Update from Michal Laake on a Personal Tragedy
My Monday afternoon started off fairly normal, and while trying to get some work done on the computer, I received a call from an unknown number with a Colorado Springs area code. I usually answer these calls to see if I need to block them or not, but this time a woman with a soft voice spoke on the other side and asked "Is this Michael?" The lack of a butcher job on my last name left me curious. It was my half-brother's real-mother Mary, a woman I had met once before while I was a socially awkward 10th grader at my older brothers college graduation. The first place my mind went was "did something happen to my brother?", but she quickly offered a statement that said something along the lines of "your brother asked me to call you..." so there went that quick gut reaction. So I wonder what's going on?
"Julian decided to go to heaven a little earlier than we expected...."
Yes, that Julian. My 16 year old nephew that I've only been able to hang out with a couple times in my life. The rest of the conversation was mostly a blur and after hanging up, I had one of the most difficult cries of my life. I cried more than the few weeks leading up to my own father passing less than a year ago, combined. I only met Julian a few times, so why was his impact on me so great? I was able to find an interesting difference between the two. While my father had been apart of my life for 31 years, he was also broken down and on his way out for a long time. I came to terms with the idea of him passing and even occasionally day dreamed what it would be like. He was an alcoholic with a laundry list of health issues and had no intentions of making a single positive contribution to the world. Julian was a flower that hadn't even had a chance to bloom yet.
Julian was quiet around me the couple times we hung out. I was 15 years older than him so we were only able to really connect on certain kinds of levels. I saw someone that wanted to do good for the world. I saw someone innocent, eager to learn, and excited for what the future would bring. I saw someone that enjoyed making his father proud. A difficult phone call many months ago gave me an indication that there might have been signs of this tragedy on the horizon, but I believe this is something so hard to prevent or prepare for. I found myself more stunned than any piece of news I have received. While I may not understand what Julian's pain and struggles were exactly, my heart melted as I held that phone in my hand. I am speaking to a woman that just lost her grandson and is making an extremely difficult call because her son is in too much pain. The ripples of this news are going to be monumental.
Most people are familiar with "The Butterfly Effect", originally coined by Edward Lorenz (thank you very much Wikipedia). The concept is simple, a butterfly's wings could cause a tornado or major storm somewhere else under the right weather conditions. While this concept is often understood, do any of you actually apply it in your daily lives? This concept impacted me so greatly because I used it often when evaluating younger people. I've always had people in my life that I like to mentor or give advice to... it's my way of making a small positive impact in the world and quite frankly, it makes me feel good. When I meet someone that is young, but troubled, I always think to myself "man, when I was young and in trouble, what could I have benefited from?" Often the answer is some form of needing better role models in life. So I like to try to be good role models for them. You never know when telling a young cashier at the supermarket something simple like "you seem like a really hard worker" or "thanks for double checking the eggs for me, I appreciate that extra mile" could do to change someone's day around. It cost me nothing other than some thoughts, words, and energy.
I would be lying if I said anything other than this impacted me greatly. A butterfly so close to me, so young, convinced himself that he had no options left but to take his own life. While I don't rationally take responsibility for this, it's also worthwhile for me to consider, "what did I do to make sure he was loved, felt safe, and/or cared for?" That's all people are really looking for. But what other wings do you hearing flapping that you aren't taking enough time to listen to? This is how I attempt to make a small positive out of a horrific tragedy. Take some time and send a heart felt reminder to someone important to you that would crush you if something tragic happened to them. Flap your wings. Cause a metaphorical hurricane of love. Your family, your kids, your co-parents, whoever. All we have in this world is ourselves, and each other. Do right by your neighbor, be courteous, hold a door, ask someone if you could assist them, and just be humbled by the fact that we are nothing more than particles of dust in this universe and can have our entire world slipped out from underneath us at any moment.
So what are you doing to make others feel safe?