Silver Lining

Cindy is in Washington D.C. this week with Corbin on his 6th grade field trip, so she asked me to write a “guest” update. My family and I have been friends with the Ziemkes for years, ever since my oldest son Jacob attended elementary school with Cayden. Cindy’s only instruction to me was to make this update inspirational, and so I’ll try.

If there is one thing I’ve learned from Cindy’s brutally honest, and heart wrenching, weekly updates is that transparency reigns supreme. At a time when some might retreat to the confines of their home and shut-off the world in bitterness, Cindy has allowed us to enter the holy of holies and partake, even if only vicariously, in the profound sacrifice for which they have been burdened. In other words, Cindy has chosen to lay bare her soul to us during the trial of her life. That to me is incredible.

I’d like to follow Cindy’s standard of transparency and share a troubling thought that for me materialized soon after Curt’s diagnosis. The phrase can be said in many ways, but this metaphor conveys the idea succinctly:

“Every dark cloud has a silver lining”

It comes in many flavors like: “God has a plan”, “God is in control”, “everything is going to be fine”, “things work out for the best”, “out of tragedy will come good”, etc. They are the phrases I first thought of when I heard about Curt, and the ones that surprisingly were least consoling to me. I had grown accustomed to relying on them as the catch all answers to counsel friends during troubling times, yet now they just seemed trite, at best. I couldn’t shake the fact, ALS shows no mercy. The endgame is known, it breaks apart families. All those phrases that were once a comfort were now troubling me.

The thought became even more haunting as I realized that if I couldn’t, in good conscience, offer such comforting words to the Ziemkes then how could I ever rely upon these phrases during my times of despair. Knowledge of Curt’s diagnosis brought to light how my, nicely wrapped world view, was flawed. Cindy’s request for me to write this update forced me to dig deep and wrestle with that which I would rather repress.

The insight I am about to offer you isn’t worthy of a drum roll, and there is no Heavenly revelation, yet I find it to be my source of hope and inspiration amidst this situation. I realize my problem with those phrases wasn’t in what they were saying, just the incorrect interpretation I superimposed on them. I looked to them as some sort of explanation as to why God would allow, or dare I say cause, such an event. I was wrong. The mysteries of God will always remain mysteries. Those phrases, and the concepts they represent, aren’t supposed to shed light on understanding the ways of God during a tragedy, but our response to it!

Now I realize why the Ziemke’s story has been both a source of great sadness and also one of deep inspiration, a unique blend of emotions I must admit. Curt’s illness is one of the saddest events I’ve ever experienced, and the Ziemke family’s response to it one of the most inspirational. Through it all Curt has remained the most positive person I have ever met. I have never seen him display a single emotion of anger or frustration. He has allowed his kids to throw him in the pool and lift him into bed...all the while grinning from ear to ear. If there is one person who lives life to the fullest, and extracts every last ounce of life out of every moment, it would be Curt. Clarissa, Cayden, and Corbin have stepped up to pick up the slack in all the things necessary to keep a household running. They don’t mope around feeling sorry for themselves, but follow Curt’s example in remaining consistently positive. Cindy has allowed all of us friends to not feel weird during any of this, but free to talk, laugh, and cry with them. She is a pillar of strength, the glue that binds them together.

The dark cloud is oh so real, yet the silver lining just as real. Curt, Cindy, Clarissa, Cayden, and are the silver lining! Your display of strength, courage, openness, closeness, hope, compassion, honesty, and love inspire me in ways you don’t even know. There it was, all along, the silver lining right in front of my eyes, it was you guys.


Steve Gallie

"The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in."
Morrie Schwartz (who passed away from ALS on November 4, 1995)
from "Tuesdays with Morrie"

Cayden and Jacob, August 2007

Jacob and Cayden, August 2008

1 comment: said...

Wow Steve! Great job. You have expressed feeling for a lot of us today. So thankful Cindy able to be with Corbin this week. What a wonderful friend you must be to the Ziemkees. Rose Mary Banks