Why Am I A Survivor?

Maybe, this is why I'm a survivor! :-)

Erik Glen Rogers: Oct. 29, 1971 -- Jun. 22, 2011

Why am I a survivor?” is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. The question was brought to the forefront when my son died recently. On the surface, I realize his death isn’t directly related to my survival. Having stated that, I understand the concern of many of the doctors, nurses and other professionals who have asked me: “How are you doing?” They would often, outwardly, express their concern about the well-being of their patient’s loved-ones, especially me, who survived. The professionals warned me about the difficulties I would encounter when trying to answer the question: “Why am I a survivor?”

Glen Delmar Rogers: July 19, 1916 -- May 15, 1951

An event, that happened in 1951, has provided another dimension to the question: “Why am I a survivor?” You see, my father died when I was five years old. Include the fact that my son died when I was sixty-five years old and both, my dad and son, were in their thirties when they died and you can most likely understand the “bookend” loneliness I feel.

I have always thought that when things are tough, some people fall under the stress, while others are made stronger than before.

The Battle of Shanghai's sole survivor - why?

Why is it that some people are able to handle tough times better than others? Are these tough times for me? Yes! Am I falling under the stress, or am I being made stronger? Both! Yes, I am falling more than I ever anticipated, while at the same time, I realize I’m gaining a deeper insight into life. You see, the death of my son has made me feel stronger in my thinking about living life now. Before he died, much of my thinking about life involved planning a better life and trying to live that life in the future. Even though I would often proclaim that the “future is now,” I generally used the “now” only for planning/dreaming a better future.

Do reality-survivor shows manifest real survivors?

Another aspect of being a survivor is how the word, survivor, is used in our media. Consider the glut of reality-survivor television shows. Personally, I usually perceive these as shows that bring out the worst in human behavior. When I ask, “Why am I a survivor?”, I’m not asking about a “reality show.” Instead, in my case, I’m asking about why I’m in reality and my son isn’t. Or, is he???

The reality-survivor shows often display people trying to survive by wasting time complaining about what they lost and what didn’t go well. Real survivors, in my opinion, focus on creating a life that turns out well. In other words, survivors, interpreted in this manner, are those who take charge of their destinies.

If I live, laugh and love then I'll have a hard time remaining mad!

So, in my case, is it possible to take charge of my destiny and answer my question: “Why am I a survivor?” Well, in order to take charge of my destiny, I can immediately see it won’t do me any good to be mad at the world – an emotion I have felt and expressed too many times lately. I think it would be better for me to laugh at the world and get rid of the madness. In order to do that I’ll need to find options for my life, other than the “mad-at-the-world” one I’ve been choosing lately. When I’m in my “mad-at-the-world” emotional state, I’m mad at everyone – friends, neighbors, family and yes, me! Too much madness and not enough laughter!

The future is unknown, but I can handle it because I'm confident that I will find a way to make things work out.

Am I a survivor? Yes, and at the present time, a mad one! What kind of survivor should I be? I should be a survivor who can laugh more at his problems, stop feeling sorry for himself, and think more about his options and less about life and death. It’s easy to tell myself to do it, but it’s very difficult to do it. In other words, it’s easy to talk the talk, but difficult to walk the walk. :-)

You see, thinking only about life and death is using “either-or” thinking. We, as humans, have many other options. The future is unknown and the person who can handle it must have a personality that allows her/him to walk into it with confidence, knowing s/he will find a way to make things work out. I suppose, it’s more about developing positive expectations and beliefs and dwelling less on the past.

Why am I a survivor? Because, “I’m present in the present,” is the only answer that I’m sure of. :-)

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5 Responses to Why Am I A Survivor?

  1. bill reed says:

    Ron, the experience that you have gone through is one of the toughest that can be dealt with. Don’t be too hard on yourself. There are going to be many episodes of escaping the sadness and also reliving it. Because death is a part of life you can not escape it or even understand why it happens to nice people such as your son or your father. Sometimes you just have to place all things in a higher power and ask for strength to deal with it. There is no logic behind it and no escape from the feelings that are conjured up from it. You just have to become the best person that you can be and try and cope with it. It is not easy. Of course, you are angry. Why wouldn’t you be to lose your son over such a simple task as trying to cut a limb off of a six foot ladder? It makes no sense. He was a good person and it just does not make sense. It is tragic and you are going to reap feelings that you do not want to have. But, the key to your survival is to love more and question less. I have been there. It is a long struggle but one you must accept or I fear you will not survive. Know that many hold you in their prayers and pray that you and Kathy will gain strength daily to enjoy the rest of your lives.
    I hope you will just ease up on yourself my old friend and seek joy the best way you can. It is so hard to relate to someone who has suffered such a loss. Please understand that I am no expert in loss, but I have experienced it and it takes a toll of your life force. Just ask the Universal Intelligence in this massive universe of ours for help to overcome the pain in your heart. Abraham Lincoln made a comment about how horrible he felt after the loss of one of his sons while he was President; and, he replied “that if you took the sorrow that he felt and spread it across the world, there would not be a smile on the planet.” This is probably not exactly what he said but you get the drift. I am so sorry for you guys and also for those little girls. It does not make sense. But, maybe we are not to try and question but to just cope. I do not know. Again, know that we are thinking of you and pray you will be relieved of some of the pain you are experiencing.

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  2. Ron Rogers says:

    Thanks, Bill, for the thoughtful and helpful comment. I know you’ve “been there” and I respect your opinion more than you know.

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  3. […] To read more about why I’m a survivor, please click here… […]

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  4. I have started and stopped this article now 4 times since you posted it in mid-january – and I’m not quite sure why, still.

    I have been fortunate enough to not have lost someone close to me while I’ve been an adult, and when I did have people around me die at a younger age, I have memories of them, but little more than smells, vision, and stories that I can write but have little to latch context to beyond foundational tether.

    My usual push inside of “death” since the 90’s has been to latch on to something inside the cone of Lion King – a movie that while surely full of song, color and DISNEYness. But it has also provided me with what I hope to take with me into battle when the time comes to memorialize those around me when they go, or when I inevitably do.
    While this formula has made a supportive, instant comment in many people’s status lines, your situation – well – it’s a curveball that drops instantly to the dirt for me when I take a swing. Your son is gone. Your memories you have as a five year-old as a boy provide you something, but they’re both surely outside the realm of “what holds true” when it comes to the – “they live on in you.”

    Or are they?

    I have spent the last 8 years blogging, podcasting, telling others what I think and leaving a digital footprint that I hope not only carries me along longer than our 60+ year window here, but beyond. It’s a legacy that I leave for my child, and those around me, of the things that influenced me and still do as the world turns. Cant that NOT be an answer to a question like yours as well?

    You’re a survivor, because – you are. And here’s your tale of it, to formulate, compile, and showcase your perspective of what goes on around you. The loss of your son – while horrific and not something any of us wish to have happen – IS, at it’s core, an opportunity, stage, and cone of perspective that you are able to share with those of us that can only imagine, but should be somehow prepared for.

    I am NOT existential usually in my writings, but your article has surely touched a salient nerve that I hope to revisit, as I revisit your article to read, again in time, over time. Thank you for your perspective and “keyhole” that allows me to unlock something difficult to share.

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  5. Ron Rogers says:

    Thanks, Mike, for the thoughtful and insightful comment. I’m flattered that you would take the time and thought to add this important dimension to my post.

    I agree, I’m a survivor because I am. Also, I blog primarily to learn – to learn about me and my perspective on life. Death is a part of life, as I see it.

    I have come to many realizations regarding death since my son passed. One of the biggest is that if there is a hell, it’s here on earth while I’m living. In order to elaborate on this, I would need much more than this comment. In fact, I’m still “making sense” of this at this moment. Perhaps, in the future, I’ll write a post about these many realizations.

    Thanks again for your comment and friendship.

    Best regards,

    Ron (R2)

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