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My Story - Loss, Pain, COVID

I am a lucky man. My parents lived into their 80’s. I had only one family member, a second cousin, who died in an accident before his time. I still have my siblings and only two first cousins have passed away. Both were about 60. I had only one good school friend die accidentally before his time. I know of no family member who has had cancer. Compared to others in their 60’s, I have known little loss.


I have, however, known excruciating personal pain. From the time I was that young man, I wanted to be a father. I gave up that dream on my 39th birthday. As anyone who has suffered great pain knows, the depression is not possible to describe. On February 25, 2002, in Guangzhou, China, a baby girl was placed in my arms just two months before my 45th birthday. The universe had smiled upon me. It took over 10 years before I could talk about that day without breaking down. I know what grace and gratitude are. Yes, I am a lucky man.


Finally, no summary of one’s life would be complete without mentioning the pandemic. Pandemics have afflicted humanity for centuries. Of course, the best known is the Black Death of 1346-1353. Post 1353, while estimates vary, it may have taken the world up to 200 years to recover its former population.


For me, the COVID era has been a time of reflection and query into my life. It has also sparked a greater interest in, and more communication with, my siblings and cousins. Personally, here are some of the key questions I have researched about my life.

  • What was the relevance of skipping grade 1 only to repeat grade 2 for no reason other than parental insecurities?

  • What was the relevance of having epilepsy as a child?

  • What was the relevance of reading so many biographies as a child?

  • What was the relevance of never hearing the word love as a child or having parental encouragement?

  • What prompted my grade 4 teacher to write to my parents that “Gregory often appears to be living in his own world?

  • Why did a classmate in grade 6 express gratitude that I was not in class the day a unanimous yes vote was required to embark on a field trip to Citadel Hill? Was I perceived as being so recalcitrant that I would have voiced an objection?

  • From whence is my go-it-alone attitude derived that sometimes leaves me still in my own world?

After deeply researching these and other questions, I have come to understand that my childhood reading influenced my life far more than my family upbringing. In reading those stories about people of accomplishment, I did escape the extremely limited thinking of, and lack of intellectual and emotional engagement from, my parents. As the biographees of those books became my mentors, I created my own world of thought that was far removed from that of my upbringing. Perhaps my grade 4 teacher's observation was prescient.

I suspect you have had similar thoughts about life during the time of COVID. Regardless, take four minutes to listen to the remarkable poem entitled The Great Realisation written and recited by the New Zealand-born poet, Tomos Roberts.

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