Compassion and Forgiveness
I wrote this 8 years ago. I moved recently and came across it in the mess, and I had been reading several stories, and some comments and stories about wives' and mothers' losses of a spouse or a child... and the all consuming "Why? Why did you die? Why oh why God, did you take my love?"
The experience it talks about happened in Oct. 2002. When I found this letter just a short time ago, I had spent almost ten years wandering lost and with no reason to progress. A therapist finally diagnosed me with PTSD and began a treatment program and some medication and walking me through a recovery process.
He was startled at first by what he called a rather rapid adjustment to the treatment, so I suggested that perhaps it was the ten years of being homeless and searching for that all elusive "Why" (to the extent I could... though also, I was never conscious of the process...) ? I also have no recollection of writing this letter, partially the PTSD he suggested and partially due to the opiates I was injecting for about three of those years while at the worst.
Rereading it for the first time in 8 years was cathartic and renewing for me and helped me realize that it is all about LOVE. And Compassion. And Forgiveness. For yourself first, then all those people in your life, and this world.
So you might capture some of his essence...
A Letter to My Long Lost Son
June 25th, 2004
That Saturday when you came over and spent the day, in retrospect, was one of the most loving days in our lives together, in my life altogether. It was such a pleasant surprise, you dropping by unexpected at the trailer. You were so mellow and at peace with your life at that moment. Moving into your first place you could really call your own, taking responsibilities for the bills and ownership of your life.
We spent some time hanging pictures on the walls, your decorating creativity exceeding mine. How well your grand mom's and my little home looked when you were finished. That day we seemed to bond, growing closer than we had for the previous 10 or so years we had been living with my illness. Then, you seemed to grow weary.
And not since you were a little boy, you said you wanted to lay down on the couch with me and watch a movie for awhile. You leaning against my chest, your head resting on my shoulder. You grabbed my arm and brought it around to cross over your chest and you held my hand while we watched the movie.
I had not felt that warm and close to you in that way since you were an infant, and I would hold you in my arms while you ate, or slept, or just snuggled. The day was so incredibly poignant, and our lives had been so stressful for what had seemed such a long time snapping at each other, but you with your daughter and soon to be wife, your such high scores getting into the Navy's toughest program, my god, you had just begun to hunker down and become a father, husband, a career in the Navy, finishing computer school, and there I was, so proud of you becoming a man and so fearful of our history and future. Unknowing why until that phone call so early that morning of October 6, one week before your twenty fourth birthday.
Then, as our own family ritual whenever we wanted to celebrate an exceptional moment shared together in our lives, we talked about fixing a meal or going out. Cooking and eating together, competing for the best dish of the month... or best restaurant found... we went to the seafood restaurant which had just opened up around the corner. I remember, you ordered the South African lobster tails. And I had a few moments of fun remembering your first experience at about 6 years old with tasting that sweet tender meat of lobster.
Even when we were low on cash, when it came to seafood you chose your food with such distinction, ignoring the price and focusing on the morsels of sweet lobster or shrimp from the oceans of our world, focusing on rolling and chewing on each bite. Eating, a form of nurturing between guys without losing our societal inbred Manly role models. As usual, a good bottle of wine accompanied the meal and the meal was memorable on several levels.
And while there eating, the Universe was busy supporting you. Before we left, you had a job offer to run an art shop back room. You had several orders for pointillism portraits from people we ran into who had seen your portrait of that lovely little daughter of yours. Your Buddhist leanings showing up in the way you portrayed her happy little newborn face.
I remember that your Naval recruiter was so proud that he had found you, and the meeting I had with him earlier that week. You could earn no more stripes with which to enter Basic training in January... You had worked so hard and acquired such respect from your recruiter here, from the recruiters in Pittsburgh.
When they showed up at your funeral service with a boxed flag and the framed certificates, letters of commendation, I was overwhelmed with feelings of loss and guilt because until that moment, I must confess, as much as I loved you, as many times as I had seen you set your mind to a sport, or activity overcoming your fears I also remembered my too often parental fears getting in the way of my praising you and your actions.
I know I did praise you but I also know that I was far too meager with my praise and far too active with my parental criticism and judgement... learned from my parents the way all too many of us learn those skills.
The phone call came much later that night. At dinner you spoke of playing at a fundraiser that night and so about nine that night we left the restaurant. You gave me a hug, said "I love you Dad," and we went on our separate ways. I left feeling strangely fulfilled and satisfied. At first chalking it up to a really loving day spent with you and then contentment from an excellent meal and conversation.
I remember during dinner that on a couple of instances, comments from me that might have usually brought on frustration or argument just brought on a raised eyebrow, a small frown or sardonic moment, and then we continued on with our dinner, opening our hearts to each other like the flowers of jasmine in our front yard at the farm would open at spring time to release the sweet perfume in the sunlight... providing the nectar for those life forms dependent on it for their own growth.
It was about 4:00 am that the phone rang. It was E. one of your house mates who calmly said, "Mike, you better get over here. Jess is unconscious and the paramedics are here working on him... It doesn't look good."
I grabbed my chest in fear, threw on a pair of pants and shoes and rushed the 2 miles over to your house.
Where I found you on the kitchen floor, not breathing, surrounded by paramedics. They let me lean down and sit by your head, taking your face in my hands. You were turning cold, I said, "I love you, Jess," and went and sat in the living room while the medics did what they could. But you had passed on. They took your body out and I went home and told your grandmother that you had died, as yet of unknown causes and spent the next several months care-taking her to her death of lung disease.
I stressed into a relapse of my illness and hid inside myself. I forgot all of my spiritual teachings and experiences and my passion for life and the things we did together slowly died as I moved in my vacuum, an existence of hanging on with fingernails on a rock wall at best.
And, as you had done all your life, you were still with me even in my darkest moments, there with your arms around me, comforting me gently, forgiving all of the mistakes I had made in my efforts at raising you in a more loving environment than I had been, not yet realizing that we do what we are taught by those things our family, teachers and experience teach us.
And then C. told me of her dream. She moved into our little home trading a place to stay for help with your grand-mom's final months. Or so I thought.
At a time when I was having my own health difficulties and dealing with your passing. Some time had gone by when she told me that a week prior to your death you came to her in a dream. You had asked her if "you would take care of my dad if anything happened to me," and she said yes.
She said that at the time she just thought it was a weird dream, as she had not seen you for awhile.
I'm not sure yet my son, but you know I don't believe in coincidence. And you know my spirituality runs deep. And I know your love for me runs deep. Thank you for taking care of me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for your teachings... your sharing of your so short life experience here on Earth with me as you chose to do.
I love you,
Thus, the Lesson
And so it wasn't until after I had read this long forgotten "goodbye" letter to that incredible being who graced me with his presence and who I called "My Son" that I remembered the two years in an empty apartment save for a mattress and a well used microwave. The months of my "sober" or "more sober than a minute ago" reflection, face covered in tears, trying to read from A Course In Miracles and just two or three other holy books from the East and the West in my pursuit of understanding.
Forty years of wandering across the Globe to foreign lands to gain insight to the understanding of their spiritual traditions, mostly before I even thought of having a son, bringing home experiences and their books.
The trauma of the long slow deaths of a grandmother, father and mother in just a few years while disabled from a chronic health issue myself... and care-taking and burying each of them in turn. A divorce and twenty years of single parenting, losing my retirement, my career, my health and my self identification...
And the final blow, the straw that shattered the little of the remaining existence of that person I once was long ago, the death of soul mate, my Bodhisattva, my son.
My Ego shattered in pieces and junked out, I merely left it laying on the floor. Spent my forty days in the desert, lost and wandering with what I thought was a purposeless existence. And now, that I am able to pierce that veil that the PTSD gave to me for refuge, I can finally say, and feel the truth of the words... words of a long ago soul mate and love, given to me at twenty (one more of the great teachers who have come into my life through the years).....
I come away a learned man.
From A Kind and Loving Fellow Hubber - A Meditation:
a poem dedicated by newly found sister of JESS. When an empty world cries, a poem rises to reach the unconscious. Though Jess was not a suicide, the essence of the poem speaks of the essence of life. And that is the story of my son's, Jess's Life.
when an empty world cries ....
An Epilogue which brings some closure...
To pause and click on the link, taking a moment to read the poem there, will only bring a deeper understanding of his story, this story and the underlying field which seems to connect the infinity with the now.
And will more than likely, bring one closer to a return of peace and acceptance that there are just some mysteries beyond our comprehension, that looking for an answer to unanswerable questions is best left alone and simply trusting your Creator.
I hope it does.
© 2012 rmichaelf