I just attended the funeral service for a 21 year old boy. He was the son of a client, and also an occasional client himself. He died a week ago in a tragic diving accident. He was an athlete, a tennis player, and an incredibly bright light. He shone more brightly in his 21 years than most people do in a much lengthier lifetime.
As I walked away from his father, who I haven’t seen in probably about a year, I was struck by the state of shock that he is clearly experiencing. He is always the consumate jokester. Clearly as a child, the class clown, an entertainer. And always, in the classes he attended of mine, the very same thing. And there he was, at his only child’s funeral, playing his role; making a joke about how long it’s been since he’s seen me, telling me how young I look, asking about my kids– when the truth of the matter is, in that moment, none of that mattered in the least.
His boy is gone.
I walked away, crying for him, crying for all of us. Walked the short distance from the church through my wooded neighborhood to my house, allowing grief to stream out through my eyes– as the skies opened up as well and began to pour forth. Feeling the palpable heartache, the questioning, the agony of a father whose only bright, beautiful child was just stolen from him. This is a man exuding generosity, a man who took my family to the airport at 4 am, and picked us up at 12 am– out of the goodness of his own heart. Not because he needed to– but because he understands that what you give– you get back.
How then, does this man make sense of this tragedy for which no sense can be made? He doesn’t. It is just that: a senseless tragedy. There is no puppeteer in the sky creating or averting tragedy. Tragedy simply is. It cannot be avoided. Sometimes it hits a little closer to home than others. It helps serve as a reminder to all of us that life is precious. It reminds us all of the small miracles and blessings that go into each moment that make up our lives.
And as for my client, he soldiers on. He continues to play the role that he knows how to play. He moves through his life in a state of shock, until he’s ready to peel back that shock and take a look underneath. (And he may never be ready.) Because if he starts to acknowledge the shock– the entirety of his being will begin to unravel. Each of those careful pieces that he has knit together and placed precariously one on top of the other will begin to tumble. It is in that tumbling, in the unravelling, where healing begins.
Some people are afraid to touch those places within themselves that are raw. Many of us bury our pain, our grief, our vulnerability because shining a light on them is too scary. It makes us feel safer, or more powerful to hold our pain inside. What we must remember is that we all deserve to heal. Each and every one of us deserves to set our pain down and move forward without it. The tricky thing about that is– before you set it down, you have to feel it. Not everyone is ready to do that.
Not everyone is ready to heal. And no one can make anyone else ready. Each person’s healing process is his or her own individual journey– and it’s one that not everyone decides to take. Some people are content with sitting at the start of the path and contemplating that journey. Others don’t even get that far.
What I have come to understand about healing as I walk my own path, is that with each step I take along it– I become lighter. And the more I share that journey with others, the easier it becomes. We are all a part of this human experience. Each of us has our own role to play, and we each get to decide how we’re going to play it.
Alex Rovello teaches so much in his death. He was a shining example of how to live– and each of the hundreds of lives that were touched by his are lighter and brighter because of his presence within them. For me, he was a sweet kid who came into my studio and worked really hard– because that’s what he knew how to do. He was smart, friendly and always had a smile or laughter to go along with his complaints. I am blessed to have known him– and I know that his bright light is shining and will continue to shine for all of those who are ready to take a closer look at whatever it is that’s hiding underneath the shock.