But amidst all the excitement building to the AFC playoffs, a friend died, leaving a beloved widow with a lifetime of precious memories and a new loss in a life that has known plenty of loss already.
So young Mr. Mahones's comment after the season ending loss was ringing in my ears as I thought about my friend's passing. "It hurts, but it is supposed to hurt."
Part of our physical survival and mental health resides in a primal desire to avoid pain. We spend a lot of time telling a young child to not touch a hot stove (ouchie!) or not to run on hard, uneven surfaces, or not to say mean things. And as adults a major responsibility is to count the cost of things we are considering doing: Can we make the mortgage payments? Is this business opportunity legal and, even more import, good for my family and my community?
So pain avoidance is very important. But this leaves us with problems when pain is unavoidable, when we lose something very dear to us whether it is in a failed professional goal, or in the aftermath of a crime, or at the death of a beloved one. Loss is unavoidable because we care about people. We care about making a difference. We care about our reputation and our future. And we suffer losses small and large all our lives. In fact, I believe that how we learn to deal with loss deeply affects our quality of life for all our lives.
My husband needed a medical procedure. It was important but not an emergency so we had to find a surgeon and hospital "within network". We matched a physician our doctor said had a good reputation with the information on the web to choose a doctor. Folks were surprised we chose a doctor who had paid a modest compensation for an earlier surgical error. But I have never seen any surgical team be SO committed to making sure that they were proceeding with great care and attention to detail. The physician had not allowed a mistake to leave him too fearful to use his education, training and skill to give my husband an excellent outcome. He did not become so overwhelmed with fear and remorse that he closed up shop; instead he chose to become a better doctor.
When my first marriage failed and I was a young single mother, I was angry, worried and frightened. But I chose to be very intentional in learning all I could, figuring out how to go forward and renewing my relationship with God. I figured out very quickly that I have NO ability to make someone else do what I wanted them to do. I had tried as hard as I knew how in every way I could imagine so I saw that relationship as a closed door that only God could open again and only as it was "for the best." I will be forever sorry that my children did not have the security of an intact family as they grew up. But I am forever grateful for all the blessings that they and I do have because, freed from the distraction of trying to superglue a failing relationship, I was free to let God rebuild my relationship with Him.
So much of that rebuilding and renewal was painful, but so much less painful than the path I was on, believing I could work hard enough, be strong enough, be smart enough, care enough on my own to do life fully, to protect my children from pain, to find the best way forward.
As I have gotten older I have tried to be more intentional in relishing "the moment" -- the first rays of dawn, a child's smile, sweet breezes, completed passes, a marriage renewed, the tenderness of farewells, watching love overcome fear. And I've gotten a bit better at remembering that pain comes with a potential for blessings, for gratitude that slowly outpaces the sorrow, gratitude for having had the blessing and for the comfort that God wraps around us and for the new challenges and blessings that lay before us as long as we reside in this world.
And I've come to thank God for the pain because it has always been fertile ground for shedding the unimportant and wrapping myself in God's consistent, tender and able care, and God's unending love.