By Dr Tom Ferraro
Syndicated to the 23 newspapers and one million readers of the
Journal Register Company
December 29th 2005

Here's an irrepressible smile from 'the original big guy' Jordan Lee Ferraro
(Photo taken by Dr. Tom Ferraro)

I had to bury my son this week. He died after suffering with a devastating disease. They have a saying in Korea that you bury your parents in the ground but you must bury your children in your heart. This I think is true. So I am writing this column today to honor my son Jordan.

Jordan was an athlete and an artist. He skateboarded, snowboarded and surfed. He was employed as a set designer for commercial and television shoots. Jordan loved speed, daring and excitement. At his funeral his Uncle, my brother-in-law Timmy told me that when they would snowboard together Jordan would insist on making fresh trails through the woods. Dangerous. At his memorial service, I was asked to stand up and speak about him. I found it nearly unbearable. The church was filled with so many beautiful children, all of who were crying. There were all his cousins, Travis, Julia, Kyle, and Lauren with sad little faces streaked with tears. I think my heart shattered when I looked at them.

I was not sure what to say at the funeral. So I just told people how his career had just started to take off. He had just worked on a Beyonce video and was working with Uma Thurman as well. He was at the brink of success. But then it all stopped. Last week I saw Memoirs of a Geisha. In it there was a scene where a poet was asked to write a poem about loss on the temple wall. He wrote three words then scratched them out. When asked why he did this he said that loss can not be described in words but must be felt. So what does it feel like to lose a son? Very empty, like a big hole has been dug out of me. Like losing a body part.

Then something happened that I was not prepared for. Jordan's friends all came up to the podium one by one. Peter, Stephen, Robert, Simon, Randy and Dave. And they were all the same it seemed. Handsome, strong, bright and young. Filled with hope. And they were all so brave. They each told a story about Jordan and they each broke down as they talked.

Later in the day during the wake, the two presiding, ministers, Jon and Jane came up to me and told me they had never quite seen a service like this. Even the organist was misty eyed. Like the entire church was flooded with tears. And during the ceremony something wonderful happened to me. All my emptiness was filled up with the sight of Jordan's beautiful friends. The unthinkable had happened to my family but through it the sweetness of his friends and cousins kept pouring into me.

Last week I went to see Syriana, George Clooney's film with my brother. There was a scene in it where a boy drowns in a pool and the parents have to bury him. My brother asked me how I could bear to watch and I said it seemed like a trivial thing to watch since I was living through far worse.

Now since this is a sport psychology column I will end with how all this applies to sport. Here an insight for you about loss and sports. I now understand the mysterious phenomenon of big wins by athletes after the loss of a loved one. Buster Douglas beat Mike Tyson shortly after Douglas lost his Dad. Ben Crenshaw won the Masters a week after he lost his beloved Harvey Pennick. Dan Jansen won an Olympic gold medal after his sister passed away. I think they were able to achieve great results because they had acquired serenity and wisdom following the death of a loved one. They had lost something profound to them the thought of being nervous over a race or a match or a tournament becomes ludicrous. So through pain there is gain. I suppose there is some comfort in that.

I feel the same way. Very serene and very peaceful. I have lost that which was most dear to me. Nothing is going to hurt me as much as this did. So there is peace to that. So I will say goodbye Jordan, I will see you in the afterlife. And as for the rest of you, if you have children, appreciate them every day and do as my sister-in-law Trixie does, and cook a meal for them every night. You just never know when they will be taken from you. Life is filled with surprises, some of them are painful ones.