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A Lesson From Tragedy

November 1, 2013 by  
Filed under blog

There are a lot of great lessons to learn in life and if we are paying attention–being acutely aware of what’s going on around us and inside of our heads–then we just might see what life is trying to teach us and learn some great lessons.

Two weeks ago my dear wife’s sister Susan and husband Val lost their 33 years old son Brad to cancer. It was a huge smack in the face for the whole family. My wife, Kimberly, quickly flew to North Carolina for the wake and to be with her sister and Brad’s wife and kids. I stayed home but became overwhelmed by my own grief as young Brad’s tragic death brought back the memories and sorrow I have surrounding my own daughter, Kristin, who passed at the age of only 16.

During my time alone I happened to open up my own book How to Ignite Your Passion for Living to page 159 and three lines of bold face print jumped out at me like a bright light. Those three lines were what Nando Parrado said many years ago after surviving that horrific plane crash in the Andes mountains. He and a companion climbed over one of the highest peaks during a grueling 11 day trek to civilization and the chance to rescue the remaining crash survivors who only survived because they ate the flesh of their dead rugby teammates. The life lesson that Nando wrote was this: “There may be only one good thing that can come from great human tragedy and that is tragedy can make you so much more human than you ever were before.”

When I think back and look at myself after Kristin’s death, I can see how it changed me and intensified tenfold my empathy, caring and loving of other people. I was especially empathetic towards those that had lost a loved one and, in particular, if they had lost a child. I can’t put into words the huge change in my feelings towards those people and their families.

There is not one of us 7 billion humans that are going to make it out of here alive (although I’ve thought about totally boycotting death!) and if we live long enough we are bound to encounter our share of tragedy. So given that probability, doesn’t it all just come down to how we handle those terrible tragedies?

As I see it we have 2 choices. One, we can totally give up, throw in the towel and lay around feeling sorry for ourselves until we die.  Or two, we can learn a lesson about life and go out in the world trying to help others survive and even thrive as well as help them make it through their tragedies.

We do have a choice here. I think if we chose the first option we are bound to drag ourselves into depression, misery and sadness for the rest of our lives. But if we chose the second option, I think we’ll see brightness and light not only fill our own lives but just as important we will see that light in the minds, souls and bodies of those we seek out to help.

So what do you choose?

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