Wisdom Isn’t Always Knowing Why
by Eric Wright, Aug. 2012
At times, circumstances strike you like an earthquake, followed by a tsunami. It can be an illness, a job loss, a market reversal, or a divorce. These anomalies respect neither age, nor intelligence or position. They make us feel like the calm waters of our life are in fact a huge blender and someone has pushed the “Puree” button.
In March, I was in my editor’s office when my wife Susan called and said my mother had been in an accident and she would rendezvous with me at Holmes Regional, where Mom had been taken. We both had the impression it wasn’t serious and she had been taken there for a routine post-accident examination. That wasn’t the case; she had been struck by a car while walking in a parking lot and the fall resulted in severe hemorrhaging in her cranial cavity. By the time we got to the hospital she was in surgery, and 30 minutes later the neurosurgeon was telling us she hadn’t survived.
My mom lived 89 wonderful years with complete independence, nevertheless we were in shock. The next 12 hours were spent making those emotional phone calls to family and friends scattered all over the planet.
This Can’t Be Happening
Twenty-four hours later the tsunami began to crest. When my youngest son, Quentin, got the news, he drove from Atlanta to Kentucky to pick up his cousin, so they could drive down for the memorial service together. Logan, my brother’s daughter, had lived with us for over a year when she was young. They encountered some rainstorms and when their light truck hit standing water, it spun out of control and hit a tree. Logan was killed on impact; Quentin drifted in and out of consciousness, called 911 and had to stay next to Logan for over an hour until EMTs came and took him to the hospital.
Grief turned to utter disbelief when we got the calls; surely there had to be some mistake. We were simply overwhelmed and like anyone else, we were groping for grace and some explanation to make sense of the nonsensical.
We live within walking distance of the beach and it has always been a place where I retreat to clear my head, think and pray. As soon as I could, that was where I headed. As I approached the stairs leading over the dune line, I saw the familiar signs posted at each access warning of rip currents.
Growing up on the beach I was familiar with these warnings and understood the phenomena long before signs were posted. The instructions say, “Don’t fight or swim against the current, but swim parallel to the shore until you’re out of its hold.” I thought, “That is exactly how I feel…like I’m caught in a rip current.” Then that still, inner voice said, “Yes you are, so don’t struggle for explanations, just do your best to swim parallel to the shoreline of reason and explanation, but if you fight to get to it now, you’ll drown.
Two months out, my son is back at work and doing well. We’re still not asking why; somehow those answers are illusive. Emotionally, we’re doing our best to keep the shore in sight and our head above water, knowing the lifeguard is monitoring our progress.
Storms and turbulence are an inevitable part of life, and most of the time we can’t track their approach like a hurricane in the Atlantic. I have found that wisdom isn’t knowing why there’s a storm, it is basically how we respond when it hits.