Sometimes it seems as if certain people are granted an easier road to travel in life. My mother, though, always reminded me not to judge because, “You never know someone’s ending.”
What she meant by this lesson is that everyone has to face his or her final hour on earth, and we never know when, how or what the extent of that suffering will entail. The point of what my mother meant was not let it be but it will be.
After my personal tragedy, I fully appreciated my mom’s lesson in mortality. Take for example my former college roommate Susan, just a few years older than I. A recent retiree, she had led an extremely successful career in education. Susan brisked through a fairy tale life, with endless chapters of characters derived from a large, loving family and also a small, tight-knit community where she grew up. I can tell you firsthand that she loved her roots. No matter where her life’s travels brought her, she toted her treasured family and small town pride everywhere.
One month before my tragedy, the doctors diagnosed 64-year-old Susan with cancer. I do not recall the exact kind of cancer that it was, but it was the type that you have no doubt you will beat. After 18 months of surgeries and treatments, while she and others prayed dozens of prayers and never lost faith, it beat her down to a skeleton, and she died in the middle of savoring her ripe American Dream lifestyle. Bam! Just like that she disappeared right before the eyes of her loving, doting husband of 40 years, not to mention her healthy, successful children and their adorable offspring.
Sometimes even before our family tragedy, my eyes, bulging green with envy, inspected her Facebook pages full of the knitted scarfs, hats and mittens that she crafted for each of her grandchildren. I observed, too, how she toiled away on her month’s long project of converting her childhood Barbie and Ken playhouse into a revamped vintage toy dream house for her grandchildren.
When you have “it all,” or close to it, it’s so easy to believe life here on earth is eternal. In this way, the end is always a nasty surprise or, perhaps, a complete shock. There is no way around it. Years ago, I watched a freaky movie. In it, a young boy could foresee the death of people that were alive in front of him. So often, this is the foresight I now have, carrying my mom’s interpretation of life. No one, not even people like Queen Elizabeth and Kim Kardashian, can escape our human fragility. We can fool ourselves to think differently, but it will be.
I remind myself of it will be and, in the interim, let it be. Accept it. Embrace it. Just be. There’s a dark alternative and some choose that path of finality, but I’m not here to analyze, preach or judge. I’m here to hear my pain, your pain, the world’s pain and face the raw reality and, maybe, just maybe if we have a little faith in the universal language of human vulnerability, we can surrender our search for happiness, because we have made peace with ourselves.
And, when I am not in my own sorrow and mourning my own son and the consequences of his final act and what it means to us left behind, I can lift my thoughts to Susan and her family and the others she has left behind. I can remember my friend Mary. And I can think about how some of the pain people suffer behind the walls of their million dollar mansions is to the same degree as those of our homeless brothers and sisters in New York City. In this muck of feelings, failings and fallings, I can pull through a divine thread that is naked to the human eyes, but felt by the human hearts of those who surrender to the vision of how it will be and allow it to be because that’s how it is.
I just want to give you permission to be in your own sorrow, Stacy. Of course, we cannot know what lies ahead for other humans or what is hidden. But losing your baby to suicide is considered a horrific loss – and I usually shun comparisons. It’s a raw deal you’ve been dealt and your compassion under these circumstances is remarkable.
I’m here to let you know that there is no fairness with your devastation. Even others who have lost children, cannot imagine your grief over Marshall. This is the loneliest journey anyone could be on. One day, you will emerge from the muck and you already are comforting so many with your heartfelt writing.
I remember Mary. I would have been her friend had we met. I also like the sound and and feel of Susan too, mainly because she could knit and ever so homely, which is adorable or at least I think so. My Mam set about knitting me a jumper but never got passed, at no fault to her, finishing one sleeve. I simply cut the arm off an existing jumper and sewed her sleeve on to replace the one I’d cut off. It kinda worked for a short while at least and it was my big sister who’d shown me how to do the blanket stitch so we’d take the heat together, as was the case in many if not all things. But even better than having a co-conspiritor was having a the sleeve I really wanted meant I put my arm up in class at school to answer the questions, learning quite sharpish that I had better learn some answers too and that no matter how mighty my sleeve was I had to learn stuff too. It was a crucial lesson because I knew that it didn’t matter about clothes or cars or houses when it came to knowing stuff. This was so liberating. And I also and still do hold in awe those mums who would toil, quietly but with persistence, to be homemakers. My Mam faced such great odds, Dad was in the throws of mental illness and tried to sacrifice my little sister as a peace offering to God, so having a complete jumper paled somewhat. But learning to learn has never waned and often, in continuing bizzare home circumstances, I continue to learn most about surrendering to the love I had in my heart for both Mam and Dad then irrespective of the odds against them, and today when all is said and done I am reminded that there’s a massive power inside us all that blossoms giving flower to a deep emotional safety, which is in abundance hen we learn not to firstly turn against ourselves and having done this others too. Both Mary and Susan speak to me of this, as do you Stacy.
Alec, your wisdom resonates with me, and your love abounds. YOU always speak to me in so many ways! I am grateful you are part of my tribe.
sometimes I do things most would consider stupid, like telling a truth, especially to power and sometimes to simpler but more nuanced completeness of word formation and here I take my stupid self into, potentially, hot water
.. or so I believe
Stacy, you know your sorrow and don’t need permission to be there sure leaning into vulnerability brings the defences crashing down but I feel as though you actually know this already and, as with Turner, you bring an innate openness to hold conversations with others, irrespective of this or that, as equals and then write to transmit, with a radiant reach, in words many can’t find or won’t use for fear of losing touch with a prevailing convention.
Sometimes our inner feelings are punishing but it is when we’re not on the A game that our natural and innate self-love is at it’s bestest, most complete and rich in real beauty and power; not to tear down defences and exposes a nakedness but rather to gently cloak and shield a wound from harm.
Sometimes I accelerate and sometimes I don’t…but I always, always show up as myself and irrespective of ascribed scripts in someone else’s play… breathe, Stacy and feel like hot and cold at the tip of your nose….
This is another powerful comment, Alec, and helps me feel like I am on the right path. I’m glad you’re on it with me, and I am humbled and grateful that you provide the light I need to move forward. TY!
which ever way one moves it’s the heart learning which serves us… spinning does though make one dizzy… finding time for fun is too, so important…your strength shows up Stacy but have a laugh too, especially with and for our loved one’s who still need you, today… I am indebted to your written word as it speaks to me as I am sure it does to countless others…
Alec, I’ve probably said it before, but you’re too kind. And, yes, will do! Thank you! 🤍