— By JOHN CARTER
Recently, we attended the production of two one-act plays at Weatherford College, both under the excellent direction of Nancy McVean. The first, entitled simply “New York,” was set in a Manhattan psychiatrist’s office shortly after 9-11 as 10 different patients who had either been present at the Twin Towers or had lost loved ones in the disaster came seeking solace. Each survivor struggled with their own grief and internal conflict as the doctor listened and tried to help.
The second play, entitled “A Healing of War,” was set during Vietnam as a grief-torn family (father, mother and sister) of a 17-year-old soldier killed in action were visited by his young lieutenant, who came to tell them how he died.
Both plays were about survivors. And I’ve never seen actors more moved by the roles they played. They genuinely felt their parts, resulting in the audience also becoming deeply involved. It was a night to remember!
The stage was already set for us because the performance took place on the weekend following the Boston Marathon bombing and the tragic explosion in West. Now, three weeks later as I write this column, countless other survivors are struggling to recover from the massive tornadoes in Texas and Oklahoma. Add to those calamities, a fireman who lost his life on Monday in an apartment fire in Dallas.
Much has been written about the heroes in these tragedies – both those who gave their lives and those who risked their lives to save others. But the plays at Weatherford College have reminded me that survivors are heroes, too.
Death comes but once to any of us and a hero’s death is rare. The chance to choose our time and manner of death is only afforded a few. But the chance to survive a life-threatening event or a major loss comes to most of us – usually more than once in our lifetime.
Survivors are like the boy in the recent movie, “The Life of Pi” – half drowned in a shipwreck and trapped on a lifeboat in the middle of a stormy sea with a wild, hungry tiger as his companion – trying to make friends with his enemy, struggling to live one more day, until he could be rescued or be washed up on some distant shore.
On that long path toward acceptance of those things which they cannot change, survivors refuse to quit on life and find ways to go on living with what’s left – even though, like Jacob leaving Jabok long ago, they walk with a limp.
They are our heroes and heroines because they show us how to live daily with loss – the loss of loved ones, friends, marriage, health, limbs, jobs, economic security, place, independence, future, memory, dreams, and even faith – to name just a few. As we journey through life, their continuing companionship is a priceless gift of grace.
Lord, thank you for the survivors whose courage gives us hope and whose endurance teaches us how to live with loss. Amen.
John Carter is a Weatherford resident and his “Notes From the Journey” column is a regular feature in the Democrat.