As a boy the first book outside of scripture that I read was about Robert E. Lee. The second was about Theodore Roosevelt. TR became a hero to me. His overcoming, energetic spirit inspired me. I remember some key events in his life like the fact that he was sickly and exercised his way out of poor health. I remember admiring a young man's determination. I remembered something else about TR. As a young Assemblyman in New York, with a very promising future, his life was suddenly shattered by the death of his young wife, Alice Hathaway Lee at 22 years old.
The thing that made an impression on me was how Theodore responded to his great loss. He simply fled. He left the child born to he and Alice in the care of his sister. He left his elected position in the State Assembly. He left the life of privilege to go to North Dakota and live on a ranch in the Badlands. He hunted, rode, roped and chased horse thieves and in general sought to rid himself of a great grief. He once captured three outlaws and took them to jail enduring forty hours of sleeplessness. Roosevelt was for me the essence of manhood. Physically strong, determined and yet, wholly unprepared to deal with grief.
I remember thinking as a boy, if I ever experienced something like TR did, I would also run to the Badlands. I must admit that, in my hour of grief, I have been tempted to run. I have been tempted to ride, work, and hunt my way through this wilderness of grief. There is something about grief that makes a man want to run to the Badlands. I don't know if it is the sense of injustice that often comes with sorrow. I don't know if the aloneness promises comfort or if you just want to risk your life in some reckless way because it is not as bright and hopeful as it once was.
So why don't I run to the Badlands? I don't have to, it seems like the Badlands have run to me. I do not want you to think I am judging my hero TR. I understand better than ever why he did what he did. I am also strangely comforted by the fact that he returned. He was never the same but TR went on to greater adventures and became the youngest man in history to serve as the President of the United States. The tragedy of his running to the Badlands was that he never bonded to his daughter Alice. She was the daughter of TR and Alice Hathaway Lee. She grew up with a father who would not allow the name of her mother to be mentioned in his presence. Sadly, Alice had the same name as her mother. Rejected, disconnected and terribly alone in life, the beautiful Alice Roosevelt was banished to her own Badlands.
I do not know what all this means. Grief makes us all victims. Our response to grief is as varied as our fingerprints or DNA. It is tempting to do something very self centered. Our response does however, have a profound impact upon us and those whom we love. Great men and women have been marked by such sorrow. God seems to use those who have been broken. Oh, God I am broken. I do not want to withdraw from life or responsibility or my family. I feel deeply wounded and condemned to the Badlands of the soul. In the midst of those powerful feelings, I trust in the Lord to be my help and to strengthen me in my grief.
Please pray for the Litton family. Please pray for strength and grace to endure these days. Less we give you the wrong impression, that all is well and we don't hurt as bad as we did a few weeks ago, we hurt, we weep and we feel lost without her.
Thank You for your prayers!