25 December 2010


SOMEWHERE IN CLEVELAND, there is a child being born at this very moment. Somewhere, pure spirit is being inspired into form. 

For Chase Alan Carter that moment arrived on December 22nd at about 2:35 a.m. at Fairview General Hospital — a stone’s throw away from the city limits. His father, Nick Carter is a 16-year old high school student — a good kid who became a young man that morning, and will forever be charged with the awesome responsibility of fatherhood.

But this is a Christmas tale of two teenaged Nick’s — and a few hours earlier, with the Christmas break finally upon him, 15 year old Nicolas Rauser was anxious to hang out with his friends, so he jumped into the back seat of the 2001 Hyundai and sped off towards the Great Northern Mall. “Free,” he must have thought while cradling himself into the back of the car. “No school for two weeks.”

Ten miles away, Nick Carter’s girlfriend was about halfway home — at 5 centimeters. She was being brave, but she was exhausted. The two had checked into the hospital some 15 hours prior, not knowing, of course, what to expect. My 16-year old son Gabe was by his side; excited for his young friends and determined to be with Nick until the baby was born. They yammered on and on about this profound experience and Nick imagined aloud about how different his life would be from this day forward. He seemed simultaneously calm and hyper — and the two friends were embarking on their vacation together in a new and very unusual way.

NICK RAUSER came from a ‘mixed family,’ and his Dad married the mother of Alicia, a dear friend of my eldest son Jacob. As with so many families brought together through divorce, Alicia and Nick had their awkward moments, but eventually they grew quite close. Nick teased his stepsister often, as teenagers are wont to do, but Alicia would usually giggle or feign anger — and the teasing would subside. Late on December 21st, while Nick and his friends were enjoying their first few hours of freedom from school, they didn’t know they were heading right into the teeth of a classic Lake Erie snowstorm.

AT ABOUT 10:15 p.m., a worried Gabe called home. “Dad, they’re saying that the baby is upside down,” he said with obvious concern. “Nick is kind of worried and the doctors are too.” I did my best to talk Gabe down from his anxiety. “This happens a lot more than you think, Gabe,” I told him. “Be strong for Nick — he needs to know that everything is going to be all right.”

A few minutes later, Jacob called from across town to tell me that the storm was getting bad in North Olmsted, but that he was okay. “I’ve already seen two accidents, Dad. The police blocked off a road near the Mall. I’m coming home.” Unbeknownst to Jacob, he had just witnessed the evolution of a tragedy. Within a few hours he was to receive a text from Alicia, and it was then that he discovered that her stepbrother was in an accident — the very one he saw outside the Great Northern Mall. The crash took place at 10:25 p.m. and Nick Rauser was rushed to St. John’s Hospital in nearby Westlake.
He was pronounced dead at 11:05 p.m.

AT 2:56 a.m., THE PHONE RANG AGAIN, this time from Gabe at Fairview Hospital. Chase Alan Carter was born — as the family of Nick Rauser grieved. 

And yesterday, on Christmas Eve, 15 year old Nicolas Rauser was buried. . .it was a beautiful remembrance of a life cut far too short. Across the border of North Olmsted, the baby boy of 16-year old Nick Carter was enjoying his second day of life. He is indeed a Christmas child — held in the loving embrace of two teenaged parents.

During this Holiday, in the wake of this nativity and tragedy, we should think to embrace our children more — no matter what age they are. As they open their presents, as they bicker over the Playstation or the new computer and cause parents anguish, we should commemorate the love we had for them as infants. 

They may not live the life of Jesus or work miracles, but as this Christmas tale of two Nick’s shows — we should cherish each moment — and take nothing for granted. The Rausers did just that — and the Carters are now following their path.

Today of all days, love your children. 

Merry Christmas.

02 December 2010


MY BEST GUESS IS THAT ABOUT THREE MINUTES HAD ELAPSED. I awoke to a surreal din of extraneous audio, a cacophony of murmurs, cars, and even the wind echoing and blending together like the elements of a great soundtrack that had yet to be mixed. 

It was very much the stuff of fantasies, and as the darkness slowly lifted, I was still confused and disoriented. Amid the shock and the jumble of thoughts, however, I didn’t realize that I was lucky to be alive.

So many times in my life, perhaps too often to recall, the Angels have been at my side. I have been saved countless times and lived through events I never dreamt possible —and in each case, I felt the hand of a powerful presence beside me. 

One such incident came as a young man in my twenties as I returned from a Halloween party. It was late, somewhere around three in the morning, and as I made my way from the party, I approached an entrance ramp to the Expressway outside Boston. After a few seconds I approached a car — on fire and blocking the entrance ramp. 

I panicked for a few seconds. Was there someone in the car unconscious or injured? I parked 50 yards away from the burning Chevy and approached the car cautiously.

I wrapped my hands in some rags and inched my way forward. . .frightened but just ignorant enough to continue. As I reached the car, I opened the drivers’ side door and backed off quickly, which allowed some of the smoke from inside the vehicle to dissipate in the chilly October air. Then I lunged into the front seat, yelling “Is anyone in here? Is anyone HERE?” I began by feeling around the front seat and floor, flailing my arms about like a mad man. The smoke and flames were awful, and quickly drove me back outside. I retreated ten feet, took a deep breath and dove into the backseat, frantically searching again.

I found no one, but I did hear a voice saying, “Get out NOW” and I obliged.

As I walked back to my car, coughing and wiping my eyes, the car exploded like something out of Hollywood pyrotechnics display.

That Halloween eve, I was dressed as Clark Kent — but on that night, Superman didn’t rescue anyone. The suit was ruined, singed by fire and smoke, but I had been saved — again.

It is one of probably two dozen times I can recall feeling a spiritual presence directing me away from or warning me of imminent danger.

IN JULY OF 2008, it happened again. I looked up at a dark gray sky, still groggy and filled with ethereal visions, when I heard my son’s voice. I was floating, it seemed, when a wisp of his voluminous hair drifted into my periphery.

“Dad,” he said. “DAD!” 

The fact that I had awakened at all had not yet dawned on me, but I felt beautifully calm. 

“DAD,” Gabe said again, more determined than ever to get a response. Finally, I could see him clearly and realized what had just happened. I was being loaded into an ambulence.

We had just been in an accident. . .forced into an unmarked, elongated pit. The two of us were on my beloved Yamaha 180cc motor scooter. I had successfully slowed down the bike — well aware of my precious cargo on the back — and had skillfully navigated the road that had engulfed us on the last 100 feet of our journey.

As we hit the back of the pit, I was catapulted from the scooter. My son, as any father would have planned it, landed on top of me, suffering only from some road rash on his forearm and some bruises.

As I lay in the hospital awaiting yet another MRI, the immensity of my good fortune began to overpower the physical pain I felt. I was alone in the room and had no idea that tears were streaming down my cheeks as the nurse entered the room.

“Ohhhh…” she said with obvious sensitivity. “You must be in a lot of pain right now.”

“I am,” I answered. “But I am just so grateful that my son is all right.”

I have rarely been a fearful person, but today I am much less afraid than I used to be. The process of wounding can awaken us to our strength — if we are willing to examine life through the lens of our Blessings, not our challenges. A life- threatening event can re-shuffle our values, and what emerges from our soul searching is scarcely about anything material. 

It’s never about perfection or power — or the politics at work. For me, it’s always about love; whom we cherish and whom we can touch. 

Knowing that we are vulnerable — and that our time here is limited — we’re free to choose a different path for ourselves. We’re free to live more passionately and to question what’s worth fighting for and who we really are in this world. 

To me, our real strength lies buried in the depths of the wounds we have survived. It could be a tragic death, or it could be a divorce, but it need not take a life-threatening event to pursue a more meaningful life.

This time around, all it took for me was to see the wisp of my Gabe’s hair floating by as I was having a conversation with Angels. As I left their embrace, they whispered, “there is more to do.”

And so I thanked God for my son — and for my life — so very grateful that my path was illuminated so long ago.