“What cannot be cured must be endured”
My grandma on my mother’s side had a favorite say, “what cannot be cured must be endured”. As a child I never really liked it when she would tell me that because it usually meant, I wasn’t getting what I wanted. I’ve been thinking about my grandma lately. I have to say the women in my family have always been very strong, sometimes stubborn, very practical, and always, well mostly, no nonsense.
My grandma before she passed away left all her grandchildren a little money, and her life story. When I called to thank her for the money, she told me she wanted to give it all away before she passed. My grandmother had Leukemia, she had already decided, she didn’t t want treatment. I never really knew why-but she didn’t. A few months later, on a Sunday morning as she was getting ready to go to church, she told my mom and my sister that she was tired and wanted to lie down. She laid down on her bed and passed away that morning a couple of hours later. My grandma-strong, levelheaded, stubborn, deeply religious, had outlived two husbands, raised 7 children (my mom being the youngest) was gone, just like that.
Grandma was a child of the 1920’s. She was born in Protection Kansas in 1914. She died in Grand Junction Colorado in 1990. She married my grandpa in September of 1931 when she was 17, he was 28. She married during the great depression (1929-1933). My grandpa was a dairy farmer. He, my grandma, and the children who were old enough, milked the cows every morning and delivered milk to the surrounding community in the afternoon. My grandpa continued to deliver milk during the great depression, even to those who could not pay. My grandparents were not well off by any means, but they had food, and they all worked.
The saying, “What cannot be cured must be endured” is a quote from Robert Burton’s book “The Anatomy of Melancholy”. I never knew where my grandma got the quote until I discovered it in Burton’s book. As I thought about the quote, and what it might have meant to my grandma, I realized that my “no nonsense” grandmother never complained about anything-I mean literally, nothing. She was not always a glass half full person, but she never, ever looked at tragedy as the end.
In her life story you got a peek behind the curtain of this no “hogwash” women. As she is explaining the circumstances of her raising her seven children she says, “even though I didn’t always say it I hope all my children realized how much I loved them”. She had a hard time expressing feelings, probably viewed the expression of feelings as weakness-I wish I could have told her that its ok to express what you feel-but I never got the chance. There is another memorable, deeply touching passage in her life story. The passage is about a mother mouse. As my grandmother tells the story, “Mice were always a problem on the farm and in the farmhouse. We did our best to rid the house and farm of these nasty vermin. One early morning I was in the kitchen and noticed a mouse running across the floor, I went to get my broom to kill it. When I got my broom there it was again, scampering across the floor, but this time it had a baby mouse in its mouth. This little mother mouse paused, and just looked at me for a moment, as if to say, “go ahead do your worst”, then it ran to the other side of the kitchen. I was astonished to say the least. But what happened next was even more astonishing-I watched as this little mother mouse run three more times across the floor and retrieve three more babies all the while looking at me. I couldn’t bring myself to kill it-I thought if this little mouse was brave enough to risk being killed to retrieve its babies, it deserved to live”. The story made me well up with tears as I envisioned this little mouse braving death, my grandmother standing there, broom at the ready-but stubbornly, and bravely, scampering across the floor time and time again to rescue her babies. My grandma, being the type of person that she was, admired bravery, perseverance, tenacity, and hard work. It appears the little mother mouse reflected all of that to her. As I said my grandmother rarely showed feelings, but here, from her own hand, was a rare glimpse of her caring heart.
Now back to her favorite phrase-I see now that she used the phrase to convince herself that she could make it through anything. Extreme loss, horrific financial times, and at times, I am sure, struggles with depression. I find myself thinking about that phrase today in my own life. I take solace in the fact sometimes I may not be able to do anything about somethings I wish I could change. But just like grandma, I can endure it-maybe you need to hear that as well! Maybe we all need to hear the message, “what cannot be cured must be endured”. Meaning you, me, and everyone else will make it. Just like the little mother mouse-endure. persevere, keep going, don’t give up-even in the face or seemly certain tragedy.
“There’s something happen here…”
The 60’s hits, “For what it’s worth” (1967) by Buffalo Springfield, and “Get together” (1967) by the Youngbloods, are more relevant today than ever.
The lyrics from, “For what it’s worth”, say “There’s something happening here…There’s battle lines being drawn, nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong. Young people speaking their minds, getting so much resistance from behind…Paranoia strikes deep, into your life it will creep. It starts when you’re always afraid.”. The most infamous lines are, “I think it’s time we stop children, what’s that sound? Everybody looks what’s going down.”
What does this mean? As in all art meaning is in the hearts and minds of the viewer, or listener. As I ponder the lyrics I think of the deep divisions in our country, politically, racially, and financially. These divisions pit neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend, brother against brother, sister against sister, liberals against conservatives. Maybe it is time we “stop”, take a look around. Really see what divisions are doing to our hearts, our minds, and our very souls.
Divisions are nothing new. History bears this out. But if history has taught us anything it’s that we, unfortunately, don’t learn from our collective past. Each new generation does not look to history as a guide. New generations perceive history as bygone, and no longer relevant. So, it is summarily ignored. Why does this happen? The only answer I can come up with is, each new generation thinks their situation is unique. When in fact, it is not. If only history was actually studied, and examined, we would see, the only thing that’s changed, is time. Nothing else. Unfortunately, because we refuse to regard, and learn from our past-we repeat the same mistakes. We embrace baseless theories. We disregard the lessons. So, we end up with the same divisions. Where does that leave us? you ask. It leaves us in an endless cycle of see, act, repeat; see, act, repeat… It is a fact, each new generation, suffers through what previous generations have already, learned, concluded, and moved past.
Past generations have learned divisions do nothing but deepen bitterness, entrench falsehoods, and leave us, (you, me, and everyone else) with a sense of despair. Despair is the last thing we need when we are already dealing with a pandemic.
The lyrics from “Get Together”, say “Love is but a song to sing. Fears the way we die. You can make the mountains ring. Or make the angels cry…Some may come, and some may go. We shall surely pass”. Then the chorus harkens us to look past our divisions, “Come on people now. Smile on your brother. Everybody get together. Try to love one another, right now.”
Don’t you think its time that we stop, and look around at what’s happening? I mean really, really, look. Look into the faces of those who are being discriminated against. Look into the faces of the children who are bullied. Look into the faces of people suffering from mental illness. Look into the faces of those who are dying of COVID. Look into the faces of those who have lost loved ones from COVID. Look into the faces of those who are scared for their futures. Look deep into the faces of all these, and then, tell me we don’t need healing from our divisiveness! We must confront our divisions. Now, more than ever.
Let’s do some collective soul searching here. Frankly, I’m sick and tired of being, sick and tired. Aren’t you? I’m tired of the divisions. I’m tired of the hateful messages. I’m tired of intolerance, I’m tired of the selfishness. I’m tired of the bullying. I’m tired of the racism. I’m tired of hearing from those who say, “my way is the only way”. I guess I’m just tired. I’ll bet you are too!
Perhaps it’s time we start making the choice to love one another, rather than hate each other. Maybe now is the time to remember what binds us, instead of what divides us. Maybe, we need to remember the times we pulled together as Americans and defeated, Nazism, and Fascism. The times we came face to face with our national racism and vowed to change. The times when we felt a sense of duty, honor, and resolve to bring the 9-11 terrorists to justice. The times we collectively mourned, and still are, over the tragic loss of a life to virus (Most recently the tragic, and shocking loss of Commissioner Gary Stamper).
Let’s decide today to, “stop…and look at what’s going down”. Let’s decide today to, “smile on your brother”. Let’s decide today to, “get together. Try to love one another, right now.”
What do you say?
From studies and news after Columbine:
“Attackers were as likely to be rich as poor. They are from all ethnic and racial backgrounds (though three-fourths were white). They had intact and broken families, good and bad report cards. A few felt isolated but just as many had a lot of friends. Most were suicidal, but only a few had been diagnosed with mental disorders.” -U.S. Secret Service Study
“Killers do not just ‘snap’. They plan. They acquire weapons. These children take a long, considered, public path toward violence.” -USA Today
Columbine 1999 (13 died), Aurora 2012 (12 died), Boulder 2021 (10 died). My heart felt heavy and sad as I watched the news. I probably should have avoided watching the news, as I have often advised others to do, but I didn’t. My emotions readily welling up, as I watched the scenes of people running, people crying, red & blue lights, law enforcement, and spontaneous hugs. Why did I watch? I’m not sure. Maybe to remind myself of my own demons. I am not trying to make a political statement-this is not about gun rights-it’s just what happened. I’m writing because of my own struggle at answering the “Why?”.
I grew up in Colorado, my family is there-my parents, grandparents, and numerous relatives are buried there. My sisters still reside there. I began my mental health career there. I was first licensed as a therapist there. My first job in mental health was there.
I left Colorado in 2000 to come to Washington State. I was in the Army Reserves at the time-my unit was being deployed. I was given the option of going on deployment or finding another unit. Because of family reasons I choose the latter. The only unit I could find was is Seattle-but before I moved I experienced a life defining event. An event that would haunt, define, give meaning, and shape me for the rest of my life; “Columbine”.
I was working for Aurora Mental Health in the Crisis Services Department when the shooting happened. A week before the shooting, myself and my colleagues had trained in “Critical Incident Stress Debriefing”. We didn’t realize we would be using that training so soon.
I recall the events of April 20th, 1999 as if they happened yesterday. I watched the horrible events unfold in real time. I saw students running out of the school-I didn’t realize what had just happened-no one did. But I, like the rest of the world, would soon learn active shooters were at large.
In days following the shooting, local newspapers and area news made it known that mental health professionals from various agencies were available. We fanned out across the city and County and waited to see who would show up. Soon teachers, students, community members, curiosity seekers, as well as news reporters came. Some to talk-others to process-still others to share their story. One teachers’ story was so vivid and moving, I still recall the details of that conversation today.
In the weeks following, mental health workers from all area agencies were asked to volunteer to walk with students and parents returning to the school. In the fear, confusion, chaos, and mayhem students left backpacks, books, personal items-literally everything and ran. When I arrived at the school hundreds of students, with their parents, were standing outside of every school entrance. As I escorted students and parents into the school-bullet holes were still visible in the walls and ceiling. Each hole circled in red, and numbered.
Some of the students and parents just couldn’t do it-so they turned around and walked away. I remember thinking at the time-if I walked away I wouldn’t have to see the students faces, see the bullet holes, feel the heaviness in the air-I wanted to run, to just get out…but I stayed.
Hundreds of backpacks lined the floor in the gym-the gym was the last stop for the students as they left the school that day. I don’t recall how many students and parents I walked beside-all I remember, we were at the school most of the morning and late into the afternoon.
During a student/parent escort later that day I exited one of classrooms on the second floor-I noticed several teachers cleaning a storage closet. The storage closet was full of textbooks on gray metal shelves. The teachers were sorting and discarding ones with bullet holes. As I stood in the door way a teacher said, “these books saved lives, had these books not been here the bullets would have gone through the walls hitting students on the other side…. As I turned to walk out of the room, I noticed the library just down the hall. The library was where the majority of the students were killed, and where the shooters, Klebold and Harris took their own lives. I stood there for a brief moment imagining what it must have been like for the students and teachers that horrible day.
I sometimes relive those moments when shootings are in the news, especially when they happen in Colorado. The “why” remains even we understand the reasons. It is true-that memories fade with time. However, there are those memories that last a lifetime-Columbine is one of those for me
How’s your character?
If you have been watching the news lately concerning the January 6th hearings, which I hope you haven’t watched too much, you are aware that issues like credibility, integrity. character, and principles are on display for the American people to decide what’s true and what’s not. This idea of a person’s character and whether they are believable is based on what they say backed up by what they do. If a person is to be considered credible their words must be met with action, otherwise their words mean nothing. Think about the people you trust and admire, do you have them in mind? They are more than likely people who back up what they say with exertion.
In exploring this idea of a person’s character and trustworthiness, I asked a group of my managerial staff a while back, “if you could have any superpower, what would you chose?”
Several staff said staff said, “invisibility”. Their answer got me to thinking about something I recalled from a graduate philosophy class. In Plato’s Republic Book two he mentions the Ring of Gyges. The ring grants the wearer the power of invisibility at will. Plato mentions it in his book because he is dialoguing about character and morality. I also learned from this same graduate course that the ethical standards that we live by are the standards we adhere to and hopefully practice. If we violate those ethical principles we feel bad, and rightly so. Morality is living, and putting, those ethical principles into action. For Plato, the basic question he seeks to answer is this-is anyone so virtuous that he or she would not do things if the fear of any sort of detection was removed? In other words, would you use the superpower of invisibility to do good or would you do something immoral?
Now, think about that for a moment before you answer. You could do literally anything you wanted without detection-you could get away with stealing, you could get away getting back at someone who has wronged you, or anything else you wanted. Plato is implying, if you had this superpower this would reveal the character of who you really are. Would you use the power for good or for something not so good?
Some have said that this is where J. R. R. Tolkien got his idea for the Lord of the Rings-could be-I don’t know for sure. Think about people you have admired or do admire. More than likely what you admired about them was the fact they were, or are, persons of principle. You admired them because they stood for something. When people are asked who they admire its usually the same answer; someone who did something or stood for something beyond their own needs and wants. Someone who did the right thing even thought they didn’t have to
Regardless of which side you are on in the debate concerning the January 6th hearings I challenge you to listen and look for matters of character, morality, and integrity. Whoever is talking or who they are talking about-look for integrity, or character, or both. Is the person they are talking about, or the person talking a person of integrity.
What would you do if you had the ring from, “Lord of the Rings”? Are the things you say backed up by the person you are? Is the person you are backed up by your actions? Do you do the right thing even if no one is watching? I’m not talking here about not coming to a full stop at a stop sign even when there are no cars around-because that really has nothing to do with character-not stopping has more to do with how big of a hurry you in. I’m talking about your actions matching your words. If you want to be considered a person of integrity, a person who others admire, back up what you say with your actions. Do the right thing-even if you don’t have to. Listen; we all have fallen short at times, but you can determine right now, today, to be a person of principle and character. You will feel better and others will admire you for it.