Find Purpose in Tragedy

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls. The most massive characters are seared with scars.”

– Kahlil Gibran, Lebanese-American writer, poet, artist, and philosopher


Have you ever experienced a lucid dream? It’s a fascinating phenomenon in which the dreamer becomes acutely aware that they are immersed in a dream, gaining a degree of control over the dream’s unfolding narrative. As a child, I was plagued by night terrors – terrifying episodes filled with intense fear, indescribable nightmares, and an overwhelming struggle to wake up. These episodes ceased once I learned the art of lucid dreaming.


It was dark, and it seemed to me that it had gotten dark early that evening. Despite the summer hour – around 8 p.m. – I relied on headlights to navigate the road. My destination: the ATM at a nearby mall. When I turned off the engine and exited my car, the dense night enveloped me – the entire parking lot lay in darkness, every light extinguished. 

As I walked across the lot, I realised an unsettling fact: no one else was there, not a vehicle, not another soul. Then, as I approached the pedestrian crosswalk, I heard an odd sound, like someone pedalling a bicycle with a rattling fender and a chain desperately in need of oil.

Suddenly, a bicycle streaked past me without warning, nearly toppling me over. I assumed the rider hadn’t spotted me in the enveloping darkness. Yet, their reckless speed through the night struck me as rash. The sound of the bicycle faded, then ceased abruptly.

“Hey!” I called out, my voice steady despite the fear. “Watch where you’re going!”

The rider had come to an abrupt halt a mere few meters away. I could discern that the rider was small, a child or a woman. A car turned at a nearby intersection, and the headlights momentarily washed over us. To my shock, the rider was a boy about 12 years old. Fair complexion with black, curly hair. He was dressed in a red plaid shirt with blue jeans rolled up in cuffs. On his feet were black canvas runners – the two-dollar type I had sported as a kid. I instantly recognized the face, even though I hadn’t seen it in nearly thirty years.


“Randy, it’s you!” I exclaimed, my voice trembling. “It is you, isn’t it?!”

Three decades ago, our school was scarred by a haunting tragedy: a 12-year-old boy, my friend and a year my senior, was found hanging in the bathroom – assumed by most to be suicide. He often called me “kid,” engaging in good-natured teasing and sometimes acting as my protector. Bullying was rampant in our school, making attendance a harrowing ordeal. While I fled from bullies, Randy stood his ground, often with dire consequences. On that fateful day, when I opened the bathroom door, I encountered a frightful scene: my friend, bloodied and battered, pinned to the floor by a school bully, his fist poised for another blow.

“Say a word, and you’re dead,” snarled the bully, pointing a finger at me.

“Don’t tell, Murray,” pleaded Randy. “I’m already in enough trouble.”

In that moment, silence became my prison, and fear the warden.


“The bully!” My head was spinning. “The beating!”

I tried to convince myself it was just a lucid dream. Yet, its vivid intensity overwhelmed my senses, obscuring the fragile line between dreaming and waking. Despite my desperate attempts, I was trapped, unable to escape its clutch. Overwhelmed by a surge of emotional turmoil and exasperation, I cried out from the depths of my subconscious.

“It’s OK, Kid,” he responded in a voice I knew. “You can stop being afraid now.”

I had been a fugitive from life for too long, fleeing every challenge and opportunity. Randy’s death shattered my fragile existence. Overwhelmed by fear and guilt, I retreated into a protective shell, evading conflict and confrontation at all costs.

“I’m so sorry,” I sobbed. “I should have told someone.”

“It’s OK,” he repeated, his voice calm. “It’s time to live.”

After the lucid dream, I took a decisive step forward by speaking to Randy’s family about what I had witnessed on the day he died. They listened intently and forgave my years of silence – his mother, battling cancer, most of all. With tears in her eyes, she whispered, ‘I can go now. I’m finally at peace.’ She passed just a few weeks later, her heart eased by the truth.

This pivotal moment marked a turning point and the beginning of an extraordinary transformation within me. It set me on a journey of profound personal discovery fueled by passion and purpose. Each step challenged me to confront my deepest fears and rebuild from within, ultimately leading to profound self-understanding and fulfilment. This transformative path pushed me to transcend limitations and forge a future rich with possibilities.

Such tragedies, while devastating, can be catalysts for profound personal evolution. Confronting deep-seated fears and pain not only fortifies our self-esteem but also transforms our vulnerabilities into strengths. This process of overcoming shapes us into more resilient beings, capable of inspiring change within ourselves and the world around us. As we navigate our trials, our journeys can illuminate the paths for others, offering hope and solidarity. In doing so, we contribute to a legacy of resilience and compassion, demonstrating that the most profound triumphs often arise from the deepest sorrows.

As the Lebanese-American writer, poet, artist, and philosopher Kahlil Gibran declared, “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls. The most massive characters are seared with scars.” This reminder serves as a testament to the transformative power of our experiences. Our scars, visible and invisible, are not merely signs of past pains but badges of survival and symbols of strength, urging us to rise above and beyond the tragedies that once defined us.

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