I don’t quite know what to say about Joannie Rochette. I’ve been stunned by her bravery, humbled by her strength, amazed by her determination in the face such terrible sadness. When my father died, it was days before I could even walk in a straight line, weeks before I could hold myself reliably upright. After losing her mother, Joannie Rochette strapped on her skates and competed for an Olympic medal. Incredible. Courageous.
It’s courageous because it represents an overcoming of a terrible grief, a grief that comes at you like a baton to the knees and the gut and the mind and the heart. It’s not a defeat of such grief – there is no defeat of such grief – but it is – it represents – a willingness and an ability to power through that grief and to keep moving, keep persevering, keep living, in spite of that grief. And more than that, perhaps: to take that grief and let it move through you in a way that carries you forward, to feel its battering force and take that force and bend it to your will and make it dance, to dance with it, to take the lead and turn the struggle into something beautiful.
I would like to do that. But I still feel, more often than not, that the grief is moving me, leading me, directing our steps. We’re dancing, I know, and it’s not always terrible (that is one grief’s secrets: that it is sometimes welcomed, that it is sometimes embraced, because the grieving soul does, sometimes, just want to give in, to fall back into the deep curve of those arms and yield to the bending and the tipping and to just let its fingers graze the floor as it sways and drops) but it is not controlled, I am not controlling it, I am just being led, and I wish, sometimes, that I were not.
Jeannie Rochette will have her moments, I know; moments in which she will no longer feel in control, when she will not be able to stand, let alone skate, because this kind of pain – no matter what anyone says – is terrible, terrible, beyond measure. But she will always have this moment of triumph, this overcoming, this demonstration of the force of life and love in the face of death. For that she should be proud. To that we should all aspire.