In Graham Greene’s perfectly titled novel, The Heart of The Matter, he addresses life and the emotion of happiness:
It seemed to Scobie that life was immeasurably long. Couldn’t the test of man be carried out in fewer years? Couldn’t we have committed out first major sin a at seven, have ruined ourselves for love or hate at ten, have clutched at redemption on a fifteen-year-old death-bed?
What an absurd thing it was to expect happiness in a world so full of misery. … Point me out the happy man and I will point you out either extreme egotism, evil – or else absolute ignorance.
I thought of Greene’s perspective when I read Jason King’s moving article about three major college basketball coaches who are friends and have a rather grievous thing in common, the death of a stillborn infant.
When Billy Donovan was hired at Marshall [yes that Marshall] University in 1994, he hired two assistants, Miami Senior High alumni Anthony Grant and John Pelphrey. When Donovan was hired at Florida in 1996, he brought Grant and Pelphrey as assistants. They would work together until 2002 when Pelphrey took a head coaching job at South Alabama.
It happened to Grant’s family first in 1999. His reflection on the tragedy; ““God doesn’t make mistakes,” Grant says. “All things work for the good. All things happen for a reason. Maybe what I went through enabled me to help Billy [Donovan].”
It then happened to Donovan’s family in 2000. From the King article, Donovan’s thoughts immediately after leaving the hospital following the stillborn birth of his daughter, Jacqueline:
Donovan stopped at a red light. “I’m sitting there,” Donovan says, “and I look over at this church, and there’s a sign on the marquee that says, ‘God is Good All of the Time.’ I kind of shook my head and thought, ‘What’s good about this?’
“But then I sat there a little longer, and I said to myself, ‘I’ve got an incredible wife, and right now I’m going home to three healthy kids.’ A lot of times, when bad things happen in your life, you fail to remember all the good things that are in your life, too.
“At that moment, a calm came over me, a peace that made me realize that, although this was a terrible loss, I was still very, very blessed.”
It happened to Pelphrey’s family in 2002. His reaction? See the web site Pel’s Pals.
Getting back to Greene on happiness, he may have just been paraphrasing St Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:11-13:
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
Sometimes in sports, when an athlete makes a good play, a commentator may note, ‘grace under pressure.’ I believe there is such a thing, just not in games.