Hardly a day goes by without someone telling me of their intense suffering.  Most recent examples are:

  1. An Alaskan village friend sharing about a murder in a neighboring village.
  2. A close friend sharing about his father’s death after being diagnosed three weeks before with pancreatic cancer.
  3. A neighbor sharing about his friend killing himself in his bedroom while his wife and two young children were in the kitchen.
  4. The news highlighting a 23-year-old man drowning at a church outing as many watched helplessly.

The fact of the matter is I hate suffering and dread hearing and feeling the agony.  My natural response is to run from it.  My first most vivid experience of death (real suffering) was of my inspirational mother Kathleen Crowell.  As mom’s coffin was lowered into a pit, rivers of tears flowed down my face; with jaw locked and fists clenched, I vowed to never shed another tear for the rest of my life.  For three years, not a tear dropped from my eyes.  I would not allow myself to think of my mother because the pain was too great.  I ran from the pain.

My second close experience with death was 20 years later when on his deathbed a best friend asked me to speak at his funeral.  I welcomed the request with gratitude.  This response showed a different Fred Crowell from the first experience.  What created the differencePerspective is the answer.

Let me explain this contrast with two imaginary settings.  The first imaginary setting is a luxury-resort reception–many financially successful people, lavish dress, exquisite food, fine beverages, appearance masking the inside, shallow conversation.  The second imaginary setting is an oncology clinic–many people sitting in chairs, chemo bags hanging above each person, no status clothing, no food or wine, no masks, no party but a reality check.

What?  No masks?  Why?  Tomorrow we will examine the perspective response that creates this reality check.