April 27, 2007

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

It ain’t easy being human, not to mention green

Cynthia DewesKermit the Frog used to sing, “It ain’t easy being green.” I wouldn’t know about that, but I do know that just plain being human ain’t always easy, either. All of us seem to hit a hard place in life now and then.

This idea was reinforced for me when I read the recent book, In an Instant, a memoir written by Lee and Bob Woodruff.

Bob Woodruff is the ABC television journalist who was injured seriously in Iraq early in 2006 while “embedded” with U.S. military forces there. Lee is the mother of their four children, and a public relations and freelance writer who works from home.

The Woodruffs’ story is one of horror, pain, courage and the triumph of love. They take the reader from the early days of their courtship and marriage through the births of their children and many moves across the country for Bob’s work to the present.

The Woodruffs are healthy, well- educated, upper-middle-class people from loving families who might have expected to live their lives comparatively free from some of the stresses borne by others who are less fortunate.

They’re not victims of abuse, addiction or racial stereotyping, either, so they could reasonably expect success, with maybe a minor bump or two along the road of life. And they had indeed experienced a few bumps, including Lee’s hysterectomy and efforts to attain the subsequent birth of the couple’s biological twins. They had dealt with the problems their kids faced during frequent job moves, and the death of a close friend.

Bob Woodruff had just achieved the ultimate goal of his professional life by being named co-anchor of ABC’s nightly television news program when disaster struck. About a month into his new job, while reporting about the Iraq war as he stood up in the turret of a tank, he was critically wounded when an insurgent’s bomb exploded nearby.

A sizeable piece of Woodruff’s skull was missing, a rock had been driven through his neck just short of the carotid artery, his left side and face were imbedded with rocks and dirt, and he had a huge shrapnel wound in his back. For about two months, he was unconscious, and underwent innumerable surgeries.

Lee stayed at Bob’s side while family and friends pitched in to take care of the kids at home. As the year went on, the couple was constantly supported by the generous and overwhelming love and prayers of others.

The lesson of the Woodruffs’ story is that by the freely given grace of God we can and must continue to love, even during an apparently hopeless situation. It is only love which saves us: love of spouse, children, friends, family and our neighbor.

As Lee said, in such times, “You can’t make deals, barter or trade to spare one another. You can only do your damndest to try to fathom the power and simple beauty of ‘for better or worse.’ You can hold faith and hope in equal measures in your heart, and in the end you can teach yourself how best to endure and then to survive and overcome.”

Celebrities’ tragic life events are the stuff of books and television specials. But we ordinary folks experience them too, all the time and sometimes with worse results.

The point is, all of us need to keep the faith and keep on loving. Surely that is what Easter is all about.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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