Life’s precious scars
I used to be a nearly impenetrable rock. A stoic, storm proof container with no visible emotions. It wasn’t an act. It was who I was and how I approached all of life. I never really got hurt. But I also didn’t feel those elevated emotions that launch the spirit and bring true joy. There were almost no tears. But there wasn’t a whole lot of bliss either. I see now that it was a safety mechanism. I haven’t figured out yet why I cultivated it or from what it was protecting me. Maybe someday that’ll come out in therapy. Or hypnosis. I’m not sure I care anymore.
When my wife died though, that stone was fractured. Permanently. In the hours before she died, my mother in law told me to go back to bed and get some rest, that she would sit with her. I could tell she wanted a little time alone with her daughter. I was almost afraid to walk out of the room, but Mary assured me she would let me know if anything changed.
I know now why mourners wail. When I laid down in those predawn hours, I curled up into a fetal position. The sobs felt like bubbles in the center of my body. I tried to hold it all in. I didn’t want to wake the kids. But I literally felt like I was being lifted from the bed with each expanding bubble and violently thrown back down as it burst forth from my chest. I wanted to wail. I wanted to let it go with all the force bottled up inside of me. But I had the kids to think about. And my mother in law. I think I would probably even have awakened the neighbors. So I held most of it in. But my shell was broken. Forever.
As I write these words, eight and half years later, little tears form at the corners of my eyes. The memory of that morning is still very powerful. But it’s no longer too much to bear. The relationships that have come after have filled some of the cracks. But like the Japanese kintsukuroi, the repairs are of a precious nature. Even though the women have moved on with their lives without me, they each left something of value to me.
The relationships I have with my children are different now too. For a while I didn’t quite know how to be their father. Single parenthood is a challenge under the best of conditions. Trying to do that job for three teens and a preteen, with a broken heart and very little outside support, still seems like a monumental undertaking. They don’t say anything about my failures but I know. I was only able to do it because they stepped up and became adults. Long before they should have had to. More priceless repairs to the cracks in my soul.
This is life. All the pain. All the tragedy. All the brokenness. But there’s so much more. People step in and fill the little cracks with joy and tenderness. Some give you the gift of love. Even if only temporarily. One of them gave me the gift of writing. Another gave me the gift of just quietly being there with a space for me to heal. My kids waited for me to come back to them. Because even the glue that one uses to repair oneself needs time to set if the pieces are to stay together.