24 February, 2010

A Profile in Courage

There have unfortunately been a couple times in my life where I've been through wrenching emotion and out-of-body grief that seemed to liquidate my insides and leave me physically spent for days. But I never had to perform in front of millions when it happened...

Joannie Rochette unexpectedly lost her dearly-beloved mother two days before taking the ice at the Winter Olympics. How she found the mental discipline to shove the overwhelming pain back into a box for the duration of her program, I'll never know:

Her spirit took her where her body couldn't go--note the opening exchange with her coach, then watch how she slows down in the closing minute but still doesn't make an error; after two days of gut-wrenching grief her body has only so much adrenaline to put forth in climbing the mountain of Olympic competition, but her spirit keeps her upright.

And when it's over, she crumbles and is then buoyed by her coach and her countrymen in the crowd. A lesson in love.

Why do I post about a woman I don't know, a woman simply competing in sport? Linda Holmes explains:
The end of her performance is perhaps the part I recognized the most: as soon as it's over and she's done, she again bursts into tears after holding it off the whole time. I know so many people who have been there, including me -- you hold it together all day until you walk through the door of your house and push it shut; you're fine until you get in the car and find yourself alone with the road; you're okay until somebody says, "Are you okay?" and then: sobs.

And I thought of people I know who do that today... of the people carrying on through this war with tears in their eyes, pain in their hearts... and steel in their spines.

Yes, it's "just a sport," and it's "just a (possible) medal." But as is the case with the best of sport, it's also more--it's about humanity and our incredible ability to hold each other up and overcome.