Walking through the fire

I was reminded of a story Mike told me, about when he was playing upright bass in his high school jazz band. He had the opportunity to attend a jazz clinic at Northwestern University, which included a lesson with a famous bass player who was one of his idols. (Ron Carter? Stanley Clarke? Forgive me, honey. I can’t remember.) The lessons were held onstage in a big auditorium, with an audience of hundreds waiting their turn to be critiqued. When it was Mike’s turn to play, he was nervous and made some mistakes… and was harshly criticized for them. His idol didn’t pull any punches and basically ripped him a new one in front of everybody.

Mike just took the criticism and continued playing. When the lesson was over, he took his bass and walked through the crowd with his back straight and his head high, though inside he was burning with shame. As he reached the door, a grizzled old guy took his arm. “You got balls, kid,” he said. “You’ll do just fine. It’s not all about talent or technique. It’s about how you walk through the fire.”

I remember the first time Mike told me that story – and probably every time after that – I told him how much I admired that quality in him, because I’m not like that. I crumble under harsh criticism. I don’t know how to walk through the fire and not get burned up.

When Mike took his life, I was cast into hell. And I’ve been walking through the fire ever since. And guess what? I’m still alive. Scorched and damaged, but still walking… still moving forward. I never would have believed I could do this, before. People tell me that they’re impressed by my strength and resilience, and I always shrug it off. What choice do I have? Keep going or curl up and die, which is no choice at all. “So I will walk through the fire, ’cause where else can I turn? I will walk through the fire and let it burn.”

And someday, when I’ve made it out the other side, I’ll have a good story to tell about how I learned to walk through the fire.


~ by hourbeforedawn on May 27, 2010.

8 Responses to “Walking through the fire”

  1. amen.

  2. indeed.

  3. Recognizing that you have no other option but to “walk through the fire” is what constitutes real strength. Despite how you perceive yourself – it sounds like you have it in droves.

  4. I honor you brave woman!

  5. Bless you, brave Lira.

  6. This is a lovely story which I will tell to someone I love who needs just these words of encouragement. Thanks for sharing, and keep right on walking. You’re doing all right.

    • Jill, this is the best thing I’ve heard all day. If my words can encourage or inspire someone who needs it, it makes all this feel a little more worthwhile. Thank you for sharing that.

  7. You really are a very strong and resilient woman. What a great story Mike told you. Love ya.

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