Whenever we encounter a trouble of some sort, whether it’s an argument, a tense situation or a misunderstanding – it’s a good idea to see if we can clear the air.
There are many ways to clear the air.
You can put your thoughts on paper. You can meet with another person and talk about it. You can speak by phone.
These are the most obvious ways to clear the air.
But what if none of the above are possible because those you’d like to meet with, speak with and write to are no longer living?
Well, normally you could resolve the tension by attending a funeral, a wake or a memorial.
But what if that’s not even possible because the body of the person who died is involved in an investigation?
That’s a tough one.
Yet, a few days ago I saw this situation handled by a pro.
Although the baseball season was already over for the high school my son plays for – the coach held an honorary practice for the young man whose life and future was tragically taken away last week.
The practice was two hours long and involved the typical hitting and fielding drills that took place while their former teammate was still with them. Except for one important detail: The boys played “AS IF” their friend, Colin Campbell, was still right there with them.
Some of the players hit “bombs” over the fence – others made the best throws or catches of their lives – all in Colin’s honor.
At the end, the team huddled up in the outfield and made their peace with their departed friend. Some told stories, others told jokes. And the healing process took off – sending positive waves throughout the park.
This was one of the best examples of clearing the air I have ever witnessed.
No media was allowed or notified. Just a humble practice to say good-bye to a departed friend.
My son got in the car with me after practice and we drove away. His pain and hurt transformed into healing energy.
As we’ve so often seen in the past, great tragedy often precedes great triumph. We don’t ask for tragedy so we can triumph. No one asks for it. But if and when tragedy strikes, knowing we can turn it into something else, knowing we can use the experience as fuel to make our lives better – that gives us a positive goal to focus on and a new path to create for ourselves.
In Theatre of the Mind, I spoke about my coach at Iowa, the legendary Dan Gable, who won Olympic Gold in 1972, while competing on one good knee. Even so, he never surrendered a single point in six matches.
What drove Gable to such great success? In large part, it was due to the fact that his sister, Diane, was brutally raped and murdered while young Dan was on a fishing trip with his Mom and Dad.
Upon the family’s return, young Dan dedicated his entire career to his sister. He hung her picture in the basement, and when he trained, he spoke to her.
After being undefeated throughout high school he went to college – and he was unbeaten there as well. Until his final match of his senior season. With a record of 181-0 – Gable lost in the finals of the national championships.
On the victory stand, when Gable was presented with his 2nd place plaque, he openly sobbed and wept – covering his eyes with his hand.
Why did he weep? As Gable told his parents – who came to the locker room to console him, “I let Diane down.”
The next day’s headlines: GABLE LOSES. GABLE FAILS.
In a talk given a short time after his defeat, Gable told the crowd that he would use his loss as even greater motivation. He would train harder and he would rededicate himself to his goals of being a world and Olympic champion.
In 2007, I had the honor of bringing Coach Gable to Tampa, to speak at one of my seminars.
In his talk, Gable spoke about the death of his sister – and how it affected him. He said that you can take anything that happens to you in life, no matter how tragic – and figure out a way to use it as fuel to help you achieve your very best – but only if you look for it.
These were not hollow words that sounded good. These were words Gable lived and breathed. And still does to this very day.
Turning tragedy into triumph. It’s a reality that comes to those who ask for the guidance and are given the grace.