Along the way, you certainly realize that life is a relative thing. Along the way, we learn as we go along. We grow and we live. We have different exposures and different experiences, and, as well, we have different viewpoints that come from our basic circle of influence. Not everything is the same to you and me, which is fine if you ask me. I think they call this diversity.
Years back, I had a guest in my house. He is a trained fighter. He holds black belts in both Judo and Brazilian Jujitsu. He is strong; in fact, safe to say that he could probably beat more than 90% of the population in physical combat.
Yes, he is strong alright—and he is smart too. Give this man a problem and he would most likely solve it. He is well educated. And he is physically strong as well. In fact, I can say that he is one of the strongest people I know.
Sadly, however, he lost his youngest son to cancer. It would seem that physical strength means nothing in cases like this.
Relatively speaking, in cases of the heart, physical strength means nothing whatsoever.
I know this because there was someone I used to buddy around with during the club phase in my 20’s. And he was big too. He bench-pressed 500lbs which to me is unthinkable.
I can only imagine what this must be like to nearly lift anything without worry or without intimidation, and more to the point; I can only imagine what it feels like to be able to lift something so incredibly heavy without any hesitation.
This man was also somewhat of a fighter. He was certainly a threat back when “The Boys” would get together at some of our usual nightlife spots.
There is a story about this man, which became a common theme for him too. He liked to pick people up by the throat and toss them.
Seriously, this was his move.
He loved to silence tough guys. Even bouncers were afraid of him. I know this because I watched a few ask him to remain calm when my friend walked through the door.
He was young and angry and loved to enforce his ability when the time was right—and for him, the time was right when, for example, we were out and someone in the crowd thought it would be a good idea to impose their ideas, which always turned out poorly for them.
Please do not be mistaken—he was a good guy (to me, at least.) And although capable of violent things, still, he was also capable of being a good friend—and I get it, he doesn’t sound very nice, but then again, he wasn’t your friend either, so please forgo judgement for now refrain from opinion because trust me, I am about to make sense of this.
This man had to be the strongest, toughest man I knew. I would have put my money on him for anything. Yes sir, he had to be the strongest person I knew . . .
Decades later, I was involved with a charity event that raised money for children with pediatric cancer. At the time, my partner and I won an award for raising money, which was humbling and beautiful, as well inspiring and exhilarating. I was proud and honored, and wholeheartedly, I was happy to know that I was able to pay back for some of my wrongs in my life.
See, I did not come here for an award; no, I came for penance, which was validated and acknowledged and moved me to tears.
We were invited to a ceremony with others that did well for the foundation. We heard a few speakers that day. Their stories were gripping to say the least but ultimately heartbreaking because theirs were the stories of loss.
There was a little woman that sat with us. She was beautiful. She had a presence that was undeniable. She was a Mom, of course, and she talked like a Mom talks. She looked like a Mom—actually, she looked like a very good Mom; and she is one.
I did not know she was one of the speakers about to present her story. I did not know much about her at all. I just knew she was at our table for the ceremony.
But then they announced her. Then she told her story. She talked about what it was like to lose one of her children, her daughter Josephine. And suddenly, strength took on a much different appeal to me.
I recall her saying what her daughter said. “Mommy, my head hurts me so bad that it makes me want to hurt myself.”
How do you endure words like this from your child when all you want to do is protect them?
The Mom built a garden in memory of Josephine. she raised all the money on her own. I say this takes dedication. I say this takes strength. I also say she would be more than fine to be weaker and less-dedicated if she could only have Josephine back.
I don’t think strength is a choice. No Mam, I think strong is who we are, regardless to outcome.
At the end, my partner and I helped clean the room. We helped gather the tables and chairs. Josephine’s Mom was there to help as well.
My partner and I were able to carry more equipment however. Josephine’s Mom carried less than we did, but like I said, strength is certainly relative.
I used to think my friend that benched 500lbs was the strongest person I knew. Then I met Josephine’s Mom. Then I met Carson’s Mom. And then I met Carson, who beat Neuroblastoma at the age of 6.
And then there is little Nate. Nate was 3 when he came down with Leukemia. Nate is alive and well and cancer free. Super Nate, they call him.
The strongest kid alive!
And then there is the Blades family. There is a roomful of kids that I played with in the playroom at Sloan Kettering. This happened when I went to see my young friend Olivia receive her last treatment. Olivia was 13 then and she is somewhere close to 17 now. She too is cancer free.
She too is the strongest girl alive!
Then again, if you ask her, she’d probably rather be weaker and never had to deal with any of this. But nevertheless, the fact remains that she was the strongest little girl I know
And myself, I am weak. I am weak as I recall this. I am weak as I recall the playroom filled with all the costumes any kid would possibly think of. There was any game they could want. It was all there for them. Building blocks, toys, cars, you name it and it was there.
Some of the children were too sick to play. They sat in wheelchairs, pale-skinned, Chemo-headed and hairless. And some were hairless too, on the med, and still ready to play.
And me, I gave everything I had. I ran around. I jumped and I played. I laughed and I rolled around for as long as I could.
And then, when it was time to go, I boarded the elevator to go down to the lobby. And as soon as the doors closed—I wept with all of my heart. I wept to the nurse that boarded the elevator with me. And I thanked her with everything I had.
Lord knows I have not always been a good man is what I thought to myself. Lord knows I have met and seen people do awful things. But these kids never hurt anyone. They never even had the chance to live. It’s not right, I thought. It’s not fair. But hey, life is relative; remember?
I saw a priest when I came downstairs. I ran up and I grabbed him—perhaps a bit too aggressively because I mean, I literally grabbed him and shook the middle-aged priest by the shoulders. I made him pray right there. I would let him go until he did.
Quite hysterically, i told him “Do it now!”
“Pray for them or I won’t let you go!”
And I said this through angry, hateful teeth that clenched in my mouth.
It is understandable that I myself, perhaps, might have a presence. I am a heavily tattooed man. I also have an accent and, I am told I have a certain way of speaking that might be considered intimidating. (of course, i disagree with this, but still)
And yes, the priest did not expect this. And no, I do not suppose he was happy at first—and yes, he did seem quite uncomfortable, until I asked him to pray. And he did. He nearly wept with me.
“It’s gonna be okay, son.”
Okay? what is “Okay” but another relative word?
In all my life, I have never seen a theft worse than the theft of a childhood. I see these kids and I think of them beautiful, deserving, so young with so much to do. It does not seem fair —then again, what is “Fair” besides another relative term?
Life is relative and so is time; however, one thing is constant between us all. In the beginning we are born. There is a beginning, same as there is a middle, and equally, there is an end to every one of us. Strength is relative. Life is relative. And so is living.
I remember when I was small and a year seemed like an eternity. The summers moved pretty quickly but the school year seemed to drag along forever.
Time moves differently in relation to size. There is a mosquito (I think) that only lives for 24 hours. That’s just a day to you and me. But it’s a lifetime to the mosquito.
I am grown now. I’m not so small anymore. Months seem to peel from the calendar as quickly as a minute. And there are times when I turn around and think about the years passed, which moved like a blink before my eyes. I think about the arguments and the incidents that separate us all. I think about the time we wasted, or better yet, I think about the time I wasted arguing or seeking validation.
See, when you’re a kid there is a plethora of tomorrows. And when you grow old, you realize you are living with a limited stock.
This is the realization that changed my life. Maybe this came late. Maybe this came right on time. Or, maybe this is just relative and the 47 year-old me sees it this way. But who knows what the 67 year-old me will think. I just need to shoot to make it there, live my life, be well, and as my Mom always told me, “Don’t sweat the small stuff!” And as for tomorrow; who knows what will happen?