Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How do we cope with pain?

By S. Derrickson Moore
If poet T.S. Eliot is right about April being the cruelest month, it’ll have to be a doozy.
If there was one theme for me this March, it was pain.
It seemed to be everywhere. I was braced for it when it came time to cover stories on annual commemorations surrounding today’s 25th annual Bataan Memorial Death March run, and “Never The Same,” a film about U.S. servicemen held as POWs by the Japanese during World War II. (The last screening will be at 7 p.m. Monday at the Rio Grande Theatre, 211 N. Main St.)
I talked to filmmaker Jan Thompson, whose dad was a POW, and Gerry Schurtz of Las Cruces, whose father and uncle, Deming natives, were both on the Bataan Death March. His father, Paul W. Schurtz, died. His uncle, Gerald B. Freeman, survived and became a surrogate father to Gerry and his siblings. Gerry was candid about the impacts on his uncle and their extended family — a long legacy of pain.
I went to talk to artist Kelley Hestir and NMSU students at Veteran’s Park, where they were doing their annual cleaning of Kelley’s sculpture, a deeply moving tribute to Bataan soldiers. I remember when Kelley first began working on the project, making molds of the feet of Bataan survivors and listening to their stories. And I knew the toll it took on creative, sensitive Kelley, who absorbed and conveyed their ordeal, their spirits and strength.
About the same time, I was working on a story about child abuse for April’s Healthy U magazine. I’ve been reporting on child abuse issues since I worked on a series in the 1970s, in otherwise progressive Portland, Ore., where there were then more laws to protect animals than there were to protect women and children.
I did my first interview with Gloria Steinem about that time, too, and remember her saying that the crucial first steps were to name the problems like domestic violence, and child abuse, which used to be just called “life” in a complacent world.
We’ve progressed on some fronts, but we still have a long, long way to go.
The A & E beat is usually a refuge, but this month, pain seemed to be everywhere. Both the director, Nikka Ziemer, and star of “Women of Lockerbie” talked to me about the “comic relief” in Deborah Bervoort’s award-winning drama, inspired by a community’s response to a plane crash caused by terrorists. (The play runs through March 30 at the Black Box Theatre.)
Karen Caroe plays a suburban housewife from New Jersey who roams the hills of Lockerbie, Scotland, looking for her son’s remains. Caroe is a brave soul who told me her role “was a little bit too close to home for me because I lost my daughter in an accident a couple of years ago and it opens a few painful wounds.”
On a personal level, a good friend I talked to after surgery was in so much post-op pain that I didn’t recognize her voice.
I had my own bout with an abscessed tooth that inconveniently began its three-day reign of throbbing terror on a Friday night.  My only other toothache of that magnitude came shortly after the birth of my son — without anesthetic. But it’s the pain of that tooth that I remember vividly.
I thought about that when Loretta Swit, who narrates “Never the Same,” told me how the film changed her life: ”It releases you from worry and anxiety. Nothing like that is ever going to happen to you. You give up all rights to complain about anything that will happen to you, and that is liberating,” Swit said.
I wish I could agree. Among my dearest friends is a woman who was in a Japanese camp from birth to age 3, a man who was the only member of his family to survive Auschwitz, and children and grandchildren of survivors of Nazi and Japanese camps during World War II. And in newsrooms and as a volunteer in domestic violence interventions, I’ve witnessed stories of pain and inhumanity that have endured for decades and crippled generations. Physical, mental, emotional and soul-deep pain.
And yes, there is something to say for comic relief and the release of art and expression. Some of us are blessed with innate coping mechanisms, and with friends, loved ones and support systems to help us bear, relieve and maybe eventually transcend our pain and grief.
My prayer is that more and more of us get the help we need and use what we’ve learned to go on to help others, to investigate causes and solutions and break the cycle of pain, cruelty and soul-crushing inhumanity that is the greatest threat to all God’s creatures.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com, @derricksonmoore on Twitter and Tout or 575-541-5450.

No comments: