By Jamel Herring – Those of you who have children know that you barely remember the first few months of their lives. Sometimes, you fall asleep next to their cribs. Other times, he or she wakes you during the night. You try to get a good night’s sleep in your own bed, only to wake up every few hours to go check on the baby. Eventually, you give up and bring the baby to your bed.
You also, probably, remember the first time you wondered if your child was breathing. I know I do. There is an incredible sense of panic because you can’t see the rise and fall of her chest in the dimly lit room. You tiptoe over to the crib. Gently place your hand on her chest or in front of her mouth to feel her breath because you don’t want to wake her. Relief washes over you when you realize she’s fine.
Those are the stresses of being a first-time parent. As your child ages and you have others, you start to learn the difference between a normal cough and something that might be pneumonia. You can tell the difference between a normal fever as the child grows and something that might be worse. Eventually you get to a point where you feel safe and secure putting your child to bed at night.
Life goes on and everything is fine, until it isn’t. We put my daughter to bed that night just like we had every other night. Nothing seemed unusual. We gratefully slept through the night undisturbed. But, in the morning when we came to feed her, she wouldn’t wake up. We tried to wake her, gently at first. This time she really wasn’t breathing.
The doctors and medics did everything they could, but they couldn’t save her. They told me it was sudden infant death syndrome. They couldn’t explain why it happened, what caused it, or really tell me anything at all about it. There was no explanation. It was as if my child’s time had come far sooner than any of us were ready for.
Those were the darkest days and nights of my life. I returned to the gym, my place of refuge. The only place here I could punch out my frustrations and release my anger on inanimate leather bags. Why did someone so innocent and pure have to be taken so young?
Eventually, with the support of my family and friends, I grew to accept it. I would never be able to understand God’s plan, but now she was in a better place. I kept going back to the gym. Now, when I’m exhausted, when I’ve given every ounce of strength that I have to training, when I’ve got nothing else left in the tank, I think of her. She’s gives me strength that I know I didn’t have. I keep training, I keep pushing beyond my body’s limits because her strength flows into me during those dark moments. With her memory, I can overcome any obstacle.
She helped me win the 2011 Olympic trials. She was with me in Brazil when I officially became an Olympian at the Continental Trials. She was in London when I became the first active duty Marine to represent the U.S. since 1992. She’s not gone. She’s still part of my life, giving me strength during my weakest moments. I know when someone’s trying to beat me down and make me quit, she’s there with me and I know I’ve survived something worse than anything my opponent can do to me.
Editor Notes: If you ever wanted to cheer for an athlete, to have a favorite boxer – Jamel Herring should be at the top of your list. Olympian, Marine, Father, Proud American, Champion. #SemperFi. You can support Jamel in many ways including proudly wearing some of his Team Herring apparel which is available in his shop here: Shop Team Herring