In this business, you see strength in many forms

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 6, 2004

[9/30/04]You see athletes who lift weights and Volkswagens. They can tackle trees and uproot mobile homes.

You see strength in a left-handed pitcher who can somehow throw a baseball 90 MPH over and over and over again.

You see strength in a coach’s will to win a basketball game. Down by six points late in the game with no timeouts, a good coach can will his team to succeed.

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You see strength in your heroes, your mentors, the ones you remember more than all the rest. You see strength in a resolve to fight the good fight. You see strength in those that witness the fight, unable to do anything but let the memories of the good times hide the despair of the current ones.

You see strength in the mother whose daughter was stolen from this world far too early stolen by that disease we call cancer. You see strength in that same mother as she consoles her step-grandchild who’s sobbing uncontrollably as “Amazing Grace” plays on the bagpipes.

You see the step-grandson trying so hard to be the rock, but finding himself weak-kneed, leaning on those he thought would lean on him.

You see strength in a man you’ve known all your life as Dad. You see life’s circumstances pierce his heart in the final days.

An Irish melody. A voice on an answering machine. A favorite picture. They all converge to make grieving so difficult.

The man that scolded us when we were bad, praised our athletic achievements and taught us about life now faced emptiness; his happiness taken from him too soon.

You beg the almighty, to let some of his pain be shifted to your back. “I can take it,” you say through teary-eyed hugs. “Just let some of his burden fall upon me.”

But like the grandmother who can hold up a sobbing grandson, and an athlete that can move a house, Dad is the one with strength unimagined.

The strength to stand there as friend after friend asks, “How ya’ doin?” The strength to reply as best he can, to stand there beside the love of his life, whose soul had left this earth four days earlier.

The strength to stand next to her one last time, to say, “I love you,” and kiss her forehead one last time.

But still, it is he who consoles the ones wanting to take his place.

He watched for months as his true love, Mary Alice, slipped away before of his eyes. Each day, as she grew weaker, he grew stronger for it.

Right now, the strongest man on Earth now has never lifted a house, thrown a 90 MPH fastball or tackled a tree. But, as always, he absorbed others’ pain when it would have been so easy to show his own weakness.

Strength of heart will astound us all.

My Dad’s has astounded me.

Sean P. Murphy is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. E-mail him at smurphy@vicksburgpost.com.