Yesterday, my dad wrote a letter and asked me if I would print him a copy. It was addressed to the son of his sister's friend who is only 37 yet recently lost both his legs and is scheduled for a kidney transplant, spinal surgery and a triple bypass. I offered to proof the letter for him and I was blown away at his compassion for somebody who he'll likely never meet. A significant portion of my childhood was spent with my dad living away or overseas so for the longest time, I didn't really know what he was made of. Today I'm incredibly proud of this man.
You and I have never met, and you probably have never even heard of me. I am Dianne ****** brother, and I am well acquainted with your parents and your sister, so I certainly know who you are.
I have followed your progress for quite some time now Jeff, and have thought of you so gamely fighting the good fight many, many times. It has occurred to me that in your circumstances, how it would be so very easy just to give up and let go. Then I realised that the human spirit is simply not made that way, and that uncompromising courage in the face of overwhelming adversity is the stuff of legend so indelibly enshrined in recorded history.
History has left us with so many gifts from great men and even greater women and in particular their powerful words and inspiring deeds. These are people who led others by example, and who inspired ordinary people to do extraordinary things in dire and overwhelming circumstances.
One of these great men was Winston Spencer Churchill who was the Prime Minister of Great Britain throughout the entire duration of World War 2. Churchill was a very genuine and compassionate man and an extremely gifted orator, who made many rallying speeches via radio broadcast to the people of Britain, especially during the London blitz. Churchill was the quintessential patriot, and many of his speeches were so effective in motivating and rallying the citizens of Britain that it has been said that he “mobilised the English language and sent it into battle to defeat the enemy”. Such is the power of oratory delivered by a genuine and persuasive individual.
Churchill certainly left us the gift of his words, so cleverly and expertly crafted, that their meaning can never be changed, either in context or relevance, by the passage of time. One of his most famous speeches was made after the battle of Britain had been won by the British airmen, albeit at great cost in human lives. Among other things, Churchill said in this speech:
“Never in the field of human conflict, was so much owed by so many, to so few”.
One of “the few” to whom Churchill referred in his famous speech was Squadron Leader Douglas Bader (later Sir Douglas Bader) who in spite of, and in the face of great adversity, played a major role in winning the Battle of Britain.
The book that I have sent you with this letter is entitled “Reach for the Sky”. It is the true to life story of the legendary WW2 air ace, Douglas Bader. I don’t know whether you have heard of Douglas Bader before, but my generation learned about Bader at school. I read the book a number of years ago, and it is the most moving and inspiring biography I have ever read, and mate, I have read many. Before sitting down to write this letter I again read the book and was just as moved as the first time I read it, perhaps even more so with you in mind.
This true account of Bader’s life reflects on loss, pain, suffering, struggle and problems, but it also engages the reader with the will of the human spirit, of the refusal to accept defeat, of undaunted courage, of unflagging perseverance and patience, of incredible heroism and ultimately of victory and personal freedom. The truly astonishing thing about this book, Jeff, is that it doesn’t even touch upon the possibility of defeat. Bader was the type of man who refused to accept defeat as any kind of an option. He simply refused to let the word enter his vocabulary.
I truly hope that this book, if you choose to read it, will help to reinforce and replenish the courage you have already shown. Your courageous efforts thus far have convinced me beyond any doubt that you possess the Bader spirit in full measure. All you have to do now mate is remember some words from another of Churchill’s famous speeches where he said:
“Never ever give up….never, never,never,never,never”.
Jeff, you will hear a lot of placatory words and platitudes from well- meaning people. We Australians are so good at that. The old “You’ll be right mate” and “Chin up mate” and “Don’t let it get you down mate” can be very annoying sometimes and it can really piss you off. You must remember, Jeff, these people are your friends, and they simply don’t know what else to say or do to help you. Be patient with them mate, they are your friends and they really love you, and would, if only they knew how, do almost anything, within their power and ability, to help you.
What about your family Jeff? You have a beautiful and loyal wife who will always love you, and who will do anything for you. Of course you have the right to be angry and frustrated, and nobody could possibly argue that. Unfortunately mate, we all have the propensity to lash out at those who are closest to us, knowing and expecting that they will forgive us. And yes mate, they do forgive us, but they silently suffer terrible spiritual injury and emotional pain, to the extent that they, themselves, have difficulty in functioning and eventually need help to keep going. It is important Jeff, that you keep a rein on your anger and frustration, so that you do not unintentionally injure your wife’s spirit, for she is your staunchest ally and most fierce protector. With the passing of time you are going to witness the magnificence of your wife’s character with growing wonder and a new respect. Her strength and unflinching devotion will leave you in awe, and wondering how old Jeff ******** could have gotten so bloody lucky as to have her in his corner. Remember mate that the only reward, and I do mean the only reward, your wife seeks in return for all her care and devotion, is to see you happy and well, and living at home with her and your kids.
Also remember mate, that kids are a product of their environment. If kids have happy parents, then it follows that they live in a happy home and will always be happy kids. A happy childhood is the greatest gift that any parent can give their children, because we all reflect on our childhood when we are adults. A happy childhood is a gift that will last your kids throughout their lifetime.
I am certainly no psychologist Jeff, but I would encourage you to focus not so much on what you have lost and don’t have, but on what you still have, like the enduring unconditional love of your family, as well as the love, care and support of your friends. These things that you still have, and will never lose, are the foundations and the building blocks of the happy and successful future that you so richly deserve, and which is yours, and yours alone, to claim for yourself and your family.
Mate, I really hope that my letter hasn’t come across as some kind of unsolicited lecture given from a dilapidated soap box, by some sort of uninformed dunce. That would be totally contrary to my intentions. My letter and gift are given solely as a message of goodwill, encouragement and support from a family friend. I will be greatly pleased if you would accept this letter and gift in the spirit in which they are offered.
I send you my best wishes mate, and hope that you and yours have a very merry X-Mas and a happy and prosperous 2012 and beyond.
Keep on punching Jeff, and “Reach for the Sky”…happy days await you mate.