The Struggle is Your Strength

Todd Brison

At age 15, my grandparents’ vehicle smashed into an SUV. A helicopter lifted my grandfather from the road. Someone told me: “it will be okay.” They meant “it” in the broader term of life. Granddaddy died minutes before we arrived at the hospital. Nobody got to say goodbye.

I walked through that.

At age 22, my girlfriend Kate got a job serving Italian food to rude people. She came home at midnight 5 days a week and we ate the food she bought with her employee discount. We’d sleep for 7 hours. She went back to work the next morning. I realized then that “I” needed to become a “we.”

We walked through that.

At age 24, I lost 30 pounds because I couldn’t keep food down. I lived in hospital rooms talking to countless doctors who, essentially, shrugged. I had to wear sweatpants and extra underwear each day for reasons that are too graphic to explain here. Kate cried with me and fed me broth and jello.

We walked through that.

At age 26, our small town threw early high school graduation for an old friend’s younger brother: a 17-year-old named Peyton. It was his last event. Leukemia took him 37 days later. They held the funeral in the biggest building they could find.

We — and Peyton’s family — walked through that.

At age 28, my sister-in-law’s cancer took a downward turn. She was 40. In the end, we took shifts squirting morphine into her lifeless mouth. Just so you’re aware, hospice is not a clean exit out of this life. It is a set of incomplete rules, a stack of pills, and a warped prayer that this person will die soon.

We walked through that.

At age 30, COVID-19 happened. On my wife’s 30th birthday, we attended her grandfather’s funeral. We buried him in the woods on family land. Most of us wore masks, and none of us hugged each other. Imagine not being able to hug your mother on the day she has to bury her father.

We walked through that.

These are bad things. Life hands those out at times. Probably you have a story worse than any of mine. The temptation is to shove them out of mind.

This is a mistake.

“Everyone has been through a lot,” says fitness guru Shaun T. “The temptation is to just move past it. But there’s something great about survival.”

If you are reading this right now, you are a survivor. You carry battle scars. You have pain, and likely much of it was collected this year. There are two choices for dealing with this pain.

You can pretend it never happened, or you can stare your tragedy right in the face and stubbornly refuse to lose hope.

As a reminder: your very DNA carries the necessary strength to move forward. Generations of people walked through fire to get you here. You will carry their legacy because of the tragedy you have experienced, not in spite of it.

Don’t bury your pain. Carry your pain. And then, keep walking through.

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