Life’s Curveball

Life's CurveballI’ve often heard the phrase “sometimes life throws you a curve ball.” After the last few weeks I am ready for a curveball. To explain the phrase a little more, I believe that it means life comes straight at you across the plate, like a fastball, and you hope to hit it out of the park. Most of us are prepared for the straight fastball….but then life throws us a curve. If you’re looking for the fastball, you’re likely to not hit the curveball and feel bad because it is a strike against you.

Sometimes it seems as if life throws a bean ball. When I say bean ball I mean the pitch that is intentionally thrown at you, and in all probability will hit you. I remember as a kid being more afraid of being hit by a pitch than almost anything. I had been hit with a fastball, and it really hurt. It left a welt, a bruise and you could even see the red mark from the ball in my skin for a couple weeks after the incident. Muscles were sore and I was somewhat embarrassed because when the ball hit me, I cried… in front of my team. And, what seemed like “millions of people” in the stands watched my humiliation. I considered it humiliation because I cried. I have since learned to accept the fact that I occasionally will cry. Well, I’ve kind of accepted it, but the pain of the bean ball is still vivid in my memory.

Those who follow this blog will recall that my father-in-law, Joe Enneberg, died in January after a prolonged battle with dementia. We all knew that the end was coming for about 2 1/2 years. Like a bean ball, we knew what was coming, would like to have avoided it, but the outcome was inevitable. On July 4th we had a jam session in his honor at the family home. We knew that it would be a bittersweet day and just like the bean ball we knew that there would be pain. The pain was unavoidable.

On July 6th there was a memorial service for my longtime friend, and Hall of Fame bass player, Jimmy Lloyd Rae. He had struggled with the complications of diabetes for many years and was finally struck with cellulitis and a massive infection that ultimately took his life. Here again was the bean ball. We knew that his health had been failing for several years and the last hospitalization seemed more final. He was released to a care facility and then re-hospitalized – the bean ball. I saw the pain coming and knew there was no avoiding it.

The longer I live, the more people I know that are chronically ill. I have often said that “the luckiest amongst us will become old and feeble and the others die young.” Again, the bean ball. The aging process marches on for all of us. Those who don’t die suffer in remembrance of those who did.

Sounds pretty bleak huh? In the presence of this, how do I manage life or encourage others to manage life when in the end we all die? This is the part where a strong spiritual basis is incredibly helpful. My belief system is that of a Christian struggling to understand the world and God. I spend a great deal of time studying literature relative to the history and validity of my religion. As a scientist, I don’t accept things that have either scientific or historical support. The reason for my study is to continue and strengthen my belief that (1) there really is an order to the world; (2) life doesn’t end with death; and (3) I’m not in charge of everything; therefore I am not expected to understand everything.

Because of my beliefs I know that the pain will not go on forever. Even though I will have some memory of the pain, and even writing this blog reminds me of the pain, I can relax and take a respite from the pain knowing that the process is normal and my pain is normal. In spite of my sorrow and discomfort, I need to remember my responsibility to myself, my family and friends. Much of that responsibility is the same as yours and that is to live a good life, let the pain go away, knowing that it will go away, and know that once again I will have fun.

I will refer you back to some earlier blog entries about grief and encourage you to comment. The take-home message here is that you won’t avoid all of life’s bean balls and even though they bruise you, the pain will eventually subside and you can once again have fun.