There was such a positive and powerful response to the first section of chapter one, I thought I would offer the second section to the chapter…please let me know your sense about it… in love and light, bg
I notice the Dean’s lips are moving, but I can’t quite make out what she is saying.
Oh good. Finally she is talking.
Involuntarily, I shivered. She was sitting right next to me, but I couldn’t really understand what she was saying; the words were coming in like an out of tune radio station, they just didn’t make any sense. And then I heard her, sharp and clear…
“Robbie is dead.” “His car went off the road Saturday morning. The police think he was killed instantly.”
The thoughts inside my head blew about me …
No, he isn’t dead; he can’t be dead. I have to tell him…
I have to see him.
I have to tell him how sorry I am.
I have to tell him I’m ready to marry him.
His face flashed across my inner vision. The feelings from our last meeting crashed in my heart.
No! I have to set this right.
I heard my words reverberate back to me. “No! No, he isn’t dead.” “No you mean he’s in the hospital. He’s just hurt; he’ll be okay,” as if I was giving her the corrected line. I couldn’t accept what she was saying.
My urgency must have been unbearable for her. Her eyes blinked with tears. Gently, her head shook no.
She reached across the space on the couch to comfort me, patting my leg rhythmically. I felt faint. The room began to spin. I fell into her chest as she continued to now rhythmically pat my shoulder. She supported me as I broke down.
Her voice unwavering, “No Beth, he is not in the hospital. He’s gone.”
He was gone?
He left me without knowing that I had changed my mind?
Our last interaction, me being such a jerk, was now unforgivable.
It hit me like a one, two punch to my stomach. He was gone, my beautiful future stolen from me. My uncaring and inflated behavior was our last interaction. It stood like a headstone marker on his grave.
Her words and my memories pierced through my consciousness like a knife through my heart. The pain was debilitating. I couldn’t breathe.
I felt at the edge of nothingness, completely powerless. I sat there deflated, like a pierced party balloon. I don’t know how long I remained in this state. When I looked up, the sun was no longer shining and the trees outside mirrored my inner storm.
I finally composed myself enough to walk out of her office.
Her secretary smiled at me weakly as I passed down the hall.
It was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other; I could barely walk. I found myself at my dorm room. Thankfully, my suitemate returned to her previous muteness.
That was the only thing that returned to normal. Everything and everyone else was different. Night came and left. Day came and turned to night. Life continued around me but I was not a part of it. I felt robotic, disconnected, remote and out of sync with the whole of life around me. I couldn’t tolerate the birds singing or my friends laughing, wherever joy presented itself I turned away. Happiness grated on me like nails on a chalkboard.
I recoiled from life. Spiritless on the inside, I couldn’t even find the energy to fake it on the outside.
The image of her sweater with black marked stains stuck with me for a long time.
I numbly completed my last semester of college, in a fog, unable to concentrate on anything. Everything changed. I couldn’t bear to listen to music, people laughing, or see my friends. And it seemed they avoided me too. I was flat and lifeless; there wasn’t much there for connection.
Entire days went by without me seeing anyone.
I felt desolate, angry with myself, angry with Robbie, lonely and lost.
In the days that passed, I discovered how in his last moments of his precious life Robbie reoriented the direction of the car to save his passenger’s life. A stranger to our community, this sweet young man began to wish he had died instead of Robbie. To his face I said “no, no…don’t think that.” But in my heart I screamed, yes, yes, why do you get to live; why not Robbie. I hated myself for thinking and feeling that way. I couldn’t stop my heart pain. Life was so difficult and challenging. I was walking though water without a regulator, drowning with every breath.
That heroism was so consistently Rob’s character; he was always there at the right time, loyal and dependable when it really mattered.
Why didn’t he save himself? I was coming back for him.
Inconsolable, time passed in starts and spurts, and then it seemed to trickle by. So much of my energy went to managing my grief that little was left to relate to friends or complete my studies.
“Beth, I’m giving you this A grade because of your work here-to-for, not for the work in this paper.” The words written in red ink across the front of my final paper stung, but I was grateful for the understanding of my dearest sociology professor.
“This is sub-par work Beth, but I know this has been a difficult time so I’m giving you an A in the class anyway.” Another painful note in red from my psychology professor, I vacillated between painful prickling and numbness. I was grateful for their understanding. There was nothing inside to pull on for my studies; I was bereft of passion. There was just enough life in me to robotically go through the motions.
For the next six weeks, my senses were in a state of paresthesia; over and over my professors forgave my distracted, poor work.
Working at 20 percent, I limped into graduation.
Two months after Robbie’s death I graduated, said goodbye to my friends and school, and shut the door to my previous life.
Spiritless, I walked into my barren future. I was the skin you see from a cicada, perfectly formed with no life inside.
I filled the space with work.
Astonishingly, my logical, solution-focused father was the dearest comfort to me during that time.
Notes arrived. They slowly filled the empty space in my apartment and heart.
“Hi honey, thinking of you! Dad” staring at me as I brushed my teeth.
“Remember to get out and see friends. Dad” taped to my steering wheel. I taped them to my mirror, and used them as bookmarks. They marked my path back to life.
He had an unerring capacity to simply be present with me in my grief.
“Here’s a picture of Robbie from when he was at the house. Love, Dad” That picture became my velveteen rabbit.
One day on the phone he told me that Robbie (unbeknownst to me) arrived in my hometown earlier in the year that Robbie had died; he asked my father’s blessing to marry me.
The pictures of them together at my house simultaneously felt stabbing and comforting.
He knew I would come around. He knew I loved him.
He had to have known to fly from New York City to Albuquerque, just to see my Dad.
I kept seeing his face at that last meeting, and feeling how out of sync my actions were. It was shocking and triggered intense discomfort. Steadily though, my unconscious kept driving me toward forgiveness. Like a river pushes and pulls fragments down the current, my thoughts drove me toward forgiveness of him, forgiveness of me, forgiveness of God.
My Dad and I shared this deep love for Robbie.
“He was a good man honey. He loved you so much. I’m glad I got to know him. Keep working it will help you stay strong. You can come home any time you want to honey. Love, Dad.”
He loved you so much, stay strong, those words reverberated in my mind. It was one of the best notes I received from my Dad. I kept it in my favorite journal.
I worked by day as a law firm runner in LA and by evening as a residential counselor with developmentally delayed adolescents, teaching them independent-living skills.
I loved running by moonlight through downtown LA.
I savored my time alone. I don’t know if it was punishment or protective but it was healing. It gave me time to think, forgive, and distance myself from the intensity of what had happened. Although I did most things alone, I shared my apartment with my best friend from college. She was mostly gone working on political campaigns. I was mostly gone working. It was a perfect arrangement for healing.
I loved her so much because I didn’t have to explain what was going on with me. She knew. She loved me anyway. Other than Trish, I can’t remember making any friends.
My memories of that time are like snippets of fabric sewn together with travel along the Southern California freeways.
After fourteen months my senses came back.
Trish had to move to another state to follow an important campaign. I decided to move back to Albuquerque.
It seemed that light began to come back into my daily life.
I heard the birds singing and it didn’t make me want to yell stop. Music was inviting. I danced.
Somewhere, I found the space within me to have faith again in the fabric of Life.
Robbie’s death became a defining experience in my life. The importance of love, honesty, forgiveness, and acting in congruence with my true character became the boundaries required for health and freedom in relationship.
Ultimately, I felt my deliverance from my inner prison. Salvation lit me slowly with the realization that he knew I loved him. He saw through everything from beginning to end. I was the last to see the truth and it was too late to enjoy the love waiting for me.
I forgave myself for being immature and unthinking.
I developed an urgent need to be authentic in all my communications, a left over compulsion from that fateful night. It made me a bit intense and probably too serious.
Overtime, I befriended the ebb and flow of life and death.
I came to accept that there was a tapestry of life that I could tap into and flow with but that I had to remain sincere and accept the consequences of my actions.
If I had married Robbie, I may not have become the person I am today, leaving a hole in the fabric of the lives of those whom I have offered healing counsel. That’s how I think about it now. I walk in a state of grace, with a sense of gratefulness for the gifts I developed out of my devastating loss; grateful to have positively affected so many through that loss.
And it was from that knowing I spent my last weeks with my father as he got chemotherapy for end stage pancreatic cancer.
And so here is the first chapter of the book…Working through loss offers deep awareness of the tapestry of life…, how have your traumas elevated your consciousness? Send me a comment or write one in the space below…in love and light, bg