In my former days, if I said, “You can’t escape from this,” I’d be talking about some sort of submission hold from my grappling or martial arts training.
But today, I’m coming at you from a different angle, a different direction.
This Friday, my son’s high school baseball team was going to have their “end of year” banquet – followed by a trip to watch a minor league ballgame with the Tampa Yankees.
Everyone was excited. Everyone was pumped.
At 8:21 AM I received an email notice from the coach saying that an optional hitting practice after school was cancelled.
Thought nothing of it.
At 12:39 PM I received another email from the coach, saying the weekend banquet was cancelled. And so were workouts
for the rest of the week.
Then he wrote something that caught my attention. For REAL.
“Please give your loved ones a hug and keep all of our families and boys in your thoughts.”
What the hell happened?
I wrote the coach. No reply.
I then went through all my emails, looking for clues. Somehow I had overlooked an email from the school that was sent at 8:37 AM – entitled “Family Tragedy.”
I read the email and it mentioned two students by name and year, Megan (9th) and Colin (12th) Campbell.
I just saw Colin the night before, at batting practice, working on his absolutely gorgeous swing. My son and I talked about how good he was after practice. How he had a scholarship to play baseball in the fall.
And now I’m hearing about a tragedy?
I started to scour the Internet for news – for anything, as I wasn’t in a place with televsion.
I texted my son at school. I asked him what happened.
He texted back, “Colin died.”
I couldn’t believe what I read.
How? Why? What happened?
And then I learned that the whole family died. Father, mother and sister – along with Colin – in an early morning fire in one of the most prestigious and “protected” areas of Tampa.
All the details haven’t surfaced yet – but one thing is certain – no one has heard from any of the Campbells.
As a father, as a coach, as a man who enjoyed talking to Colin’s father at ball games and watching his son clobber the ball – this situation brings me to tears. It really hurts. You see children with such bright futures, and parents who support them – and in a flash – they’re gone.
I spent much of the afternoon and evening yesterday with my son, talking to him, answering his questions as best I could. Mostly just listening. Being with him.
“Did you ever lose a friend when you were only 13 years old?” Frank asked.
“No,” I replied.
“Do you think we should have his initials on our uniforms next year? A ‘CC patch?”
“That would be nice.”
We went to the outdoor handball courts to blow off steam, whacking the ball over and over again. Then we drove around and talked some more.
As the evening unfolded I sat outside, looking into the heavens, wondering and asking questions I’ve never really asked myself before.
How could God let something like this happen?
Where’s the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit in this?
Is there a message in this for me? Something that will help me and others?
The answer came to me as I searched my soul.
They are as follows:
“You cannot escape suffering. It’s part of life. Even the enlightened beings suffer. Jesus suffered. Buddha suffered. All human beings suffer. No matter where you go, there will be suffering. Someone you know will die. Someone you know will get hurt or sick. Or you will.”
“You can move into the richest neighborhood on the planet. You can go where they have armed guards protecting you. And you will still see suffering – and you will also suffer. You can evade and elude suffering for awhile, but eventually you will encounter it yourself.”
“No matter how clean your Karma, you will suffer. No matter how good your past lives were (for those who believe in such a thing) – you will suffer. No matter how positive your thinking – you will suffer.”
“Life itself isn’t suffering – but suffering IS part of LIFE. The same holds true of happiness.”
“So what to do? Embrace suffering as part of life. Don’t fear it. Don’t try to avoid it. Recognize it for what it is – and allow yourself the opportunity to transform your suffering into compassion, love and happiness.”
“Those who have not suffered have not experienced what it is like to be truly human.”
These are the thoughts that came to me as I sat all alone last night, looking into the sky, listening to the frogs croak and the crickets chirp.
These thoughts don’t answer the “Why’s” – but they do help me to see the essence of what is going on – what is always going on.
Suffering, Compassion and Happiness. Three sides of the same triangle.
Author of Theatre of the Mind
P.S. Those of you coming to Tampa this weekend for training, I’ll be ready for you. See you soon.