I originally posted this last July as my reflection for that month. Ironically, a year is about to pass and our country is currently having communications with North Korea. How much can happen in a year. My own son is graduating and it once again makes me think of how one action can change the course of a life forever. I felt it fitting to honor the memory of Otto Warmbier one more time.
Anyone who is a parent knows that there is an undisputed unifying bond that connects us all. We feel it the day that newborn is laid into our arms, we are immediately, undeniably forever changed. Life continues and we develop a common sympathy with other parents regarding their trials and tribulations. How many of us remember that feeling of handing your child the car keys for the first time?? To those of us with a son, or sons, teenage or young adult – how common those ambitious, beautiful (like Otto), ‘eager to take on adventure’ and also ‘quick to accept a dare’, wrapped up with a lot of naivete and a little bit of ‘crazy’, young men. Believe me, I’ve got one! That said, there is another even stronger parental connection, it is the one that unites all those who have lost a child. Our connection is deep, we instinctively know the tremendous amount of “grief work” the other has gone through or is about to embark upon. We are connected across the physical miles by human compassion and pain. We can physically feel the angst of other parents over and over again, each time we hear of tragedy……it never goes away. I followed Otto’s ordeal from the very first day he was ever mentioned in the news. I worried for him every day and wondered if anyone else did as well. I felt as he were my son and I was another one of his parents. So imagine my elation when that boy returned home. And like any other parent, hope against hope, prayed for a miraculous recovery that was not to be had. I felt the life pass from my body once again, when I heard the news that Otto was gone to us all. To see the Warmbiers enduring such heartache and exhibiting such grace before the world was crushing. Then the inevitable onslaught of opinions – some unfortunately, negative. And here is my very point. How many of us look back at our younger selves and wish we could erase some of the “less than smart” things we’ve done. How many of us have young adults – sons or daughters, that take risks we’d rather they didn’t. It is a parents’ duty to raise our children as strong, compassionate, respectful individuals, with a good moral compass and enough sense to make good choices. Then slowly we sense their need for independence and we have to step back and allow them to fail, learn from their mistakes and eventually soar. It doesn’t take a lot of insight to see that the Warmbier’s did that job with perfection. I don’t personally know the Warmbiers, but I know them well enough as a parent that if they could change anything to avoid what happened to their dear son they would in an instant without any hesitation. And as time will ever so slowly soften and dull the sharp ache they have now, eventually they will come to accept that ache as part of them, because oddly enough, that ache will connect them to Otto. I strongly discourage becoming a ‘blame seeker’, it serves no purpose. Instead look inside yourselves and imagine if these circumstances were your own. Have human sympathy for the Warmbier family and remember Otto simply, like so many families, as their beautiful son and brother. Peace.