Saturday, September 28, 2013

Symbols are Imperative During the Grief Journey: A Story About a Putter

Today we hosted The First Annual Sgt. Lance McClean Memorial Golf Tournament. It was a great event. Sgt. McClean was murdered in the line of duty after confronting an accused sex offender that was threatening the person he allegedly victimized. The proceeds from the tournament will go to Lance’s family.

When I got home this afternoon, I went to my closet to make sure my trench coat was hanging in its place. I realize that sounds like an odd thing to do on a warm afternoon in September. But whoever said I was normal?  It just seemed like the thing to do.

During the live auction following tournament play people paid premium price for golfing getaways and other appealing items. As the auction reached it climax, Sgt. McClean’s personal putter was put out there for bidding. One of his closest friends and law enforcement colleagues, Lieutenant Steve Smith, made it clear that he would love to have that putter.  The bidding began.  It soon became apparent that there were two individuals that were determined to purchase that putter. (Neither of them was close to Lance.) By the time the final bid was settled, the putter sold for $2,000.00.  The man that purchased the prized item promptly gave it to Steve. And the woman who bid against him had the same plan in mind.

I have seen people bid against each other at auctions before. In fact, I have seen items purchased for far more than they are worth following such bidding wars. Those scenarios are generated by greed and huge egos. Today's bidding battle was prompted by generosity and compassion.

Steve played golf with Lance on a regular basis. Just days before Lance was shot and killed they were on the course together. Lance made his final putt in this life that day. He put his clubs in his truck. And I am sure he told Steve that he would beat him the next time they played.  Within days Steve knew that round would turn out to be the final one with his friend, Lance.

Steve went home with Lances putter today. And I am glad. I am glad because I know in the grief journey that symbols are important. That putter is a tangible reminder of friendship, mutual respect, and love among brothers. Steve needs something he can hold and look at and putt a golf ball with, if he chooses.  And he needs to be able to think about a bidding war that happened on an afternoon in September that led the putter to landing in his possession. That war between two generous souls stands in stark contrast to the total disregard for human life that led to Lance’s death. Symbols are imperative during the grief journey.

When I got home this afternoon, I went to my closet to make that my trench coat was hanging in its place.  That trench coat belonged to my father. He wore it on the commuter train in Chicago in the 1960s. When I was a little boy, I tried to pick him out from a large group of men get off the training wearing black trench coats. I rarely wear that coat, but it remains an important symbol as I think about my deceased father. I hope the putter that was put on the auction block today will be as meaningful to Steve as the coat has been to me. I am confident that Steve is about to learn that symbols are important components of healing as the journey of grief continues. After all symbols are imperative during the grief journey.

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