You fear it’s entrance and are relieved by it’s exit

Dear family and friends,

For those that so much wanted to be there for me but I did not let you in I am sorry. I did not mean to shut you out. It is what I needed to do. I did not have the strength to grieve with you. I needed all of my strength for myself and my family. Please forgive me. We do what we need to do to survive.

It has been long time getting from here to there. I am now in a place where this will be my last posting to this blog. All of you have been so honest in your listening and caring. I am a better man for it because you have shown me what to do with my own pain, to be patient and forgiving of myself.

How do I know I am finally there?

There is no road sign telling you that you are leaving one state and entering the next.

Maybe it is not a final destination but a realization that this pain is here to stay, it is a part of me, it is who I am. Maybe that is the destination, the end so to speak. I have tried to hold it in my hands, twisted and turned it, tried to understand it, put purpose behind it. Maybe I should have just let it flow through me? Hell if I know. I do know that my son’s death is the end of a lifetime but it is not the end of my relationship with him.

My letters to my son have given me a safe place to feel the wisdom of the heart, to release the toxic energy of my anger. It was important for me to share all of the energy of this pain, to learn and grow, to find a purpose for this pain and maybe a purpose for my son’s death, to give more meaning to his life and others. I suppose, in the end, it all depends on how well I live my remaining years, how well I honor this life that I have been given.

I have often defined this journey as a life and death struggle, trapped, waiting and hoping for it to end not knowing when the waves will crash down upon you, drag you under and tumble you against the rocks, not knowing if you will even survive. But, just as your energy to fight leaves you, it releases you as if to say, “You won that round. I will be back. You can count on that.” And when that happens you take a deep breath knowing that it will be back but for now, this day, this moment, you can catch your breath. You fear it’s entrance and are relieved when it exits.

There is a time in this journey that you finally realize that you have to stand up and say, “That’s it! I get it now! You will never go away. I accept that. You are a part of me, part of my soul. It is the love I have for my son that brings you and for that I have to accept you.” You realize that these tears will always flow, that they are now who I am. It is at that time that you feel the burden, that heavy lonely emptiness of deep loss, lift from your shoulders. It is that time.

It is the time that you slowly start to let go but not completely because you can never replace that loss and the hopes and dreams of that loss. It is not possible. You hope that you do not forget, that you do not make the same mistakes again, that you live through your heart and soul.

What has my sons death taught me?

I have learned that the dirty palm print on the wall is more than just dirt. It is someone’s life. It is the living history of joyful curiosity and hard work. Those palm prints are now long gone, covered over by paint. Will you be able to remove those dirty palm prints without regrets?

I have learned how to touch the edges and curves of baked clay and feel the soul of my son, to feel the joy of creation in his eyes. But, I know that I am missing more than that because I did not take the time to breath, to feel the heartbeat of my son, to see the joy of creation in his eyes. That baked clay sits on the shelf in my garage accumulating nuts and bolts. What will you do? Live with a regret or slow down and feel that heartbeat?

I have learned that you must accept your grief and not hide from it. It shows you life. It shows you how to honor and live within her. If you do not accept her, anger can settle into your soul and from within that darkness, hate can grow. Are you going to let anger settle in your soul?

I have learned that the heart beats for the moment, not the past or the future, but for today, the present, where life is felt and should be lived. That is where love and beauty are found and felt, in the beat of ones heart. What great wisdom is your heart beating to?

I have learned that happiness is found within ourselves. It is an inside job. It grows in our own garden, not the garden of others. It is a choice. Spend to much time traveling in the past or future and it will sneak in an open door past you. Will you let it sneak past you?

I have learned the real power of hope. That without hope to nourish courage you cannot survive and for that hope to flourish you need the strength and beauty of caring hands. Hope is what helps shove you out the door every morning. Who do you nourish with the beauty of your soul and the strength of your hands?

And finally, I have learned that a candle is not diminished when used to light another. It is that simple truth that brings me to the question. The question of how do I honor the son and life that have been given to me, one taken and the other for me to decide how to live within her?

For me it is simple. You light as many candles with hope as you can, listen to the wisdom and beat of your heart and the heart of others, accept what you have been dealt, and the next time you have to wipe that dirty palm print from the wall do not see it as a burden but as a gift of the living, of life.

It has been a long time getting from here to there. With the gentle souls and kind hearts of others I would not have made it, but, I did. I am not going to live in the past, wait for the future or have contempt for the present. I do not have enough energy for all three. I will use my energy to walk through that open door and light the candles of others. That is my choice

Why now? Because, I no longer fear “it’s” entrance but rather accept “it” as a gift to remind me  to honor the life that Robert cannot live. I have realized that getting from here to there is not a destination but rather acceptance that what I have lost is now what I am and will be.

That acceptance is the destination. A destination that was not to be. A rythymn of life that was not asked for, that was not suppose to be but is.

And to you, my dear Robert, who in your writings said “I have many goals in life. But they all add up to one big simple one: live happily.” I will give it my best shot my dear Robert. I will give it my best shot.

From the heart

Mark

These Things Take Time

My dear Robert,

It is another early morning.

While in Seattle several weeks ago you had been with me everyday. It is what has brought these hidden tears of the soul to flow over this keyboard once again. It was the beauty of the simple complexity of nature, with it’s quiet courage and humble pride, qualities I try to live. It is not always easy but you always find a way to remind me, when I walk through nature, in my dreams, your picture.

This week it has been a dream that has reminded me. It has been that dream that has awaken me early this day.

Dreaming with a broken heart is never easy my dear son. You must wake and be reminded that what you felt was not real and that which you now feel is. Which dream will it be that visits me?

Is it the dream where I must make a choice of which son to save and because I cannot I am left with neither. Is it that dream, the dream that you wish you would wake from only to realize that once you have awoken you realize you have only lost one son not two?

Or, is it the dream that starts with you holding onto my right hand asking why. There we are, standing in a field of yellow and orange flowers, the sounds of the ocean waves crashing onto the beach, taking in the fresh air and the warmth of the afternoon sun. From there it jumps many years to a beautiful summer morning. I am on the end of the dock with my cup of coffee  surrounded by the sounds of life. This is where it usually ends my dear son but not this time.

Was it trying to tell me something or was it this brain of mine just moving experiences around that complex network of neural cells trying to tidy up its long term storage, trying to hold onto it’s new day and the many days of it’s past. Is that all it was? Sorting the days of past, tossing some and keeping others, some that hold beautiful memories with the regrets that we live with.

That beautiful day with the regrets starts out with the sounds of the morning sun, the birds singing their songs, a dog barking his greeting to a man on his morning walk, and the crackling of the waves on the beach as it’s air bubbles collapse under the weight of the water that carries them. You and the cabin are still sleeping for several more hours. I am at the end of the dock, my hands around a warm cup of coffee, again, the suns warmth gently warming my left cheek and a distant bird circling for it’s morning breakfast.

This was also the day when for the first time since you received your second pacemaker that you grew tired of your afternoon exploration and took a nap. I thought nothing of it but to this day I often wonder if only I had… maybe I could have… but I did not. It would only be twelve days before I would meet a doctor walking out of the emergency room shaking his head no, the last day that I would touch your warm body; another day that I remember all too clearly. You did not take naps. If only… Maybe I could have.

It was also my last evening alone with you. We were sitting at the end of the dock. The sun had just disappeared under the horizon, the wind calms and the lake settles down for the night. We talk mostly about the occasional sounds coming from the lake, the sound of the fish jumping beyond our sight, the moons reflection on the water, the party that you want to have before school starts again. It was my last moment alone with you.

Because of that I have learned to enjoy the quiet sounds of the night so much so that there are times when traveling north in the winter that I will find a road off the interstate and for a few quiet moments stand outside of my car, with the new moon, the night that cannot be seen, air that cannot be felt. and sounds that cannot be heard, just the winter stars, your thoughts and the night.

I do not know which is more beautiful, the sounds of the morning summer sun or the deep winter night, both moments where your heart can be found and felt. It is my test. A test to know that I have survived, that I can survive alone in my thoughts with your memories reminding me what it is I have to do everyday.

What is it that I must do? I must not let anger settle in my soul. It only grows hate, distrust and lost days. The hand can begin to feel too comfortable around the throat. I have been to that place and have learned that without forgiveness anger settles deep within the soul. It is why I have forgiven those that through their negligence and greed have taken you away from me. It is why I have forgiven those that do not understand the journey that has been forced upon me. But, there is still more forgiveness to come. That will take time. There are new days, new beginnings and new endings.

And what does the new ending of that dream look like? This time it ends with a new beginning. It jumps back to that field of yellow and orange with you running towards the sea, me chasing you, yelling for you to stop. You keep running and running to the edge of the field, to the sound of the crashing waves. You keep running until you disappear over a cliff leading to the sea below. I get to the edge, look down and do not see you. I fall to my knees and look up in pain, not able to save you. Again, I have failed.

And then, a wave crashing into the rocks below draws my eyes to a bird flying out of the crest of a wave, water falling from it’s rainbow colored wings. Flying out to sea into the morning sun, it looks back at me and smiles as if to say I forgive you Dad. It is then that I look up, close my eyes, feel the morning sun on my face, find beautiful memories of you and wake once again to start a new day, this time one more day further on this journey.

Dreaming with a broken heart is never easy my dear son. Some are easier than others to wake from and sometimes the hardest soul to forgive is your own. These things take time.

There is a new day and it is time to say goodbye once again. Whispering the words, “My Dear Robert”, it is like a deep slow breath of fresh morning air and, like forgiveness, that breath expels the anger and pain within me. These things take time my dear son, these thing take time.

Love from the heart,

Your Dad

P.S. I changed the picture to sunshine, rolling hills and a lake. It is how I feel, beautiful, simple complexity.

When You Sense Your Own Breath Deeper

Good morning my dear son. I have been sitting here holding onto my warm cup of coffee waiting for the sunrise on this quiet beautiful spring morning. I am thinking of you. Spring was your favorite time of year with the exception of maybe Christmas. I tried to find ways to enjoy this snowless winter because they can be so long, it is a time when most of nature hibernates.

Is hibernation something that I have been in these past five plus years? I have tried to find my passions again but have not been able to. They just do not seem important anymore. What is important to others is no longer important to me, and in fact, there are times when I have to hold my anger back from the absurdities of what people hold onto and to what I hold onto at times. Why does that anger me?

The answer to that my dear son is simple. When you lose someone that is a part of your soul, as you my dear son, you can always sense your own breath better. When you sense your own breath and do not hold on to tightly the world looks different.

Maybe I am holding onto to tightly myself, too tightly to the past, too tightly to living. What am I waiting for? Why am I afraid of coming out of my hibernation? Maybe I am out but the world just looks different? Your death is a constant reminder that we are mortal fragile beings occupying only a sliver of time on this earth. It pulls me at times in two directions to either find a quiet corner in this world in which to live or to live more fully, a life you could not. How do we live more fully? That is for each of us to discover, that great mystery of what it means to live.

Sometimes we look to the past to find that answer and I know I should not have but I had to look through your pictures, hold your clothes, and watch the home videos of you. Why, I do not know. Maybe I needed to know if this shattered soul and heart were mending, that time does truly bury the pain that we travel through in this lifetime.

This has been a long process of healing, of talking to you. Maybe now is the time to say goodbye, if that is even possible. It is not easy. It is not easy because the most painful goodbyes are when people leave without saying them which is why it has been difficult and which it is so difficult now.

There are those that believe that five years is too long and for others, five years is not enough. There will be those that question my deep love for you, how could I even try and say goodbye. But, this is my grief, my pain to bear. It is for me to live and survive, no one else’s. I have walked through the darkest night of my soul and survived, I earned that choice. It is my choice to make.

Instead of holding you in my arms I was left with trying to save you and then you were rushed away by the paramedics to die alone. And, by the time I was able to hold you I could not touch your face because of all the medical equipment attached to you. I could no longer feel your soul, the warmth of your body. That is one of the many regrets that I live with. There are many things I wish I would have done differently with our relationship while you were here but a person cannot let those regrets drive them into the future. A person must learn to forgive himself and leave those behind if he can and remember that which is beautiful, those memories that sustain us.

I remember the first time that we met on that cold December morning, the first time our eyes touched. You were my first and it changed how I looked at the world. Now I had responsibilities beyond myself, someone that was depending on me. There were many firsts after that including what has brought me here. A journey I did not expect to travel in this lifetime, one I could not have imagined. But, here we are. I cannot change that. I can only change how I choose to move forward this day, sometimes with anger, sometimes with great sadness, sometimes with great joy, sometimes with a wish to start over again, to be a better father, to hug you more, to say that I love you, to save you, but that is not to be. I am left with memories and regrets sitting in this chair.

I have heard it said “that death is that state in which one exist only in the memories of others, which is why it is not an end”. I have spent many days in this chair holding onto the warmth of my coffee cup, the dog at my feet, looking out the living room window, thinking of you, trying to plant my garden of memories. I know they are out there, I just need to find them. There are days when it sure feels like the end and there are many days when it does not.

Saying goodbye does not mean forgetting. That is why we need that garden, so that we can say goodbye. Sometimes we need a little help with the planting of that garden, to help us say goodbye. Sometimes we think we have to want more then we need as I have, leaving us regrets. When you sense your own breath you realize that sometimes less is more.

While it will always lie there, buried deep in the soul, the layers of living will eventually bury this pain. Time, they tell me my dear son, will rescue you if you have the strength to hold on long enough.

Music has been one of my strengths these past five years, it has been that foothold on that ledge, that hand hold to help pull you up. It is one of those places that I have found peace and strength. There are several songs that have deep spiritual meaning to me. One of those songs is titled Honor, a song about survivors, and another song that reminds me that I have to let life flow through me as you did.  It is called  “River Flows In You”. It reminds me of you and your great lesson to me. It is one of the songs that I listen to frequently when I need to re-center myself, to quiet my soul.

It is time my dear son to say goodbye, it is time to quit feeling sorry for myself. The secret to this life is not found in some great book, it is not some great mystery, it is simple, it is simply to live.

When you begin to sense your own breath more deeply you begin to find that which you are looking for.

Love from the heart,

Your Dad.

Traveling companions of the heart

Good morning my dear son. It is 4:01 in the morning. I am on the couch, in the dark with the dog quiety sleeping next to me, thinking about you. I know that it is early but I awoke early thinking about you and could not get back to sleep. Tomarrow will be another 4th of July week at the cabin without you. Is that what has me unsettled this morning?

This spring has been hell on me. Why this fifth year I do not know. I have been thinking about you everyday since the evening of Sunday March 6th. It was on the promenade deck watching the lights of a passing ship on the far horizon that I thought about you and I have not stopped.

Was it this long winter and long spring with an empty house with your brother and sister off to school? Is it my soul trying to shed the last of its pain after five years? I do not know.

If this is what they call learning to live and walk with it, well, it sucks to put it mildly. There has not been a day that has gone by, my drive to work, when I am alone at work, or when I lay my head down for the night that my soul does not shed a tear for you. Is it not time for this grief to loosen its grip from around my soul and move on?  Have I not loved and lost enough for this lifetime?

Yes, my dear son, I know as well as anybody that there are no answers to these quetions. It is life. It is living.

The lonely darkness and pain of loss is the companion of the beauty and the strength of love. One cannot feel the lonely darkness and pain of loss without love and one cannot know the beauty and strength of love without pain. They are companions in this long walk.

They are traveling companions my dear son. They walk together in the heart. It is life. It is living. There are no answers to this loss, only the soul trying to shed its pain.

It is time for me and Tyke to say goodbye and take a short drive with our traveling companion, Bob Segar. Should I head east, west, north or south? I guess it does not matter. All that matters is it will settle my soul this morning.

Love from the heart, and miss you dearly.

Your Dad.

Your spring walk within me.

Spring has come, your favorite season, and once again thoughts of you have left me lost once again my dear son, not sure of myself nor of the road that I have been traveling. Sometimes my dear son it is easier to let others speak for you.

I Am Not Gone

by Nicholas Evans

If I be the first of us to die,
Let grief not blacken long your sky.
Be bold yet modest in your grieving.
There is a change but not a leaving.
For just as death is part of life,
The dead live on forever in the living.
And all the gathered riches of our journey,
The moments shared, the mysteries explored,
The steady layering of intimacy stored,
The things that made us laugh or weep or sing,
The joy of sunlit snow or first unfurling of the spring,
The wordless language of look and touch,
The knowing,
Each giving and each taking,
These are not flowers that fade,
Nor trees that fall and crumble,
Nor are they stone,
For even stone cannot the wind and rain withstand
And mighty mountain peaks in time reduce to sand.
What we were, we are.
What we had, we have.
A conjoined past imperishably present.
So when you walk the wood where once we walked together
And scan in vain the dappled bank beside you for my shadow,
Or pause where we always did upon the hill to gaze across the land,
And spotting something, reach by habit for my hand,
And finding none, feel sorrow start to steal upon you,
Be still.
Close your eyes.
Breathe.
Listen for my footfall in your heart.
I am not gone but merely walk within you.

She Does Not Ask

Tomorrow my dear son we are off to the Caribbean. I am anxious about the flight. I know it is irrational but when life thrusts it’s pain deep into your soul you feel life everyday. One moment, one small heart beat, one second and your life changes in ways that you could not imagine. The sequence of living has been disrupted and you are left to find your way once again.

Life does not ask you, she does not wait for you. It is up to each of us to learn how to move and live within her.

I try to see life as she is rather then my minds version of life. Sometimes we have to surrender our need to know or understand her. That is both the challenge and the joy of living within her.

When I am sitting on that balcony on the Ruby Princess looking out over the horizon I will be thinking of you my dear son. I will see her as you did, just living. I will see that “simply complexity” with the joy of being in that moment as you were.

No, life does not ask and it is not for me to complain about what life gives me. It is up to me and only me to decide how I want to live within her.

That is the only choice that life gives you.

Love from the heart,

You dad

The Long Winter of My Soul

It would seem that this unsettled soul has united us again in the early morning of this winter. It has been a long winter, lots of snow and cold, but this week winter has thrown us some warm weather. I guess he is reminding us that spring is on the way, to be patient and we will eventually have the joy of spring.

I have missed you terribly these past few weeks my dear son. The tears do not fall upon this heart with the great pain that they once did but they still fall.

Maybe it is the winter that has caused this soul to shed its tears. I do not know. This winter has been long but then again what would be the gift of spring without winter. Is it not the winter that reminds us that which we would miss if what we loved were not here? Is winter not the gift for spring?

Yes, this soul longs for spring. It longs for spring so that it can feel the earth on it’s feet as you once did, so that it can touch what you loved, see what you loved, hear what you loved, and breath what you loved, so that it can stop and take in the wonder of what you called the simple complexity of life, this thing we call living.

Is the “winter” of my soul trying to find the gift of spring? Is that why I share this pain with those around me? Is it a way of giving meaning to your life? Is it my redemption for not telling you everyday that I loved you, for not holding you in my arms enough? Is it my redemption for not seeing the “winter” of my soul? Maybe? Maybe not? I do not know, but I see it now my dear son.

I see it now. It is the gift of winter that brings us the gift of spring and for that gift I promise you this my dear son, that the long “winter” of my soul will not be forgotten so that the gift of spring will always be felt. When someone gives me the gift of laughter or the gift of a smile I will see it, I will see it because of the gift of the long “winter” of my soul.

I think this morning I will take a drive east on 94 into Wisconsin and meet another small gift, the morning sun, with Tyke of course. What would be a morning drive without the dog curled up on his heated seat keeping me company. I will bore him with Bob Segar and my talk. He is a very good listener though.

It is time to say goodbye again my dear son. The tea pot is screaming at me. It is time to prepare my  green tea, meet Tyke at the door and meet the east sun.

I miss you terribly.

Love from the heart,

Your Dad