Causality

I have been struggling with writing this post for two reasons. One, this is a very personal post and I didn’t know where to start. My sister wrote a brilliant piece for her on-line newsletter (full text here) that brought tears to my eyes. Below is an excerpt that captures what I struggled to write and some of the sentiment she shared:

On Sunday, October 9, my seventy-nine year old father went to play in the ocean in Spain. A huge wave slammed him to the ground, and in a freakish twist also slammed him into a chunk of board. This created severe trauma to the spinal chord causing massive swelling. He was instantly rendered immobile from the neck down.

From that moment on, I was fully awakened to what gratitude truly is.

I am eternally grateful to the Universe that his neck did not snap. We were told he would have died instantly.

I am eternally grateful to the young man who rushed to help pull my dad from the grips of the ocean.

I am eternally grateful to this same young man who phoned 911.[Robert’s note: it is 112 in Spain]

I am eternally grateful to this young man’s girlfriend who rushed to the boardwalk to direct the emergency crews to our location on the beach.

I am eternally grateful to my brother’s friend who rushed my brother and his husband to the beach.

I am eternally grateful to this same friend who held me and my sister-in-law close to him while the paramedics worked on my dad.

How do you describe such an event that so deeply affects your life? My sister did a great job. For me the hardest thing to get over is when I turned and saw my father floating face down in the water. That image leaps to mind every time I think of my dad, my mum, and the current situation. Fortunately I have more than 40 years of great memories to counter it with, and I look forward to the day it fades into the background, though never gone.

Now I entitled this post causality and here is why. As an intelligent person of no real religious conviction, I feel that we are generally in control of our own destiny. For every decision we make, we first calculate the odds of various outcomes, then choose an action that is most desirable with the least negative consequences. Unfortunately, the universe is far more diverse, and perhaps a little perverse, than we can ever imagine. My cousin summed this up so very well in this note to the family:

 It’s wonderful to bob up and down in the waves and feel the power in the surf zone. Physics never take a holiday though and will school us throughout life.

My father debated for quite some time as to whether he would enter the water. He was concerned about getting chilled, or overwhelmed by wave or undertow. However, given descriptions of light undertow and warm waters he went in. He told my brother that he was about to get out when the accident happened. He wanted just one more wave. The one thing that I can say with fair certainty is that my father does not regret his choices.

For every decision there are consequences and you can blame others, and play the victim, or move forward and make new choices with what you have learned. I will continue to make the best decisions I can, accept the consequences and celebrate the successes, and never shy away from the next one.

While we wait to for the swelling to subside, my father follows the doctors instructions and signs are hopeful that he will recover. In the mean time he is learning Spanish, and making new plans for his future.

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7 Responses to “Causality”

  1. What a lovely reflection on a tramautic experience, Rob. I’ll be so glad when your parents are home and I can wrap your mum in a warm hug.

  2. I’ve been following the updates and it sounds as though he’s making great progress. Best wishes to all of you.

  3. A profound and moving post, Rob. I’m a bit shaken to read of these events, for your sister and you and your parents, and I hope that your dad’s condition continues to improve. I’m a great believer in the resilience of body and brain, and it sounds as if your father has the attitude and loving support that give resilience traction. In his books on optimism, positive psychologist Martin Seligman underscores the research that shows how important mindset is to outcome: the difference between those who say “why me?” and those who say “that was a lesson” and incorporate it into a story of positively looking forward. It sounds as if your dad — now learning Spanish — has given you all a great gift of the latter mindset, one that allow Eliza to feel deep and moving gratitude at this moment and one that allows you to see in “the accident” cause to embrace our choices and to move forward toward the next success. It’s the difference seeing ourselves as victims and seeing ourselves as instruments. I personally look forward to seeing your father write the final post on this chapter one day in Spanish before he takes another swim. Warmest wishes to all of you.

  4. Correcting my dropped words:

    A profound and moving post, Rob. I’m a bit shaken to read of these events, for your sister and you and your parents, and I hope that your dad’s condition continues to improve. I’m a great believer in the resilience of body and brain, and it sounds as if your father has the attitude and loving support that give resilience traction. In his books on optimism, positive psychologist Martin Seligman underscores the research that shows how important mindset is to outcome: the difference between those who say “why me?” and those who say “that was a lesson” and incorporate it into a story of positively looking forward. It sounds as if your dad — now learning Spanish — has given you all a great gift of the latter mindset, one that allows Eliza to feel deep and moving gratitude at this moment and one that allows you to see in “the accident” cause to embrace choices and to move forward toward the next success. It’s the difference between seeing ourselves as victims and seeing ourselves as instruments. I personally look forward to seeing your father write the final post on this chapter one day in Spanish before he takes another swim. Warmest wishes to all of you.

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