Victory after tragedy

I wanted to post something about British Open champion Darren Clarke on Sunday, when he won the tournament, but have been consumed with tournaments and champions in a different sport, so here I am.

I’m not much for watching golf on TV. It’s slow and to me, boring. I consider it an activity, not a sport, and I say that knowing full well I’m torquing a lot of golf fans by doing so. I don’t quibble with the skill involved, but to me if you don’t get sweaty & out of breath doing it, it’s not a sport.

Anyhoo, back to Clarke.

I didn’t pay him or any of the golfers one lick of attention over the weekend. If Freddy Couples isn’t playing, I can’t be bothered. 

Then Trevor told me that Clarke’s wife, Heather, had died from breast cancer. That got my attention. Heather Clarke died in 2006 at age 39 after a recurrence. Her boys were 8 and 5 years old when she died. 

That is my biggest nightmare. And I imagine it’s the biggest nightmare of every mother of young kids who is diagnosed with this damned disease. Recurrence is enough of a nightmare, but dying from BC with young kids at home is even more terrifying. Being diagnosed with cancer at a young age, with young kids still to raise, is hard enough. Worrying about and fearing recurrence adds to the terror that comprises this disease. I don’t care that my odds of avoiding recurrence are good, or that I’m doing all the right things to ensure that this cancer does not return. I was doing all the right things before cancer became the pile of poo in my path, and it still infiltrated my life. So while the numbers and statistics are in my favor, the fear is always in my heart.

During her battles with BC, Darren said of his wife, “My wife is a battler. She fights it so hard and I have so much admiration for her.” He too is a battler, having played in the Davis Cup 6 weeks after Heather died, and winning all 3 of his matches.

At Heather’s funeral on August 17, 2006, the minister remembered Heather as “an unpretentious, lovely girl, who was full of character” and said “that day in March 1996 when you married her here in this church, Darren, you really won the greatest trophy of your life.” The reverend made everyone smile by recalling how she loved to shop while her husband played golf. My kind of girl.

After accepting the British Open trophy on Sunday, Darren Clarke said, “It’s been a long and bumpy road, I have had some good things happen to me and some bad things, but I’ve had so much support from an awful lot of people.” He credited Heather with watching him “from up above” and said, “In terms of what’s going through my heart there’s obviously somebody who is watching down from up above. I know she’d be very proud of me. She’d probably be saying ‘I told you so’. But I think she’d be more proud of my two boys. It’s been a long journey.”

He seems like a really cool guy.  He likes to lift a pint or two, and he’s been known to enjoy a cigar after a round of golf. After winning on Sunday, he partied all night, and he started that party during the post-match press conference by drinking a pint of Guinness while being interviewed. I really like this guy. Being a good father is important to him (take a lesson, Tiger). In an interview with Golf Magazine, he was asked how long it took to return to normal after Heather died. His reply is so honest. Instead of platitudes and false courage, he says:

“Well, what’s normal? It’s still not normal. It can’t be normal when you haven’t got the mother of your kids and my wife at home. I was starting to get back to an even keel probably at the start of this year [2009]. It was a long time. There were some dark moments. God knows things have been difficult for me, but it has been even harder for the boys. It has been tough having to deal with things. And tough being thrown in to being 100 percent responsible for my two kids. I had to start making the decisions for everything for the boys. Making the day-to-day decisions for the boys has been a shock to the system. You don’t realize how much wives have got to do until you’ve got to do it yourself.”

When asked in the same interview if he felt angry about her death, he again answered honestly: “Probably. I’m sure anybody would. You know, Why Heather? Why? Why? Why? There are no answers to that.”

No, there are no answers to that.

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6 Comments on “Victory after tragedy”

  1. E. Preston Hicks says:

    All I can say, Nancy, is “poignant!” Preston

  2. elizabeth connolly says:

    WHY WHy Why why is always the question and there is no answer,unless you consider that life is just a random series of events. Some good and some horrendous.

  3. Jody Hicks says:

    If you had seen Darren and Phil Mickelsen (who tied for 2nd) together at the trophy presentation, you would have noticed what appeared to be a much deeper friendship than just polite rivals. Phil’s wife Amy was diagnosed with BC about three years ago, and then a few months later his mother was also diagnosed with it. It has been heartening to see Amy finally strong enough to be able to follow Phil around again this year. But Darren and Phil have shared some long conversations over the past few years. Both are genuine, fun, and generous guys.

  4. Jody Hicks says:

    BTW, most of the players do get sweaty in the gym every day just so they can have the stamina to walk up and down a couple of miles of steep hills and withstand the stress of competition every day withOUT sweating!!

  5. Ed says:

    You don’t realize how much wives have got to do until you’ve got to do it yourself.

  6. CH says:

    I loved this post!! Having lost my mom when she was 38, then being diagnosed myself at 37 – I am scared to death of a recurrence. Cancer doesn’t seem to pick the ones that “aren’t doing the right things”. Anyway, I am glad I found your blog!! take care!


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