So a number of people have been encouraging me to go back to writing in here and while I’ve had several ideas I’ve written down over the last few months, I find it hard to believe how long it’s been since I actually last posted. It seems like there is always something in the way, work, time with friends & family, other responsibilities or obligations, exhaustion, etc. Take your pick, we all have them. But I’m not sure that any of those were really anything other than an avoidance mechanism for me to pick back up the pen (so to speak).
I was forcibly reminded of this today, as my work commemorates the 10th anniversary of Sept 11 a few days early. I still work for the same private midwestern college I was the last time I was here and today they are holding a reading on campus of all the names of those who died that day in front of flags of the nationalities of all those who died. I was asked if I wanted to go down and take some time during my work day to spend a quiet moment there. I politely declined…and then spend the next 20 minutes wondering why. I finally decided that part of the reason was I was just too emotionally tired to go. I was not prepared to grieve for them just yet, just as I am not sure how well I’m ready to grieve for all those I have lost this year and the last few.
My connection with Sept 11th is not as immediate as so very many, but I do have an indirect link to it. My oldest nephew joined the military right out of high school. Like so many young men and women of that generation in uniform he was sent overseas to fight a war I’m not sure he fully understood any more than the rest of us did, but he knew he wanted to serve his country and do his best to help people. He survived the tours thank God, he just didn’t survive coming back home. He died on his 21st birthday, from alcohol poisoning, three weeks from his first visit back home to us in almost two years. I still struggle with his death the most. He struggled with depression and probably PTSD. The last time we talked was at Thanksgiving and I only had a few moments between grandparents, parents, cousins aunts/uncles and more. I tossed off a few words, I don’t remember what, but ended with a “We’ll see you soon.” Not realizing we would never see him again.
There was a story on NPR yesterday morning that really hit me (and yes I know it may seem as though I’m rambling but I promise I have a point here)… it was about the father of two young men who died on that day. And what their last words were to each other. The two brothers, one was a fireman, the other a policeman, both rushed to the scene that morning, both had a duty and calling to fulfill. On their way to ground zero they each called their father and to each after a few words and a sensible “Be careful,” the last thing they said to each other was “I love you.” It was, the father said, what let him sleep at night. How many times do we not get or take the time to make the last words we say to each other each time we speak, words that convey how much the other means to us?
I did not say those words to my nephew. I’m sure he knew that I did, but it’s not the same. I did not get to say them to my friend who passed unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago. And I wonder…how my grief at an imperfect good-bye compares to the imperfect good-byes my son has had to deal with. From his cousins to his grandparents to friends….he has had more loss in the first 13 years of his life than I’ve had to endure in my 34. I find it interesting that part of what brings me back to these pages, perhaps steadily again for a while, is the same kind of issue that brought me here in the first place…my son, struggling to cope with the world he finds himself inhabiting….with loss, with love, grief and peace…and where to find the balance for it all. It has been 10 years since 9/11 and just over 10 years since my son came to live with me full-time. And even if we don’t show our wounds in public, they are still there. 10 years may have gone by, but just like the rest of America, although we are still struggling to find our way, we’re still here….and we will survive. And some of us will find the words, slowly, grasping, to share the burden and lighten our load. To move forward as a friend of mine stated, to that day when we can move past the morbidity of 9/11 and our other losses and instead celebrate the resilience of the human spirit. Not to forget or dishonor, but to remember in a way that lifts up, rather than pulls down. We will survive. We will thrive.