I spent last week in San Angelo, Texas. My brother, Troy, his wife Connie, and my young nephews Kyler, Shane and Junior had lost their son and brother, Chris, suddenly and unexpectedly at just 19 years old. The grief they held was too much for any family. I’d seen it before when we’d lost my brother Josh. I hoped never to see it again.
I know it’s said we never encounter more than we can handle, but, in my experience, it’s patently untrue. In the face of far too much sadness and loss, we learn to make due with what we have left. With a bit of luck, the passing of time, and the grace only healing can bring, what we have left becomes more than we could have ever imagined in the valley of our despair.
While I was away, Sanjay got this note from Mama Lucy:
I’ve just come back from Patandi Hospital about 2 hours ago. Around 3pm, I was informed by the matron of the children’s home that one of our students had broken his arm. As you know our hospitals, the incharge of x-ray was not there, so we waited for almost 2 hours before the electricity gone. So we end up with just painkiller injection and they stretch the arm, tighten it to make it stiff so that we can wait three days until Monday. The doctor did that in a dark room. I was really mad. I wish I had a way to take away all leaders of this country who are just using our money and resources for nothing. We’re fed up with this kind of living.
There were other people there at the hospital with more serious cases – out and in patients. Everyone knows the importance of having full-time person at X-ray room. In some cases, other services cannot move before this. Why not have someone there at the x-ray room to attend us in such a big hospital? Even the former US President Bush visited this hospital. Though I had transport to go to the regional hospital at Mount Meru, the doctor told me that the x-ray machine at Mount Meru Hospital is not working.
Also, why have power rationing in sensitive places like hospitals?! Imagine, there was a man there whose fingers had big cut with machine, who needed to get stitches. There was a young girl too whose arm was cut by a sharp thing. She was really bleeding. The doctor and nurse decided to save that girl’s life by doing that work outside the room after attending us as inside was getting more dark. I wonder why these Tanesco (Tanzanian power company) people don’t think. Why to include hospitals to the power allocation? Doctors and nurses of our country are doing tough job at a very risky situation. I wish our leaders could think more on how to solve such big problems, to save people’s lives. Many are dying for no good reason.
Let these young people get a good education to enable them to take over the country one day – and do what leaders are supposed to do.
There is so much pain in our lives – so much over which we have so little control. Broken arms and bleeding hands in dark hospital rooms. Power rationing and mismanagement of limited resources in emerging economies. The painful, unexpected deaths of our brothers and sons.
But it ours to choose what will come of these moments – and what we’ll do in the space between them. Will we build schools and move mountains, or lay down to drown in the delusion that our momentary powerlessness will never end?
As I sat watching tears fall down so many faces at Chris’ funeral, I wondered what radical transformation this suffering would make possible in the hearts of his friends and family. May the understanding that unfolds from this grief honor Chris’ life and legacy, and may our pain, as Mama Lucy’s, become the fire in our bellies that lights the path ahead.
by Kahlil Gibran
Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.
Much of your pain is self-chosen.
It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.
Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquillity:
For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen,
And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.
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