I had an acting teacher who talked about the progress of a scene this way: You’re doing what you’re doing and then a brick flies through the window and changes your thoughts, feelings, and actions. It may wake you up, it may shut you down. Something happens, and priorities shift.
I’ve been noting the story of Henry Granju — having read and admired his mother’s work here and there, and having some online friends who know the family, I’ve been aware of what’s going on, if not an avid follower. In the past week, I’ve been haunted by thoughts of Henry and his family as they’ve navigated this impossible, unbearable situation. Henry died last week at age 18, after years of drug addiction, which culminated in a savage beating and overdose. At a certain point, it looked like he might survive, but then he took a terrible turn from which he never recovered.
For his mother Katie to go from the, “Hi, Mama!” moment to burying her first born in the space of a few weeks seems surreal at best. That she is expecting a baby next month only heightens the poignancy. I cannot imagine going through all that this family has endured — and will — it’s too much to contemplate.
Like an individual story that illuminates and personalizes a larger issue, the Granju family’s story is the doorway through which I enter an essential truth about parenting, about life. This is the real brick through the window. We can care for our children and do everything we think best for them, but ultimately their lives will unfold in ways we can’t predict or prevent. No amount of love can change the accident, the illness, the mistake — the heartbreak of being human.
And the heartbreak of being human cannot change the love.