Lessons learned in the Face of Tragedy
By Joel Feldman*
At the time Casey was struck by a distracted driver I was with a legal client in northern New Jersey. When the call came in to rush to the hospital he would not let me drive there alone. He insisted on having a neighbor drive me the 90 minutes to the hospital and he followed, driving my car. He was there at the time Casey died and he came to the funeral. He was the first to show me how kind and caring people can be after a tragedy.
I was representing him because a diagnosis of his cancer had been missed and he was not given a very good chance of survival – he was 40 and had a wife and two young children. I was filming a video for his case that would tell what he was experiencing and what his family was experiencing. I interviewed his parents, asking them to consider what it was like to know that you would be burying a child. I was interviewing his parents at the time my child Casey was dying.
Since then, we have talked often of the irony of me losing a child on that very same day.
When tragedy strikes, losing a child or contemplating one’s likely untimely death, we are caused to think about life differently. And that was certainly the case for my client. He described how he would look at his wife and children and “take them in”, making a mental picture and holding them as close as he could because he did not know what the future held for him. He explained that he had a new appreciation for all those he loved, was grateful for the time he had with them and the time he would have in the future. He was not angry or bitter about what he was losing but appreciative of what he had. It was as honest, raw, painful and eloquent a description of gratitude in the face of an incredible challenge that I had ever heard. I learned something from him that day that would help me in the following days as I buried my daughter and which still helps me today.
My client was cancer free for 8 years and all of us felt he had “beaten” it. I learned a few days ago that he recently died. The cancer had come back. So I have been thinking about him, his children who lost a father, a wife who lost her husband, parents who lost a child and about that day when my daughter died.
I have been thinking how I have been able, as I continue to mourn the loss of my daughter, to be grateful for so many things – the 21 years I had with Casey, all those who love me and who I love and my client, for teaching me about how we can choose to look at what we have and not what we have lost.
*Joel Feldman is the father of the late Casey Feldman and founder of the Casey Feldman Foundation and its sponsored project, EndDD.org. He has been a practicing attorney for 30 years and a shareholder in the law firm of Anapol Schwartz in Philadelphia. He received a masters in counseling in 2013 and speaks throughout the U.S. and Canada to teens and adults, changing attitudes and behaviors through the science based, EndDD program. Joel can be reached at [email protected]