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Picketwire - My own personal Purgatoire River journey

Updated on June 19, 2013


Am I alive? Am I dead? I cannot tell. I do not see; I do not feel, at least physically I do not feel. My soul hurts more than any physical pain could ever hurt. My son is dead. My dear, little boy is dead. My world has ended.

How long has it been? Hours? Days? Weeks? Months? Maybe years? I cannot tell; time has no meaning in this place I now dwell. There is no reference to be able to determine how much time has passed. I exist, if you choose to call it that, in a vacuum. I cannot call it living, for I do not live. Do I breathe? I do not notice if I do. Each instant is an eternity; each moment is without end.

Am I in Hell? I know this cannot be Heaven; the truth I was taught regarding that would not lend itself to this existence. There are no pearly gates in evidence, no golden streets, no mansions. Again, I see nothing. If this is what it is like to be trapped in a hole, covered with the earth, unable to see or hear or breathe, then I am there. It must be Hell. But I see no demons; no Lucifer to taunt me for my loss. If I am dead, and this is Hell, where are they at? Could they be sitting somewhere nearby, watching, waiting, enjoying my pain? If they are, surely I am giving them much pleasure in my eternal damnation.

I remember my son; his laughter, his joy at hugs and kisses. I remember the pure joy I got from simply watching as he played, or ran, or rode his small bike. I remember the love his Mother and I shared with each other, and with him. The days of hurrying home after work to play with him; read with him; to enjoy his life and ours. His first step; his first day of school. But there will be no more firsts; he is no longer there to enjoy, to love, to hug. All that remain are memories.

It was a fever, nothing more. Slight at first; a light cough added after a day. Nothing else. But we were unable to break it, to make it leave. We could offer something to relieve it, but not to make it go away. After a few days of fever, he became listless, less able to respond to the pain medication we had at our fingertips. We took him to a doctor, a healer of children. Tests were taken, nothing determined. More tests while he faded more each day. We grew desperate, crying, sobbing. Each sunrise brought hope; each sunset saw only despair.

Then one morning, he smiled. One last smile at us. We cried and held him as his feverish little body drew in one final breath. Then let it out. No more were drawn in; no more heartbeats to feel; no more joy in our lives.

The reason was never found. Nothing to make sense of it all was forthcoming. We were left with nothing but memories to fill a life that was supposed to be filled making memories, not remembering the small sample we had been allowed. It was not supposed to be like this! We are not supposed to outlive our children! We are not supposed to be the ones left behind to deal with the pain of the loss of his life!

My wife became unresponsive. She cried every moment of every day. I could not relieve her pain, became unable to reach her. I could not care for her as I could not care for myself. We existed in a world that no longer existed. Our home was filled with him, yet he was no longer within it. Everywhere we looked, sat, walked, we saw him as a dream, a ghost, a nightmare relived every waking moment. We grew unable to speak to one another, or with others. Eventually, they stopped coming and we were left to ourselves, to deal with it as we were able. We were unable to deal with it.

Her family came and returned her to their home to better care for her. I could not reach her, nor could they reach me. My own family cared not, as they no longer were counted among the living. So I sat, alone, forevermore. One day, I awoke enough to take some stock of my situation. Gathering a few items, I made my way to my truck and left, driving to a location deep within the mountains, never planning on returning, nor being seen again.

I set up a camp in a valley surrounded by what some perceive as beauty, yet I could not see it. There is a river running through it once called the Purgatoire River, also known as the Picketwire. I simply sat around, lost in a memory, a waking nightmare. All that I had loved and lived for was gone. I had no direction, no impulse to accomplish anything. I slept.

I awoke, or did I? In the place I found myself, I am not even aware of any stimulus from without. It is as though I know I am alive, yet I do not live. It is as though I am in a well, but one of no substance. There are no walls, but walls are not needed as I do not move. I do not even know if I open my eyes. This is where I will be for eternity. Is this what it is like to lose your mind? Am I insane, yet aware? If so, I welcome death, for at least death will be something. As I am now, I am nothing, and I am nowhere.

I miss my son. I miss my wife. I miss my life. That is all I know.

God, help me. Please.


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    • Mr Archer profile image

      Mr Archer 5 years ago from Missouri

      Thank you Sir. It was a hard week, but all is well now. I appreciate your thoughts. Take care.

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Mr Archer. Brilliant, so moving and heartfelt. You bring a tear to my eye.

      Voted up and all.


    • Mr Archer profile image

      Mr Archer 5 years ago from Missouri

      Many thanks, Gypsy. He is up and around and will be back to school on Monday. Thank you for the blessings, and may God bless you as well. Have a great weekend.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 5 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Voted up and awesome. That was an incredible and emotional journey. Hope your little guy Caleb is up and about real soon. He has the Lord on his side and I just know that soon he'll be well again. God bless you and your family. Keep the faith.

    • Mr Archer profile image

      Mr Archer 5 years ago from Missouri

      Thank you, Randy.

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 5 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Good wishes to your little boy, I certainly hope he is better soon. :)


    • Mr Archer profile image

      Mr Archer 5 years ago from Missouri

      Randy, Thank you. Yes, there is desperation there for sure. This is not my usual self, but it was there, so I put pen to page (so to speak).

      Bill, Thank you as well. I fell asleep last night with this on my mind, perhaps that is why I had the nightmare. My little Caleb has missed school every day this week, suffering from this low grade fever. He does well during the day, as the medicine limits the fever. But in the late afternoon and evening when I make it home from work, he becomes a shell of himself, preferring to sit on or beside me, cuddling up for a bit before it is time for bed. He is doing better today, and hopes to return to school tomorrow. But last night, I simply could not get it off my mind. I remembered the name of the river, Purgatoire, also known as Picketwire, and thought that might be a good title for this work. Sometimes, it is not the best thing, this having a mind that won't shut off when I want it to.

      Thank you both, gentlemen. Having put this here to share, it helps with the worry for my son. When he gets better, I'll be better. God Bless.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Excellent work, Mike! This is so brutally sad; a perfect look at hope lost. It is almost beautiful in its portrayal of sadness. Exquisite piece of writing.

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 5 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Well written and conveys the emotions of loss, sorrow, and perhaps a sense of desperation.