Tuesday, September 29, 2009

One Man's Way

We all go through it. Whether you are on the stoop, or off, you cannot avoid it. People deal with it in different ways.

What am I talking about? I'm talking about loss. At some point we all lose someone or something dear to us. It could be a parent, a child or a friend. On a lesser level it could be a job or your hair. Or something as trivial as a ball game.

There is no right or wrong way to deal with major loss; each of us has to do what works for us.

Here is an example from American history of how one man dealt with incredible loss.

On February 14, 1884 Teddy Roosevelt was a twenty-six year old New York Assemblyman working in Albany. He receives two messages, several hours apart. The first, is that his mother suddenly died. The second, his wife, Alice, also suddenly and tragically died. Alice was only twenty-two and just two days before her death gave birth to their first and only child, also named Alice.

How did Roosevelt deal with such unspeakable tragedy? He returned to New York City, and wrote this entry in his diary about his wife:

She was beautiful in face and form, and lovelier still in spirit; As a flower she grew, and as a fair young flower she died. Her life had been always in the sunshine; there had never come to her a single sorrow; and none ever knew her who did not love and revere her for the bright, sunny temper and her saintly unselfishness. Fair, pure, and joyous as a maiden; loving , tender, and happy. As a young wife; when she had just become a mother, when her life seemed to be just begun, and when the years seemed so bright before her—then, by a strange and terrible fate, death came to her. And when my heart’s dearest died, the light went from my life forever.

And for the rest of his life, Roosevelt never spoke of his first wife Alice again. Not privately or publicly. Not to the daughter his late wife gave birth too two days before her death; not even in his autobiography did he mention Alice.

TR's biographer Edmund Morris described Roosevelt manner of dealing with Alice's death as ""Like a lion obsessively trying to drag a spear from its flank, Roosevelt set about dislodging Alice Lee from his soul. Nostalgia, a weakness to which he was abnormally vulnerable, could be indulged if it was pleasant, but if painful it must be suppressed, until the memory is too dead to throb."

That was TR's way.

His mother and wife are both buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

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