Life is a fickle friend that in one moment elicits joy, and in another utter dismay. One day you are living your ideal life, three kids, a home in the suburbs and a great job – and in the next instant it all changes. In place of your only son is a void, the embodiment of loss itself. Ironically, it is almost as if that void, the loss itself, becomes a real, tangible entity: the uninvited guest in your life that never gets a hint and refuses to leave. The end result is a changed perspective, framed by a world that has only changed for you and those that knew Rees, yet persisting, unchanged, for everyone else.
The realization that perspective is relative remains forefront in my mind, especially considering recent events in my family’s life. The asterisk in my life* following the loss of Rees fundamentally shifted my worldview. I no longer see things from my pre-life* perspective: From my point of the view the world is not what it once was. The hardest part about this realization is recognizing that while my life will never be the same again, others lives continue unaffected. When something so fundamentally changes you, it is only natural to expect that this change applies to everyone. That is the irony of perspective… one’s world can change completely while the world itself doesn’t really change.
Typically, a change in one person’s perspective usually has no bearing on another’s. Take our story for example; many people read about what happened to Rees and countless people offered their condolences, but at the end of the day Rees’ passing merely represented a sad story, perhaps a cautionary tale, and most likely not much more. By itself, Rees’ death had no tangible effect on other people because he was never a part of their lives in the first place. Since Rees was not their child there was no personal loss for them to feel. From the outsider’s perspective our Son’s death is a realization of the primal fear every parent has about losing a child and a brief reminder of life’s fragility – but it’s not personal. The outsider is merely a spectator, an audience member watching the real life performance of a tragedy.
Unfortunately, my wife and I are not the spectators of this tragedy. Rather, we are it’s lead roles. Our perspective has us looking out on an audience who see us briefly, but inevitably return to their lives. The audience, hopefully, will never know what it is like to see the world from our perspective. For us, the curtain never closes, the story never ends. For Sam and I the loss is an indelible fixture in our lives; permanent, unyielding and horrifyingly real. Others can only imagine our loss, but since it did not happen to them, their perspective remains fixed. In our new perspective, the play that is our lives runs perpetually, long after the audience has left.
Therein lies my greatest fear… the audience leaving while our curtain is still up. While our play, our perspective, will never end, the audience may vacate their seats eventually to move on to the next production that garners their attention. What do we do then? The obvious answer might seem to be to close down the production, accepting that our message is not without limits and has an expiration date. In this scenario we go quietly into that good night, accepting that we cannot change someone’s perspective of the world…
Or, we can do something else entirely: Change the world itself. We can shift the frame of reference so that people’s perspectives are forced to move with it. Our world may outwardly appear to be too complex, too corrupt and too rooted in its ways to change, but that is all really just a matter of perspective. When we only look at things from our own, singular perspective we are but a single piece incapable of affecting much change. If we shift our frame of reference to the power of the collective, what was seen as singularly insignificant becomes pieces of an indomitable whole. I am not looking to change people’s perspective – that is impossible. I am looking to change the WORLD – and that we CAN do. Together we can make the world a better place…one piece at a time – all it takes is a little perspective.
[…] of a child is the ultimate perspective changer. I have written several times about this already ( Here and Here). My world view took a complete 180 after the loss of Rees. From the moment I found […]
You are so right. I often think about this when I hear about horrific stories such as your own. People feel such empathy and are so sad and horrified but months pass, and then years pass and people forget. I always thought about the families in these circumstances and how they feel when the initial flood of compassion wears away. This post confirms what I always feared. I pledge not to forgot you, your son, or your entire family. You are doing great things and I will continue to spread the message as far and wide as I can in honor of you guys.