I believe most of us joined, and have remained, part of the Rock Steady Boxing, JAX HOPE, program because we could see that the boxing exercises improved strength, hand-eye coordination, speed, balance, agility and relieved stress. But we witnessed another benefit as well. Perhaps less well-defined, but absolutely as important. The RSB “program” became the RSB “family,” giving all of us a sense of community. The fighters have been given the opportunity to work-out with others who have similar limitations and goals. The caregivers also developed a safe place to discuss worries, frustrations and hurdles which allowed for sharing of tips, the regaling of stories which ranged from sad to hilarious and the comparison of day-to-day routines. But it has been more than that. We’ve learned to care for each other. To see and support each other’s gains and losses. To pitch in when someone falls, reach out when someone needs an extra hand or offer a ride when someone can’t get themselves to boxing classes. Many a class we would see our fighters helping each other or talking about their frustrations with each other. And the caregivers shared more than one tear with one another regarding our own losses, our exhaustion, and our frustrations.
Due to the pandemic, we have not been able to stay physically connected in 2020. And I don’t know about you, but I miss that terribly. I miss Walter’s sly smile. I miss helping Hope put on her gloves. I miss Marsha’s southern drawl. I miss Jim’s smiling face and beautiful blue eyes. I miss teasing Steve. I miss seeing Bill’s bruise de jour and hearing Marilyn’s explanation of how he insisted on using power tools in their garage-resulting in the bruise. I miss always walking in and instantly knowing if Kristen was present because her voice booms and she loves to laugh. I miss the banter with Nate and Zach. But most of all, I miss being able to reach out a hand or give a hug when someone really needs that connection. However, the loss of this physical bond becomes an enormous, gaping hole when we lose one of our family. It takes our collective breath away with longing and grief. We want to reach out to that spouse, caregiver, family and let them know they are not alone, we are grieving with them and they will never be forgotten. Because that is-simply-what family does. Or perhaps, that is-complexly-what family does.
Of course, the loss of Bill Wilson is the impetus for this blog. Bill, who I never heard say a mean or hurtful thing. Bill, who never stayed down, even when badly hurt. Bill, who was one of the cornerstones of JAX HOPE. Bill, who clearly not only loved, but also liked his precious Marilyn. Bill, who became hard to hear, but still always had something profound to say. Bill, who loved a good survey, but loved people even more. Smart, empathetic, determined, sweet Bill. Bill was the latest, but not the only loss to our RSB family these past couple of years. Each loss is a life we should honor. Each person fought this very insidious disease. Each person made a choice to live with Parkinson’s, to fight the changes it can bring, to continue boxing. Each person we’ve lost had family who supported them, brought them to RSB, helped them put their gloves on and tended them.
So, let us honor our family members who are with us in spirit now:
After my Mom passed away, the hospice grief counselor told me and my Dad we had to give ourselves permission to grieve, as long as we didn’t get stuck there. So, grieve our collective losses. Then honor each person by living your life to the fullest. And know, that even during a pandemic, we can hold each other up via phone calls, letters, texts, etc.