Last night I went to a funeral for a 5 year old boy who had more suffering in his short life than most of us will ever know. He spent over half his life on a ventolator and never was able to walk on his own. He frequently spent long stretches of time in the hospital battling pneumonia and other horrendous infections.
His mother has also had more than her share of suffering. Obviously watching her beloved son live a life of pain and limitation and ultimately having to bury him is horrendous suffering all alone. She is only 40 and has already had a hip replaced. She also divorced her schizophrenic, alcoholic husband after he refused for many years to seek treatment for either problem. She recognized that she had a finite amount of energy in the face of many difficult situations and she couldn't spend it on someone who had no interest in his own welfare or the welfare of his family.
Now, lest I leave you all in a state of utter depression my point it not to dwell on the morbid or to bring us all down. Last night there were tears of course, but there was an amazing amount of laughter too. Many stories of the humor and warmth this little boy had were shared. Not the least of which were his love of whoopie cushions and racing around in his motorized wheelchair. There were pictures of the 'Make-a-Wish' trip to Disneyworld and stories of how this boy relished getting each of the princesses to kiss him as he flirted shamelessly. Now how can these things not bring a smile to even a tear-drenched face?
I was also struck by the complete lack of bitterness expressed by the family. Sadness, pain, yes. Bitterness, no. I've known the family many years and never once have I heard, 'Why me?' The aunt eulogized the boy by saying, 'He taught us to love each other better. He reminded us that we can get along. We don't need to fight and argue. We can laugh through the worst of times. We know not to bear grudges. All because of him.'
I'm sure you all can think of people you know who have suffered terribly, unimaginably. Maybe you have been the one who has suffered. Some come out of the trials sweeter and more tender than ever. They now possess a greater sensitivity to people around them who are in pain. Others go through a trial and come out bitter and unable to function. They are quite sure they have cornered the market on pain and damnit......the world owes them something!
We've all had some trial to one degree or another. I don't wish them on anyone and certainly don't go looking for them. But I pray, whatever life brings, may we all be made sweeter.