This inspirational video of a high school student’s amazing experience on the basketball court has been viewed thousands of times and even before by me, but still I find myself in tears of joy in viewing it yet again and I hope you will share those tears with me as you watch it too.  Then read the very personal story of my own “gift of tears” that follows below . . .

 

Funny thing:  I grew up (well into my young adult years) very proud of the fact that I never cried.  “Real men don’t cry . . . “ was the philosophy I heard at the time and so I was “a no-tears real man.”

That was until my father’s funeral.

Dad was s beautiful and always friendly, outgoing man to anyone and everyone he encountered.  At a much too young age, 50, he died of cardiomyopathy, the same, but not inherited, heart issue that let to my own heart transplant at about the same age.   Being the oldest of 6 children (one of whom was struck and killed by a car when she was only 4), I was holding my mother’s arm as we led the casket down the aisle of St. Francis RC church, Metuchen, NJ, that day back in 1969.  I had been at my dad’s side earlier in the evening at the hospital the night he died.  I shaved him and fed him Jello, a humbling experience for a son who always knew his dad as being the larger than life strong man he had been, reduced to having me shave him.  That was very emotional.  But in leading that casket back down the aisle, tears came to my eyes and for the first time I didn’t hold them back, rather held my head up and cried as mom and I processed slowly before the coffin.

I don’t ever recall having cried prior to that moment.  Mom had always been a no emotions kind of mother, coming as she did as the oldest with 4 brothers.  In such a family you had to be strong, never showing emotions, or the boys would have run you over.  Even as children in our family, we were taught by mom to be self-sufficient “so if I wasn’t here (died…) you would be able to survive.”  We were able to make our own meals as young teens when she was working as the organist at the church.  There were no hugs as I ever recall, but certainly we were loved and well cared for, just not in an open emotional way.

"My wonderful dad"

“My wonderful dad”

With those tears I entered into another phase of my own young family life, one of being truly human, feeling and finally accepting the emotions that make us truly human.  From that point on I had many moments when tears would come, but never embarrassed by them, even in business settings.  Dad had given me that wonderful gift in his parting, a gift that I will forever treasure in my heart, yes, even this gifted heart through transplant.  I have come to realize there is no greater gift than to share tears between trusted friends.  I have verbally shared that belief many times over these years, while offering a shoulder of tearful support for a friend in need of that special empathy and companionship.

So I share this video above and hope that you too found tears in watching a gym full of students and parents/faculty cheering so enthusiastically at this surprise ending for this “special” student, hitting for 20 points thanks to a coach who saw the opportunity to give him that chance, even when he missed the first few shots.

PS: Years later, in 1994 after my transplant when mom, now 75 years still a working nurse (she had met dad while she was a student nurse at St. Peter’s hospital across the street from where he, a Rutgers student, worked as a soda jerk in the fountain there) came and stayed to watch over my recovery, we would walk together for exercise.  I would stop and give her a most uncomfortable (for her) hug, and we finally learned to share that emotional closeness.

It was only a few months later, after she had returned to her own home, that she unexpectedly died as she was leaving a hospital in north Jersey.  And yes, I cried at her funeral too.

A month or so later, immediately after receiving the phoned results of  my latest post transplant tests, I went as was our ritual to call and relay those to mom, my nurse, only to stop and realize that she wasn’t there to answer the call.  My eyes filled as I thought, “mom already knew the results” as she no doubt was still “on duty” from above.

And now I end this posting with wonderful tears in my eyes yet again at those memories, truly human, and isn’t that just wonderful!

I wish you tears in your own human experiences of life, and pray that you too are blessed with a loving shoulder to cry on.  And if you need one, please know I am here for you, and don’t feel bad if I join in with tears of my own in your sharing.

Here’s the young Gleason family – dad, mom, and “the kids” with “Jimmy Mike”  standing to the left of my dad.  Dad was “James Michael Gleason” and I was “James Michael Gleason, Jr.”  His dad was Michael James Gleason, while my own son now has that same Michael James Gleason name to carry on.

The Gleason Family, Christmas of 1955

The Gleason Family, Christmas of 1955

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