I confessed to one of my friends yesterday that I missed the simpler, more thoughtless days. I was talking about matters of faith and ideas about God, but the fact is ,it is true about my entire life. You do not realize how much you are taking for granted until the rug is snatched out from under you.
In the strangest of manners my son’s death is an analogy for that. There was no bracing for the fall. There has been no way to brace for this one either. All my preconceived notions, all my childhood superstitions shattered on July 2nd of 2011. They had begun to chip at the edges anyway, indeed some had major cracks and were threatening to break. That day my son left as did many ideas that I had held thinking they were part of me.
I won’t pretend that I think that I am seeing everything as it should be seen. I realize that circumstances have tipped the world up on its edge and some of the most familiar things look different at this angle. But it would be foolish of me not to use this time to re-examine myself and my perspective. I wanted to continue that sentence with “in hopes of” but I am not sure what if any hopes I have for myself these days. That is not self-pity it is just the way it is.
Unity. The one thing I know for sure, if God is who I think He is; is that he wants unity among men. Unified in love, mutual respect, accepting each other as valuable and as equal. I have no doubt about this. The cutting behaviors that start from childhood, the teasing, the “making-fun”, the tearing down of fellow humans driven by the need to feel better about ourselves needs to be unlearned. Learning to love ourselves so that we won’t feel the need to engage in this type of behavior to try, albeit wrongly, to make ourselves feel better. I can start again today to change this in myself. It is not just a behavior of children. We all do it. I’m working on that daily. I must stop muttering about the person ahead of me in line, or at the stop-light. Sounds silly and trivial, I know, but it is a starting point, and it has to start with me.
I think that we, if God is who I think He is, will be shocked by what He thinks is important. He is merciful and full of grace, because we are all in great need of both. He is not as small as men, preachers and fear-mongers threaten us with. He does not exist in our image. He is not punitive.
In it he talks about the symptoms of a closed heart (page 151). I read them eagerly to see if I suffered from those symptoms. I am happy to say, I do not. Moreover I am happy to say that those in my immediate family by-in-large do not. I can say unequivocally that my son did not embody these symptoms. His heart was open to the world.
He was not enclosed in his own world, he saw and heard, listened and examined. His power to reason, to understand and to choose to change was amazing. He was not bound to the desires of his own heart. He was thankful and expressed his gratitude through his words and actions. He was in awe of nature and discovery and mystery. He was empathetic to the pain of the world and hated injustice. He was a man after God’s own heart.
Before I did not spent a lot of time examining some of these things. Before I took so much granted. It was a safe world. Simpler. Detonated by circumstances things implode or explode. Neither is any fun, but I prefer explode. The field of debris is scattered. Raw and uncomfortable I can survey the rubble strewn around me and choose what I will recover rather than having to dig my way out from under it.
I have found “busy”. I can keep busy. It buffers things for a while, at the most 3-4 days. I shed tears less often while busy. Comfort is in small pieces and will require some reconstructing. Trust must be out there somewhere still waiting to be rediscovered. Faith stuck close by me from the beginning, thankfully it is not overbearing – rather patiently reaching out now and then to remind me it is still here.
The physical reality of not having my son to see, talk to and be with is the worst pain of all. Sometimes in the car, I draw from memory to have conversations with him. I try not to think too much about the fact that he would be working on is dissertation supported by a dissertation fellowship. He would have had some ability to plan some free days, perhaps to visit here longer or to travel. I don’t think about the woman he started dating, because my heart can’t take it. I think about his other friends now and then, but often block information on Facebook. I can’t really put a name to the feelings the information brings, so I avoid it.
I allow myself to sit and weep. The dogs are so used to it, they don’t even look up from their naps anymore. I know my son would not want me to sit and weep like I do at times. But he is not here. He really is not here. He is really gone. The world is different in this small place where I live now. I am amazed when I see others operating as if nothing has changed when I know, without a doubt, that just by the whim of natural law everything changes every instant. The overwhelming nature of this knowledge is at times the hardest burden to bear. There are many of us who bear it, unnoticed by many among whom I used to dwell.