Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Love Doesn't Get Much Stronger Than This

While trying to decide what to write about today -- our trip to Williamsburg this past weekend, the latest exploits of my daughter, prattling on about life in Washington -- I received an e-mail from my wife which follows. I don't think anything on earth could be a more powerful demonstration of love. Once reading the message, which is a recent article by Rick Reilly in Sports Illustrated, be sure to click the video link that follows -- and if it doesn't bring a tear to your eye and a smile to your heart, I don't know what will.

"Strongest Dad in the World"
[From Sports Illustrated, By Rick Reilly]

Eighty-five times he's pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in marathons. Eight times he's not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars--all in the same day.

This love story began in Winchester, Mass., 43 years ago, when Rick was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs.

"He'll be a vegetable the rest of his life;'' Dick says doctors told him and his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old. "Put him in an institution.''

But the Hoyts weren't buying it. They noticed the way Rick's eyes followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to the engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there was anything to help the boy communicate. "No way,'' Dick says he was told. "There's nothing going on in his brain.''

"Tell him a joke,'' Dick countered. They did. Rick laughed. Turns out a lot was going on in his brain.

Rigged up with a computer that allowed him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? "Go Bruins!'' And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the school organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, "Dad, I want to do that.''

Yeah, right. How was Dick, a self-described "porker'' who never ran more than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles? Still, he tried. "Then it was me who was handicapped,'' Dick says. "I was sore for two weeks.''

That day changed Rick's life. "Dad,'' he typed, "when we were running, it felt like I wasn't disabled anymore!''

And that sentence changed Dick's life. He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could.

Now they've done 212 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii.

This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters.

"No question about it,'' Rick types. "My dad is the Father of the Century.''

Rick, who has his own apartment (he gets home care) and works in Boston, and Dick, retired from the military and living in Holland, Mass., always find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country and compete in some backbreaking race every weekend, including this Father's Day.

That night, Rick will buy his dad dinner, but the thing he really wants to give him is a gift he can never buy.

"The thing I'd most like,'' Rick types, "is that my dad sit in the chair and I push him once.''


Dad said...

Thank you, Matthew, for this posting today. THIS is what life is all about, isn’t it? The love between parent and child, the love between husband and wife, the love between two friends – THIS is why we’re here!

I’m reminded of the writings of John Donne: "All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated...As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness....No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

Or as St. Paul writes: “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love… If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us… If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? (1 John 4: 7-8, 12b, 20)

Be sure to give your wife a big hug for sending you that email. Be sure to give your wife and your daughter a big hug EVERY day and let them know how much you love them! You should never get so busy that you forget that! Remember to keep your priorities in order: God first, family second, and everything else falls into place! From my own experience – and misplaced priorities in the past – I can honestly say that is true.

Oh, I’m sending YOU a big hug today too – just to let you know how much you are loved!

Karen said...

Matt, God works through the internet, doesn't He?
I know He navigated me from Kansas Bob's place to hear that story today.

Matt said...

Karen, He does indeed. Thanks for the visit -- come back anytime.

Kelly said...

I saw the story of these two on one of the magazine shows...Dateline, Primetime,one of those...and was so moved by their story. What selfless love! Thank you for reminding us by sharing it here.

Tammy said...

That is absolutely the most profound video I have ever seen. Thank you so much for putting it up here for us.

rdl said...

Wonderful story, wish th video would work.

rdl said...

Thanks for letting me know the video was working - it's incredible!