My brother-in-law was in a motorcycle accident this past weekend. Thankfully, he will be okay, but he has a long road to recovery ahead of him.
I spent the past two days at the hospital with my sister, my Dad, his wife, my niece and nephew, and a few of my sister’s friends. We sat, we waited, we talked. We silently worried, silently prayed, silently searched our hearts for optimism.
During one of our silent moments, I thought about how, in honor of my brother-in-law, I experimented with a new, back roads route from Providence to the hospital in Hartford, CT. My brother-in-law is in sales, and knows every road from Maine to Pennsylvania, and along with that, can tell you the best place to stop for ice cream, and which diner makes the tastiest eggs.
When I drove along the two-lane road, I absorbed the new-to-me, but oh so familiar, rural New England landscape stretched out before me–lush, pine, oak and maple tree-filled hills, roadside farm stands, even a postcard perfect covered bridge.
The sun was brilliant, the sky clear, the radio Gods with me. And I think because of that, mid-way through my ride, I started to cry. I started to cry because life can be so beautiful and perfect, and I feel so grateful to be able to experience such moments of beauty. Life can also be so tender and fragile, and things can change in an instant. I was overwhelmed with thoughts of my brother-in-law’s well-being, and with how my sister, and my niece and nephew, both in their twenties, must be feeling.
I thought back to just a week ago, when I attended the celebration of my sister being named Teacher of The Year for her town. I sat in an auditorium filled with 300 people–teachers and school administrators, and proudly listened as my sister spoke about what inspired her to become a teacher, and the challenge for all of us to care enough to inspire our children, and provide equal opportunities for enrichment to all children, regardless of their access at home to such experiences.
During my sister’s speech, I looked to the left at my brother-in-law, niece and nephew, and then to my right, to my Dad, and caught their proud profiles. Again, tears filled my eyes, at the beauty of this moment. I admit I would probably be considered an overly sentimental person. I have my mother to blame for that. She passed away twenty-four years ago, but believe me, if she was here, she would have needed an entire box of tissues at this ceremony. We used to tease her because she cried during game shows when people who seemed poor won big prizes. I am my mother’s daughter. I cry.
What does all of this have to do with race and race relations? Nothing and everything. When big things happen–life’s celebrations and life’s challenges–no matter what our race or ethnicity, we all experience joy, we all experience suffering.
In the hospital waiting area on the Intensive Care Unit, where I sat with my family, there also sat black families, Hispanic families, other white families, and Asian families. Each day, we gingerly, respectfully nodded at one another, exchanged “hellos, and “how is she or he doings?” We all experience joy. We all experience suffering. As family we come together and prop one another up. Differences fall by the wayside. I am not crying now, but relishing the uninterrupted time I had with my family these past two days. Even though it was borne out of a terribly unfortunate accident, it reminded me of how precious life is, and how important, family, and the people in your life are.