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A columnist looks back on his nine years of difficult change

By: Mark McCormick

 

Until I was 41, I’d had only two post-college jobs. My life remained remarkably stable.

In the nine years since, I’ve had five and watched helplessly as change kicked in the door to my stable life and took things I didn’t believe I could live without. It took my full-time journalism career in 2009. It took my mother on April 6, 2011. It took my dad 22 days later.

The best among us have a high tolerance for disruption. They emerge from tribulation better for the experience. They gain some deep and meaningful perspectives. Me? I’m relieved to have simply survived and now see the necessity in all of this change.

My Aunt Laura used to warn me, “Just keep on living.” But while her warning was wasted on the young and invincible Mark, I’d later understand how difficult that simple admonition would become.

Journalism chose me early. I enjoyed the craft. I thought I’d always have work because newspapers were so essential. But I watched journalism’s great towers fissure and the craft fall under relentless attack.

Like most journalism refugees, I climbed from the rubble and reinvented myself, but then my selfless mother developed congestive heart failure and began a slow decline.

I again helplessly watched the same attacker take her fierce independence: her car keys; her privacy, invaded by family and the nurses then caring for her; and her vitality – she loved backyard baseball and vegetable gardening.

Still, she emerged from inpatient physical therapy looking 20 years younger. The person who’d battled depression and anxiety her entire adult life passed away suddenly – while laughing.

My dad watched her decline fearfully. He remembered the eighth-grader with long hair and long legs he’d seen at a track meet. The girl who hid under her bed when he rode his horse from Boley out to her family’s dirt floor cabin in IXL, Oklahoma, for a glimpse of her.

“If something happens to Slim,” he said in his baritone, “I won’t be around much longer.” And he wasn’t.

He’d always seemed so happy. He laughed loudly and often, spun incredible stories and seemed to keep sadness at bay. But a deep depression marked his last days. He died in mourning and though mercifully for him but excruciating for me, we buried him Mother’s Day weekend.

With three of my loves gone, I wondered at times if I’d make it back to shore. Waves of grief crashed relentlessly.

But I’ve come to understand all of that shocking taking I experienced and witnessed has resulted in gifts and giving capacity. Difficult change can confer a deeper compassion for suffering people. It made me appreciate every person and every comfort I’d ever taken for granted.

I’m moved by the undeserved mercies I see people granting others.

These kindnesses move us from dividing wedge issues to unifying web issues stitching us together. We need this organic compassion for individual and community survival.

The point is, despite the difficulties, to keep on living.

Mark McCormick previously served as editor of The Journal.

A version of this article was originally published in the Summer 2018 issue of The Journal, a publication of the Kansas Leadership Center. To learn more about KLC, visit http://kansasleadershipcenter.org. For a subscription to the printed edition of The Journal, visit klcjr.nl/amzsubscribe.

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