse over the years. I cry for Alex and his mother and all those who suffer unspeakable pain.
On most days, I feel such great love for those I love and for those I don’t know. I also feel gratitude for everything in my life, including life itself. I usually even feel those things on the anniversary of my accident.
But not today.
There is a poem in Ecclesiastes that tells us there is a season for everything: a time to be born and a time to die, A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to mourn and a time to dance.
This is Alex’s time, his mother’s time and my time to weep and to mourn. And yes, we will all laugh again, feel alive again, “dance” again. But those things will happen in their time. Who knows, my time could come in the next hour. And for little Alex and his mom, their time me come for little moments even today when they might catch themselves laughing.
The Dalai Lama tells us we all suffer and we all want happiness, compassion—and love.
It is compassion that will change my suffering to love. My compassion today is for Alex, is mom and me. And slowly I realize through my compassion the extent of affection I feel for them. Because the compassion I feel for myself, I feel more kind and less self-pity.
Suffering changes us. As does compassion and love.