From Letters from a Son: To a Few Moms and Dads

My town is slightly covered for the beginning of this winter snowstorm. The tree branches in front of my house are like arms draped with white blankets of snow. And the Cobus, Horse Stable, the Catamount, and Panther Mountains behind my home, which are a short distance behind Haverstraw Road are covered as well. It’s pretty now. It’s quiet and while armed with a cup of coffee, I figured now would be a good time to sit with you and write a few thoughts.
I know that we never expect life to ever unfold the way it does. No one ever expects things to end badly or messily —and if deep down, we knew things would in poorly; I wonder if would have ever dared the risk. And it’s not like we were never warned. For example, love is a beautiful aspect of life. In its exchange, love comes with a healing power. Take the touch of a mother’s hand to the forehead of her sick child. As witness to this, I have a clear childhood memory during one of my hospitalizations to act as proof.

Maybe I was somewhere around 8 years-old at the time. I was uncomfortable. The needles in my arm were painful enough to bring an adult to tears, let alone me as a little boy. I was sick and could not hold food down. I vomited frequently and cried more often. I began to hate the nurses —especially so when they would wake me every hour to check my temperature, blood-pressure, and adjust the intravenous needles plugged into my arm.
I hated the doctors because they kept poking me with injections and spoke in a language I was too young to understand. I hated the food, which in full disclosure; I was not much of a big eater as a child anyway, but add hospital food to a set of already jaded taste buds, but then add nausea in the mixture with a nurse still saying, “We need you to try and eat,” and add homesickness, add the sad fact that I wished I was anywhere but a hospital with a window view of a world that was able to be outside and enjoy sunny weather and incorporate this with an 8 year-old understanding of fairness and the inability to conceptualize long-lettered words such as “Gastroenteritis” and yes, this was me.

However, in the roughest time, I can attest wholeheartedly to this: There is nothing so strong (or as healing) as a mother’s love. This I can say for certain. It was painful when the common hand touched me. The simple touch hurt me. However, my mother’s hand had the adverse effect. And had it not been for this type of nurture, I think the impossible weeks I spent in the hospital would have been both worse and even more unbearable.

I was invited to a bereavement group for parents that lost their child to addiction. In an effort to bring hope, I shared my side of the story with hopes to provide a semblance of inspiration.
The view of me, or should I say my perception of the view of me was that of this: I assume the parents and other loved ones in the room thought something along the lines of, “I don’t care that you survived. I don’t care that you made it out. I lost my child. And nothing you can say will fix that!”

One by one, each person in attendance of the group spoke out and introduced themselves. They announced their name, the name of their child, as well as the date and reason for their child’s expiration. And one by one, my heart sunk deeper with each introduction. This hurt me. I mean, this literally hurt me. As each mother, father, or sibling spoke or explained their reason for attendance; I saw my mother in their eyes. I heard the voice of my father (God bless them both wherever they may be) and I felt the pain that I caused in my home during the saddest days of my misled youth.

I stood and I spoke and I gave them all I could spare. I spoke out with emotion and I wept for them. I explained my tears. I explained the path of my empathy. However, while in the throes of grief, nothing I could say or do would ever lift the pain from a parent burying their child.
Of all things, there is nothing in the world more unnatural. It’s not supposed to be that way. Unfortunately, it is that way sometimes and life comes along to explain just how unfair life can be.

No parent ever expects this. No mother ever thinks this would happen in their home or to their child. I listened to the feedback after I spoke, which was kind, but yet the layer of pain and the resistance to let go of that pain was still very clear to me.

I was wondering if any of these parents knew this would have happened; what would they have changed long before their child was lost? I wonder how many times we give love but the love we give is not enough to heal a broken heart, cure an ailment, or solve a mental illness. I wondered if we knew, and I mean if we knew what would happen to the extent that we saw the future; would we have ever dared and took the risk in the first place. Would we have tried to love if in the end, we knew the result would leave us sick?

I looked around and I did not see a parent’s regret for their loved one. I did not hear one parent say, “I wish I never had my child.” Instead, I heard more to the effect of, “I just wish I could see my child right now!”

Truly, there is nothing braver than the loving heart. Bless them who have this. Bless their bravery to donate themselves in the way that no one else would ever dare. Bless you true mothers and fathers whose love has never stopped. And bless you who mourn because while I know the pain is unbearable. my hope is the memory that serves you in tears will eventually heal you with smiles.
If this is of any use to you and without trying to offer consolation on an inconsolable matter, thank you for allowing me a view into the other side of something I had never seen or understood. It is has been said to me that selfish, self-centeredness is the root of this disease called addiction or alcoholism. Although the addict or alcoholic does absorb pain; it is the family around them who endures worse.

I touch base with friends, —and I call them close friends but consider them family and I value their adoption of me with pride. Although my offer in trade cannot and does not heal or bring back what is lost, I ask them to help me because I suffer from this “Thing in my head.”
I have this thing in my head, which words fall short to explain. This thing in me denies my ability. It sets me aside, tells me “I’m different,” and keeps me unaware of my talents or inner beauty. (If I am beautiful, that is)
In fact this thing in my head deceives me and tells me I am the exact opposite of  anything beautiful. It keeps me ugly. It points out my flaws and accentuates my inability to achieve. However, only a Mom can truly heal a pain like this. And only a father could ease his son when he feels this kind of doubt. But neither Mom nor my Old Man is around for me anymore. At least, they are not around in flesh (but of spirit) so in an effort to exchange an unable-to-satisfy need, I ask you to tell me what you wished you could have said. I ask you because my inner-struggles relate to your son and daughter. I live with the same lies in my head.

I offer this trade, although understandably, I am no substitute; however, perhaps our interaction could help soothe, honor, validate, and positively benefit us for one another. I offer myself to this adoption process because I don’t want to fail. I can’t feel “That way,” anymore. I don’t want to live dead instead of feeling alive. I don’t want to see the hurt I see anymore. But I can’t take the pain away. At least, not always. I can’t stop yesterday from happening and at times, I struggle to defend myself against the great deception of my inaccurate perception.

I offer myself for this reason because as I see it, the benefit of love is more powerful than the ache of mourning. And we all mourn. Make no mistake about this. Do not belittle others by comparing because an aching heart is still an aching heart.
We all lose at some point. This is life. And there is pain in life. These things are unavoidable. No one escapes pain and no one escapes heart ache. I go back to the saying, “Into each life, a little rain must fall,” however, the storms we need shelter from are often devastating and too powerful.

I wonder what we could do for one another to honor, validate, and benefit our loss. I wish I could let you yell at me. I wish I could sit there and let you say everything you wished you could have said. I would take it. Even if it hurt or caused me to bleed; God, I swear I would take it all because maybe if I did —this thing in my head wouldn’t have such  a voice anymore and both you and I could heal.

Maybe . . .
I don’t know . . .

But I’m willing to give this a shot

Are you?



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