Sunday, November 22, 2009

Time Has Come Today

Not quite sure why I am blogging at nearly 10PM, but I feel I must. I have talked about E Ticket rides and the rollercoaster that is our sport. I have talked about the funny side of skating and the challenges we all face.

I wasn't prepared for the challenges of this week.

The skating world - at least our skating world - lost a very special young woman on Friday. Her death in a skiing accident brings up an interesting point about "social media" and how quickly word spreads today.

Death is never an easy thing to understand or accept, even when it is inevitable. Nothing, and no one, lives forever. But when the death is sudden and unexpected - and it is that of a child - there seemingly are no words.

Well, in the cyber world there are words. There are a lot of words, and now they are instantaneous, thanks to the broad spectrum of media that allows us to communicate what we think and feel in real time. It is a double-edged sword of inclusion that may be more than we bargained for at times.

Friday night, about an hour before our skater was taking the ice in Canada, I received a phone call from one of our local TV stations asking for verification that the young woman all our children knew and loved was, in fact, a skater. When I asked why, the reporter gave me the sad news. As a PR person, I did not feel it was my place to make a statement on behalf of anyone, let alone for a club to which we are now only associate members. I quickly got on text and sent private messages on Facebook trying to find an official who would comment. Everyone was not home or they were at sectional competition. In what seemed like an hour and was actually only five minutes, a Board member responded to my query about finding someone with, "Did you hear the news?"

So much for the skaters at sectionals not knowing.

Moments later, I sent a text to our skater wishing him good luck in the short program. His response back was not "thanks," but, "She died." That was followed by several heart-wrenching text messages filled with sadness and confusion. I did not ask how he knew; I knew the answer to that already, given the prolific use of Facebook, text and Twitter.

I tell you all this for two reasons. First: Know that how we all reach out in our six degrees of separation can seem impersonal at times, but when something so tragic happens it becomes instant and deeply personal. Second: Know that, no matter how much we would like to protect our children and shield them from the pain of loss, in today's world that isn't going to happen. We all have to be communicators; we all have to be prepared to answer the tough questions when we are called on to do so, even if we don't know the answers ourselves. Because, no matter how old your child is, if there is something that pains them to the core, they will come to you first. Be prepared for that.

Parenting doesn't come with a book of instructions. We all write our chapters as we go, and sometimes the end of a chapter is not a happy one. It is our duty to help make the last page of the book worth waiting for - and worth reading.

We will all miss you, Haley. Smile on us all and keep teaching the lessons you learned in the all-too-short time you so generously and graciously shared.

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