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Lions Roar : January 2014
innocent children. His crucial conflict— our crucial conflict—is this: Frosty the Snowman knew the sun was hot that day. Life is suffering, death will come, is com- ing. Yet, Frosty’s response is astonishing! “Let’s run and have some fun,” he says, “before I melt away.” Frosty is deliver- ing the wisdom of the Buddha, and one can almost picture him meditating on the mantra present moment, wonder- ful moment. He teaches the children that there is heaven in the present moment. Here and now, we are alive. Frosty leads the children out of the pas- toral forest into the town where the group faces the complications of daily life in the stern and officious police officer, who hol- lers, “Stop!” There is a temptation to dwell in the realm of fear, but Frosty’s stop in the town square is momentary. Time is too fleeting, too precious. The children must learn—while they can—how to play, for as we all know, nothing lasts forever and Frosty must “hurry on his way.” As Frosty faces his own melting with the acceptance of a Zen master, he teaches us his most valuable lesson. He will face death, his next metamorphosis from one form (snow) to the next form (water) with courage, understanding, and even a sense of ease. With peaceful acceptance, our snowy hero waves goodbye saying, “Don’t you cry, I’ll be back again someday.” Then he fearlessly dances over the hills of snow back to the forest. Frosty shows us that our time is short, but that does not mean it has to be lived in fear and sadness. Coming out of my meditation, I open my eyes. This children’s story has lifted me out of despair. I stand up and step out- side. It is a windy, brisk February after- noon. It occurs to me that I am a lucky man, even in one of my darkest hours. Despite the horrendous decision that my wife and I will have to make, this present moment is still a wonderful moment, for I am alive and can do everything in my power to ease the suffering of my little boy, the suffering of my amazingly strong wife, and the secret worries of my four- year-old son. This is my heroic moment. I will suffer it and feel it. With the spirit of a mad knight, I will fight the giants and monsters for Nino. I feel less fearful, for my heart is stronger. I feel less anxious, for my mind is clearer. I feel less sorrow, for I have accepted the reality. I will take on as much of this burden as I am able so Nino can live like a child—so he can go thumpety-thumping for as much life as he is meant to have. IT IS SEVEN YEARS since Nino’s battle, and the waves of that experience still come rolling to my shore. Nothing changes a person like suffering. Joy, happiness, and contentment are warm blankets that we wish to curl up in forever. But trauma? Trauma teaches. We moved away from California. The expensive, fast-paced, and competitive lifestyle demanded our attention; how- ever, we were unwilling to comply. For my wife and me, something deep in our core had shifted. The wide-open spaces of the Midwest welcomed us as I landed a job teaching lit- erature and writing in a town just south of Omaha. They call it “the good life” here in Nebraska, and it is. We needed America’s heartland to heal. My wife is also headed back into teaching; her deep love of chil- dren and families is a clarion call to the classroom. Our older boy is ten, and he was forever changed by his experience; he displays an empathy and compassion that is rare for a person of any age. As for me, I am a husband and a father. I am now con- vinced that stories hold the key to under- standing our lives. And Nino? In an attempt to save his life, we chose to enucleate the eye, and today he is six years cancer free. At eight years old, he sports mounds of dark hair and is as strong as a freight train. He’s fiercely competitive, plays baseball, soccer, and tennis, and is so social that his classmates and teachers call him “The Mayor.” He is the happiest person I know. And when the snow falls in beautiful Nebraska, there is a soft glow in his face because he knows it’s time to race outside, feel the cold white wetness on his skin, stick his hands in that divine frosty blanket, and pelt his daddy with one perfect snowball after another. Present moment, wonderful moment. ♦ 68 SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2014