Reflections in the Face of Tragedy

Note: This was written in May of 2017.  I took it down for years as I thought it might be too raw to share on a blog.  Recently on my navigation of grief I decided to put it back up, unsure of how long:


Dusk – The flight of Icarus

Today, was a rough day.  A day of frustration.  A day where the tunnels of the last year finally broke ground. The thing about this experience that we call grief, of what has happened over the past year, is that it takes you down many different roads. Some you knew were always there but you never wanted to take, others you reluctantly idol through for reasons you cannot define (but you just know that’s what you should do and that’s what people expect of you); and then…there are the roads you did not know even existed.  These are the dark, unpaved, and pot hole riddled roads that dwindle up a mountain draped in unforgiving cliff edges whose sole purpose is to throttle you off the road and send you plummeting into a dark, damp, cold and callous oblivion.  These are the roads that truly warrant the stereotypical “beware” signs of movies from your child hood.  Except, in this movie you long to be that child who has the ultimate power of the remote control and the ability to pause or stop the screen when things either become too uncomfortable or too unbearable.  But in this movie, the ending may not be jubilant.


These roads symbolize the feelings and pain that have been manifesting over the past year.  The feelings one may try to repress, put away on a shelf “for another time” or outright deny.  However, as day inevitably turns to night, darkness creeps in and takes hold.  It’s not a matter of mindset, it truly just is what it is.  Stars in the outward galaxies do not ask to be eaten and consumed by the black holes of space, they just are.  Sometimes…we just are.  It’s these moments where I truly feel like Icarus; so much potential to choose the right path of flight as he has been provided the gift of foresight and wisdom through experience by his father Daedalus.  Yet, his own hubris navigates him directly into the very thing his father warned him about; the impending doom that is the sun, of which melts his wax and feathered wings and hurls him towards the deep blue sea and his final resting place.  I’m struggling to figure out what my flight of path is.


A sense of doom, of dread is where I currently reside.  I don’t know how or what happened, but I find myself here.  Lost and alone.  It also forces me down those unknown paths mentioned earlier in this almost momentary eulogy of sorts.  You evaluate the past, present and future.  It’s a moment of clarity, although perhaps one you never wanted or maybe just didn’t want to acknowledge.  Perhaps an evaluation of where you are, where you have been and where you possibly may venture.  These roads truly force you to evaluate just who you are, who you have been and possibly, who you may want to be.


Life is a conundrum.  A conundrum that is perpetually dissected, analyzed and incessantly searched for meaning, for truth…or maybe just for acceptance.  I often look up to the stars with a true sense of wonder and adornment, but also with unfathomable respect and humility.  Perhaps that is the greatest conundrum of all; that life truly is just by chance.  That there is no divine path for us.  Maybe Carl Sagan was correct in his writings that we are truly just specs of star dust who, by happen stance caught one hell of a break and evolved into the self-serving species that cannot resist taking photos of itself on a device that could truly help to change our collective fate, on this infinitely fortunate, one in a trillion pale blue dot.


These…these are the roads I am unwittingly embarking upon.  Maybe this is all by divine direction.  Maybe this is another teaching or test put forth by my beautiful and angelic mother.  I can only hope this might one of her last gifts to me, for her son to look into his heart and maybe…just maybe, actually become the man he is possibly destined to be?


“Nothing gold can stay, Pony Boy.”  This is a saying I unfortunately know all too well.  Life presents you with scenarios that you cannot possibly prepare for.  Whether it be the actual events of pain and sadness…or the aftermath and hollow fallout that perpetuates in the days and years to follow.  You truly cannot know…until you know.  As is the dualism and dichotomy of life; I know that now.  I’m a member of a club that no one wants a membership, like a locust infested corn field on a farmer’s final hope of a bumper crop.  Somehow the corn just gets eaten away, as does a piece of your soul.


I guess…as I write this; I truly have no end game, no goal in mind.  Just some random thoughts embedded within a broken man’s heart that have only now found its way to the surface.  I want to feel grace, peace…hell, even that glowing sense of salvation and that it “will be ok, it’s Gods plan.”  I don’t who or what “God” is, or even if he/she/it exists (I avoid certainties, assumptions and arrogance when it comes to matters such as this.)  I can just never be sure of these things.  Maybe that’s the gift bestowed upon me by stoic and sage mother; my sense of wonder.  I never stop wondering.  That’s definitely a double edge sword, but maybe that’s the point all the long.  Perhaps “nothing gold can stay”, but why can’t one wonder where the gold went?  And, why can’t one be fluid and malleable enough to chase that gold with an unbridled spirit?  After all, isn’t that a life worth living?  The universe isn’t one big entity I do not believe.  It’s a cohesive mess of happen stance evolutionary processes mixed with absolutely intentional masses of nothingness.  However, somewhere in that disaster piece of carbon, oxygen, and lord knows whatever else is out there, life found a way to flourish.  Why can’t I flourish within my own cosmic circle? The best gift of all just may be the foresight to accept our insignificance within the grand scheme, but yet understand and embrace our own impact upon our own galaxies gravitational pull – being my wife, children, family and friends.  To be the best husband, father, son, brother, uncle, friend, I can possibly be.


If life can find a way in the empty recesses of cold, dark and the unemotional void of space…then maybe I can find a way to reconcile all of these feelings (equally wanted and unwanted) and do my best to keep my car on the road and navigate the hairpin corners in this life we live.


That could be the most beautiful gift of all.  The gift of eternal serenity that is within your own individual grasp, your own unique soul.  Control your own atmosphere and learn from the cautionary tales of old.  Just think…how beautiful must it have been for Icarus to experience the awe-inspiring embrace of the sun, having flown closer than any other human before.  Perhaps the trick is to embrace, rejoice and forever live in that moment, that flight path, before your wings of wax become no more.


Dawn – Come Clarity

Dawn, it’s a new day.  It doesn’t feel as hopeless as the day before, in fact, perhaps the opposite.  The light of morning has eclipsed and conquered the dead of night.  Strange things happen at night.  It’s as if time has the propensity to bend, stand still or fall out of linear fashion completely.  Time itself is a complete and utter mystery, but that’s neither here nor there at the moment.  What is at the forefront, is the fact that it is a new day, a new chance, a new start.


Monumental change may not always happen in an instance, but there is a song title from an artist named DJ Shadow that has resonated with me since I first heard the track some 20 years ago, “Building steam with a grain of salt.”  Here I stand, with a markedly different perspective and outlook than the night before.  Sometimes you have to travel the roads you don’t want to travel down, but maybe it’s the only way to begin to overcome the unfathomable.  Like my ancestors did in centuries past, I am seated in a vessel heading out to sea.  My map or final destination may not be clear, but I have a general direction embedded within my mind and my compass will hopefully not lead me astray.


Perspective.  This past year has been full of that.  In any given moment, I feel as though I’m like a car speeding towards a fork in the road – I could go any way.  Neither option providing a clear direction.  Like in those cartoons I’d watch as a kid, the two paths would be blatantly obvious, one good, one bad.  Not here.  They are both unequivocally neutral.  That’s the hardest part, I think.


As I begin to shake the fog from my thoughts, I remember my mother – but again it’s all perspective in how I choose to remember.  My choice.  I could remember the awful and painful parts of the last year (which I have unfortunately done way too many times to count), but today I’m choosing to leave that behind, putting that book back on the shelf, tucking it as far back as I can (at least for as long as I can).  Today, I choose to close my eyes and envision her smile, her aura, her beauty, her grace, her warmth and her legacy.


Legacy…that’s a loaded word, yet it seems just so fitting for my mother, as her legacy is everywhere.  It’s in her community, it’s in my home, my sister’s home, it’s in her grandchildren, her children, her friends and family…it’s in me.  My mother had and has a way of empowering and embodying the true essence of living, of what’s important.  She was influential and inspiring, she had a way of passing on her passion for life.  Like the way a single bolt of lightning can electrify an entire lake.  She had that ability.  She was, is, a lightning bolt.  Although she may not be able to strike as often as I would like these days, I just know she’s always there somewhere and it brings me comfort.  Some days I’m waiving a metal pipe directly overhead in a thunderstorm, desperate for the shock, as if to feel alive again.  Yet, I’m coming to the realization that that’s not how my mother works, it’s never how she worked.  She was way more elevated and in tune than that, she had the uncanny ability to inspire when it was needed most, not necessarily when it was directly sought after.  She was a farmer in the way she would plant seeds of wisdom and knowledge in those closest to her, only to watch them sprout in time, but only when the time was right.  Her talents and gifts were and are the stuff of legend.  She is working through me, her family and her friends every day.  At least, that is the perspective I’m choosing to proceed with every day.


Life is just a series of moments.  Everything can change in a moment, and any moment can be what you want it to be.  Yesterday, in the lonely grasp of night, I found myself embarking upon a more philosophical journey, a darker journey going down paths of emotion, self-realization and inner most reflection.  Today, is a day I choose to be more literal, more direct, more in control.  Today is the day where I get to choose to honour my mother’s legacy in a positive light, and work towards being the best son, husband, father, friend I can be.  It won’t be easy, nothing worth having is, I guess.  I will slip, fall and lie down for longer than I should – but my mothers’ strength is within me.  Only now, after decades am I realizing that.  That it’s been there all along.  Like an engine starting for the first time, I am awakening.  Clarity I guess you could say.  Life really is just what it is.  Today, I am going to choose to look into my children’s eyes and see their Grammy within.  Today, I am going to choose to remember fondly the good times, to talk about the beautiful times, to relive just what it felt like in those happy times – moments frozen in time, in memory.  We are who we are, we discover who we are over time.  But for now, I will choose to revel in the moments of grace, encapsulated by light.  After all, every nightfall succumbs to day break.  A reflection can be anything you want it to be, you just need to know in which direction to point the mirror.

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