A Lesson from the TV
At twelve years old his face was the essence of youth’s beauty. He slept, dark lashes fanned out in a delicate half circle against the lightly tanned perfection of his smooth skin. Only the blood, a jolting stain of cruel red on the white sheet gave any indication that he would not awaken. His brother, shoulders bowed, bent to scoop up the youth. To the older brother fell the task of returning the child to their mother.
The news segment caught my attention, and I had stood, not wanting to see but unable to turn away, as I watched two doctors in a poorly equipped hospital work frantically to save the boy. There was no reponse.
"He’s dead." said one doctor. The resignation in his voice revealed a soul-weariness from making that pronunciation too many times. The other doctor wordlessly pulled up the sheet.
The brother cradled the boy against his chest and carried him to his mother. She was waiting. Tears fell as her child was placed into her arms. The same arms that held him as a baby; arms that had loved him, fed him, clothed him and cuddled him. A mother's arms the boy no longer felt, nor would again.
I gazed, heartsick, at the screen. One of the world’s many war casualties had a face. A sweet innocent face. The face of a child loved by his mother, and one that was the the same age my own children once had been, and not that long ago it seemed. I tried to imagine myself in her position. It was an uncomfortable feeling and I quickly retreated from my imaginings.
Today is Monday. I had had an off weekend. An incident took place that had left me wrestling with feelings of anger and irritation. Someone I didn’t even know had made a couple of comments to me... comments that I considered rude and out of line, and my temper had immediately flared. I told myself I should be sensible and handle the matter rationally and with a good dose of common sense- even graciousness. But it’s difficult to be gracious when you’re angry.
I thought back to the images I had seen. They would not leave me. I thought of the young child’s death, of his mother’s wrenching grief... and of my petty grievance. Ashamed, I suddenly realized that’s exactly what it was: petty. Not even worth five minutes of my time.
Sometimes life has a way of snapping you to reality, rearranging your priorities and giving you new eyes to see with. Deep inside me a prayer formed for the mother who had lost so much. My heart went out to her.
Television had made one family’s private moment of grief very public. And it was by sheer chance that I had been witness to it. A chance viewing, lasting maybe two or three minutes, and yet its effect was powerful. I was no longer angry. I realized I had much to be thankful for, and little to complain about.
Copyright 2009, Teresa Houston. No part of this may be reproduced in any form without prior written consent of the author.