Last night, I attended a fundraising dinner for the Erika Whitmore Godwin Foundation, the creation of Susan and Wendell Whitmore, a couple who transformed their personal mountain of sorrow into a living monument to their daughter Erika who died in the prime of her life.
Through a content-rich website Griefhaven.org, the foundation provides resources to guide parents recently maimed by the death of a child out of the black swamp of despair. Many at the dinner had lost a child, and regardless of the age or cause of death, these bereft parents all shared a common sentence – to live the rest of their lives with a hole in their heart.
One of the speakers, Dolly Saget, mother of comedian Bob, had lost four children. No one could blame them if they had retreated to a dark dungeon of despondency, but the remarkable people in that room refused to surrender to grief. Through hope, courage, and strength, they made a painful peace with their reality so they could move on, so they could laugh, so they could enjoy the company of others and savor good memories without being consumed by regret.
Their strategy is not to bury their pain so deep that they forget their loss. They want to remember. They want to celebrate and honor their children – not by weeping, but by easing the pain of others.
People like the Whitmores confirm that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. They also teach us that deeply wounded hearts can be healed through life-affirming energy provided by a community of caring friends linked through common experiences and that a rewarding and meaningful life can be made from the rubble of personal calamity.
The evening ended with an inspired and inspiring performance by singer Davis Gaines. With his music still in my head, I left the dinner profoundly grateful for my life.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.