Friday, October 21, 2011

Tragedy comes in many guises.

It transcends all aspects of life, spares no one, as it turns lives that once prospered into nothing more than a memory. That tragedy cares not for anyone as those affected grieve for loved ones lost, yet it simply carries on with no thought of the devastation that emanates from its stealthy pores.

Sometimes it is beyond our control as Mother Nature tears our hearts asunder with her cruelty. At other times it is the result of human error. Either way, tragedy - or fate, as it were – rides roughshod over the very heart of our being.

Over the last eighteen months alone, in New Zealand, we have had our share. First there was the Pike River mine disaster with its twenty-nine fatalities that sent the small West Coast town of Greymouth into a state of mourning. Then, if that wasn’t enough, along came Mother Nature to wreak havoc on the unlucky folk of Christchurch, in the form of several earthquakes of a magnitude 4.9 or more.

Death’s door opened itself to the innocent, and unfortunately two hundred of them had but no choice to walk through.

And it is never one to discriminate - young, old, male, female, rural, and urban - it doesn’t care. It will strike down one and all, given even the slightest hint of an opportunity. Just ask the people of Greymouth and Christchurch. They never went looking for trouble. But trouble certainly came their way with a vengeance.

Sure, there have been bigger tragedies in terms of loss of life. It wasn’t, for example, on the scale of the holocaust, but as always one death is one too many. These were real tragedies. Ones that not only affected those that lost their lives, but family and friends too.

Often, in this modern day and age, the word tragedy is thrown around with reckless abandon. Sport has endless cases of “tragedies” happening. No sooner has a player dropped the ball as he was about to score the winning play, or a team lost, than there is a host of apologists lining up to justify the loss or error as a tragedy.

Well, no, a sporting loss is not a tragedy. Yes, it may hurt the participants for awhile. And yes, it may sting their supporters for a time. But they can move on, for there is a life awaiting them to move forth with.

If only that were the case of those that have lost their lives. They had dreams and hopes too. What did they do to deserve their ultimate fate?

Think of the Boston Red Sox. Now there’s a club that went eighty-six years without winning a world series. They won in 1918, then not again until 2004. No doubt there were a few losses during that long wait passed off as a tragedy. Of all the players that turned out for the Red Sox during that eighty-six year drought, one imagines that the majority went on to live long and happy lives.

Then there is the striking example of the All Blacks. Having not won a World Cup for twenty-four long years, each loss procures an outpouring of grief that would be expected to be more at home at a funeral. And it was big news as Dan Carter tore a groin muscle during the pool stages of this current World Cup. His dream was over- for now. A disappointment for him, it more than likely will be, but a tragedy... no. After all, he will in all likelihood get another opportunity in 2015.

One who won’t be around in four years time to live his dream is Dan Wheldon. On a fateful day around a Las Vegas Oval last Sunday, he died in a fiery crash as he clipped another competitor, rolling his car. In an instant, it was all over. At age thirty-three, he was dead. Now that’s a sporting tragedy.

Just like that, a life was taken. No ifs, no buts, no time to say goodbye to loved ones. A husband, a father, a hero, was gone, lost in one split second of mayhem that began a chain reaction of personal grief for a wife and two little boys, not to mention extended family and friends. Those boys, one twenty-two months, the other twelve months old, will now grow up without a father.

A father that won’t be there to play ball with them at the local park. A father that won’t be there to build them a tree house. A father that won’t be there to collect them from school.

And a father that won’t be there to pick them up and to encourage them to keep going when things get tough as they traverse their way through the rocky road that is childhood into adulthood.

Though Dan Carter will be back for more. Rugby tests, world travel, proberly that World Cup dream.

Meanwhile one wife and two little boys wait. They wait for a husband and a father to come home. But it’s a wait that will last an eternity.

They’re crying for a husband and father lost. Others will be weeping outwardly – some inwardly – for a hero lost.

A small Nation of four million waits with great expectation of a potentially famous World Cup victory. Meanwhile one wife and two little boys will wait forever for a husband and a daddy to come home.

Tragedies can occur in any arena of life. And sport is just one of those spheres. Motorsport was lucky to have Wheldon, albeit for a limited time. Here was a talented driver who gave others something to aspire too. He showed what could be done with hard work and talent. Most importantly, he has left achievements on record that, one day, when those two little boys grow up, will allow them in some small way to get to know their father and who he was.

At least there will be a small part of him that they will be able to hold onto forever.

Yes, there is a family that would much rather have him there at their side.

But that won’t happen as tragedy knows no bounds. For life may not necessarily be sport, but sport, for sure, is certainly part of life.

And in life, tragedies do occur. Just ask a wife and two little boys.

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