Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 29, 2004
Forgiveness heals the heart
Men of Integrity hear how an act of faith mended lives
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
As his son lay in a coma, Ed Reinhardt Sr. suddenly had a thought that calmed the swirling emotions within him.
It's about forgiveness, a voice told him.
Reinhardt was a keynote speaker during the Catholic Family Ministry's men's conference March 19-20. Men of Integrity was the theme for the annual event.
While travelling with another son in September 1984 from Wyoming to their home in Colorado, Reinhardt turned on the car radio to listen to the Colorado-Oregon university football game from Eugene, Ore. where Edward Jr., a star receiver for the University of Colorado, was playing.
The two men heard the horrifying news of their son/brother being injured just as it happened.
"Forgiveness is a lovely idea until you have something to forgive," Reinhardt told the 150 Catholic men attending the conference, many of whom were fathers who brought their sons.
"Forgiveness involves hurt and anger, but it will guard against taking out our hurt and anger on someone else."
While holding vigil over Edward, the elder Reinhardt stood on a precipice as he considered the increasing temptation to leave his wife of 23 years and their six children, the possible death of his son and the unresolved abandonment of his own father decades earlier.
But it was this intense anxiety that produced a profound moment of peace and reflection. It was the moment Reinhardt began to heal.
His son's injury occured during a seemingly routine open-field tackle, Edward received a devastating blow to the left side of his head. The hit caused a blood vessel in the lining of his brain to burst. Edward would be in a coma for 62 days.
"At that time I was self-employed," Reinhardt said. "It was a blessing because I was free to take that time away from work to do what I had to do for Ed.
"It's interesting because some of my competitors are some of my very best friends. I was selling computer supplies and computer business forms."
And they sent him a letter.
"The letter states that these guys decided to get together and represent me and take care of any calls or problems I had with my clients," he said.
"It is very dear to me and I carry the letter as a reminder of their kindness."
Some months later, Reinhardt reviewed his sales report and noticed the month his friends were running the business had his best sales of the year. The hushed audience burst into laughter.
Edward sat motionless with several men at a table at the front of the large meeting room, gazing intently as his father told their story.
A 10-minute video was shown at the men's conference called That's What Tough Is, revealing the struggles the Reinhardts went through to nurse Edward back to health.
It mentioned how grim the prognosis was for him to live, let alone recover. While comatose, Edward's muscle mass evaporated - he dropped from a powerful 235 pounds to a frail 161. His legs looked like alabaster stilts poking from beneath his hospital gown while he sat in a wheelchair after a year. It appeared impossible they would ever again support his six foot five inch frame.
He could not speak. He could not walk. But he had hundreds of people who volunteered to help.
At the time of the accident, Edward was second in the United States college ranks in pass receptions and was named to the Big Eight All-Academic Team with a GPA of 3.25.
By December 1987, Edward was able to shuffle a few metres on cross-country skis and in late 1989, more than five years after the injury, he could perform some elementary gymnastic routines with a few somersaults and side-to-side roll-overs. Slowly, his speech returned.
In 1991, he crawled on his belly around a football field more than 300 metres every day, pulling himself along by his slightly padded elbows.
By this time, Edward was pushing himself through his rehabilitation from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.
Another father relates
Ron Beaudoin heard about the men's conference from a cousin. After reading a brochure telling the Reinhardt's story, he decided to bring sons who themselves have been injured through athletics.
"My cousin comes every year," Beaudoin said, sitting beside Brenden, 20, and Lance, 18. "I thought that my boys play a lot of sports, so it might be interesting."
Sometimes, it is difficult for a father to show his emotions towards his son, Beaudoin said, referring to Reinhardt's tale of how he stood as a young boy watching his father leave during the Second World War to build army bases for the American government. He never returned.
"I look back to my own father. He wasn't one to show a lot of outward emotion. He did it by example," Beaudoin said. "But the Christian and family values he instilled in me, I want to instill in my kids. I'm very proud of all four of our children."
Something Beaudoin feels he would like to improve on is listening more to the needs of his children. He was inspired by how Reinhardt took it upon himself to forge a relationship with his father and eventually find solace in the effort.
"We are not a large family, but it is large enough that it is hard to give the attention they want individually," he said. "Being a supportive-oriented family, it can take away from God and Church in that there are times we miss Mass because of hockey or football. As they get older, I don't want them to let go of their belief in God.
"With Brenden's recent knee injury (playing hockey), we give him more attention. Like Mr. Reinhardt said, our favourite child is the one who has the biggest problem at the time."
It was the first Catholic men's conference for the young Beaudoins. Each found it relevant.
"We enjoyed the personal stories of the Reinhardts," Brenden said. "I liked how the father has been so personal and loving towards his son. Last night, my dad told us that for every father whose son plays sports, there's always a little worry in the back of his mind."
Other speakers at the conference were Father Dan Wach from the Ukrainian Eparchy who reflected on Scripture and fatherhood and Father Paul Moret, vocations director for the archdiocese, who spoke about the importance of fatherhood and a man's responsibility to his family, Church and God.
"The speakers have used a lot of humour which has helped everyone relate to their talks," Lance said.
Reinhardt carried bitter resentment and a lack of self-worth his entire life until he saw Edward looking so vulnerable. He had developed a habit of walking out on his wife, Pat, and the children because of an inability to resolve issues.
Gradually, he unshackled himself from his own burdens.
"Forgiveness also means to forget," he said. "I couldn't learn to forget until I eventually found my father, 42 years after he left.
Eventually, Ed and Pat reconciled and renewed their love for each other through prayer and forgiveness. They moved to Oregon not far from where Ed grew up. They brought his father home for the few remaining years of his life.
On a final visit, Ed bent down to kiss him as he was leaving. The frail man looked up and said, "You're okay, kid."
Words Ed Reinhardt had longed to hear.