I rarely cried growing up. The time I remember most, I was twelve. I was pitching in the semifinals of the Tennessee State Dixie Youth Baseball tournament to qualify for its equivalent of the Little League World Series. In the first inning I gave up a walk and 2 hits which unfortunately included a 3 run homerun. However, the next 5 innings I pitched hitless, scoreless ball striking out 15 batters total. We lost 3-2 and I cried. I cried because we had lost and my dream of going to the World Series was gone. Mainly, though, I cried because minutes after the game ended, I got into the car with my family and we left for my father’s next Army assignment at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. We literally went straight from the ballfield to Kansas. I never saw my closest friends, the best baseball coach I ever had (to include in college), again. Such was my childhood.
When I was 9 and then again at age 15, my father served in Vietnam. He saw significant combat both times. When he left I did not cry even though I knew what could happen. I was raised that “Men don’t cry” which said to me that “Boys don’t cry, either” so I didn’t or at least I did my best to not. The movies “Old Yeller”, “Shenandoah”, and the book “Where the Red Ferns Grow” didn’t help, though! I was good at hiding my tears.
It was thirty years before I learned it was okay for men to cry, for me to cry. I learned this from another man named Lloyd. We served on mission teams together for many years. I came to know him better than my own brothers. I love him as my own brother. Lloyd is a “man’s man” if there is such a thing. He was a great athlete through college, even drafted by the Montreal Expos. He was unlike any man I had known. He cried easily and unashamedly. He cried when he saw the needs and hurting of those we served during missions. He cried when he saw God at work in and through others. It wasn’t long before I cried as well.
I thought about writing this story as I was listening to classical music. The sweeping crescendo and decrescendo of the movements; the intimate softness of piano keys or string instruments exquisitely fingered speak to my heart and bring tears. I can cry at the beauty of a sunrise or sunset over the ocean or at mountains rising above a clear, shimmering stream; of my son playing with my grandson or of long -ago memories of the same with my sons. These are the things that move me deeply.
What makes you cry, or do you? You have had reasons to do so – joy-filled moments and memories or heartbreaking events and tragedies. It has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with the condition of your heart, everything to do with your humanness. I know your hearts. They have become like “stained-glass windows”, windows that have been broken and then put back together again, stronger and more beautiful than ever for having been broken. You know this intimately. It’s the “cost” of medicine but a cost worth paying. So… what makes you cry? Better yet, why not cry?
Andy Lamb, MD