Jerry Seinfeld's, "I'm Telling You For The Last Time" CD/DVD is one of my all time favorite things in life. Yes, I have both the CD and the DVD. It had to happen. If there was a book, I would have bought that, too. One of the many things he laughs about in this routine is the fear people have of public speaking. He says:
Funny, right?! And for many… truth.
I've never really had a fear of being in front of a crowd. I participated in many church events with my youth group that required me speaking or reading in front of hundreds. I've been singing my whole life with solos at various church and Oshkosh Choraliers Community Choir functions, weddings, funerals, high school musicals… no problem. I've even delivered eulogies at the funerals of some of the most important people in my life. There is one situation that will bring me to my knees though, and that is to speak in front of a crowd about my boys. I can sing to you. I can talk to you about Jesus. Ask me to describe Henry's final days though or Jack's struggles, and odds are I'll be a basket case.
The great irony is that the more I talk about these things, the easier they slip out of my mouth. I will often share Henry's story at my Origami Owl Jewelry Bars when I am speaking about how I discovered the company and their products. Tears will burn at the corners of my eyes, but I can get by without bursting into the, "full on ugly cry" that Oprah sometimes talks about.
Oddly enough, I actually seek out opportunities to share our story. Some would say I am a glutton for punishment and that I should know better, but the truth is that despite the pain, there is healing. Healing is what moves us forward, and I relish the chance to share our progress. Since the day Henry died, my prayer to God has always been, "Lord, let this mean something. Let this death not be in vain. Let someone else find peace through me. Let me use this experience to help others in some way." The only way my story will ever help someone else is if I share it freely. This is the very logic that lead to me accept the invitation to speak at a large Children's Hospital of Wisconsin fundraising event that was held this weekend in Oshkosh.
The event was Thunder in the Park - an annual Classic Car Show and Motorcycle Show/Swap - one of the largest fundraising events for Children's Hospital in the Fox River Valley. We received a call a week ago asking if we would consider coming out to speak both Saturday and Sunday and, despite already having plans for the weekend, we found a way to make it work. Darrin would take Jack on Saturday while I was away at an out of town Jewelry Bar and I would take Jack on Sunday while Darrin was honoring another commitment.
"Easy peasy lemon squeezy," as my friend Lorie once said.
We had no instruction on what to say, and I had nothing prepared. Those that know me best will know that is not unusual. I find that speaking from my heart is what works best for me, and if I try to write it out ahead of time, I over think it.
We arrived at 1pm as agreed upon and were told that the band would be taking a break shortly and then we'd have our turn. Minutes ticked by and the band kept playing. 15, 20, 30, 45 minutes later and we were still waiting. The longer I waited, the more doubts I began to have. By this time I had run into some familiar faces, which is never a good sign for the waterworks - the more familiar faces, the more emotional I am when I talk. I began to have second thoughts. I tried to talk Jack into leaving. It was hot, we were hungry, and they had no idea when we'd go on stage. Jack was having no part of that whole "leaving" idea though. He wanted to see Doug (the event coordinator who bought him a tee-shirt the day before when he and Darrin visited the event) again. He wanted to get on stage. He wanted to talk in the microphone.
Finally, the band took a break and we were able to take the stage with Rob and Louise (who are very gracious, by the way - love them) of Rob and Louise in the Morning on 99.5 NASH FM. Another little boy in a wheel chair was on stage with us, but he didn't want to speak.
Louise invited Jack over and Jack asked if he could talk to the crowd… Maybe 100-200 people within earshot. No fear of public speaking here, Seinfeld. I was proud of him for wanting to speak, but also apprehensive because at barely six years old you never know what is going to come out of his mouth. It could be nonsense. It could be painfully embarrassing. It could be magic.
Louise handed Jack the mic. He cleared his throat and in his sweet little boy voice said, "Just give me a second…" I still wasn't sure where he was going with this, but then he started to talk. He told the audience about how he visits Children's Hospital every four weeks. About how it hurts when he gets poked with the needle in his hand but that he lets them poke him anyhow. He said he was brave because "Anything is Possible."
Aaaand that is where I lost it. To hear this sweet child… this child who likely does not even remember life before Children's Hospital (his appointments started at 21 months of age)… talk so frankly about his pain and his optimism. I have never been so proud.
As a homeschooling mama who was very active in extra-curriculars, I sometimes mourn the fact that Jack will likely not sing the Star Spangled Banner at a basketball or football game. That he might not participate in solo-ensemble festivals, or have the chance to perform in musicals like his mama did. My mom loved those moments when I was on stage. The pride on her face was evident. I have quietly longed to experience the same someday, and today I did in the most unlikely venue... In a park filled with motorcycles and the men and women who ride and/or love them. I watched them wipe their tears while my son spoke. I even watched as some of those who were seated stood and gave him a standing ovation when he said, "Anything is Possible."
He continued to talk briefly about his experiences at the hospital, and about how his grandma, who was also wiping away tears, sends an infusion present with him every week. Then he closed by thanking everyone for being there. So much wisdom and experience in this little man that God has given us to care for and nurture. What an amazing blessing he is to us and so many others.
Such a short message, but so powerful. Anything is possible. Don't give up. It might be uncomfortable, but in the long run, it's worth it.
I do not think the world has heard the last from Jack. His mountain is waiting, and he will move it one day.