Being separated from your children opens a hole in your heart and in your life.
They say the death of your child is one of the worst things a parent can ever go through. I haven’t lost my children but I don’t see them as often as I would like, as often as I need, or even as often as they need and I wish so dearly I could. Such fleeting times I see them now never seem enough. I don’t know what it’s like to lose a child, but this is bad enough. A huge hole was ripped opened in my chest over two years ago and I have no idea what happened to my heart but I can’t ever seem to fill that place, that empty void where something used to beat. I try so desperately to fill it sometimes but not much really works.
In the beginning I tried anger, hatred and bitterness; it was so easy to do. Filling that hole with thoughts of all the things I could do, paths I could take, battles I could win, but none of those thoughts ever told me how to win the war, how to really fill that hole. My physical heart would skip beats as the weight of the world seemed to settle in my chest. I lost count of how many days I lay on my couch imagining those dark thoughts, so many days lost to despair and hopelessness and all I really wanted was to see my kids. These thoughts though are acid, they don’t fill a hole, and they only make it bigger, they eat away where the healing should start and make the edges red raw.
Those thoughts, they color your life in browns and blacks, and that is no way to live. In the end I couldn’t fill that hole with hatred or bitterness and I had to choose a path to move forward. All those daymares, those horrible thoughts come to naught and I only had one road left. It was a high road, a painful twisting trail I could only travel if I paid costs I didn’t think I could afford. It was the only true choice. Those lower roads, the easy roads, my kids would have had to pay those costs instead of me and what sort of father would I be to make them pay such a price.
Yet I still have to face the world so I have a stoic’s mask now, a fine white porcelain mask. I use it when talking to others, when out in public; it covers the pain I would express when that hole in my chest fills with sorrow and grief because I have nothing else yet to occupy that space. Please don’t look too closely at my mask, yes I know it has a lot of fine cracks, I have had to glue it back together many times. Please accept my pre-thought answers to your questions. Yes I miss my kids, Yes it’s hard, Yes, yes, yes. Please stop prodding it; if it shatters I won’t have the space between sobs to tell you why I can’t stop crying.
I don’t always wear this mask for my friends, but always for those I don’t know. I know some of you judge me, you feel I may or may not have done the right things. It doesn’t concern me, I know you haven’t walked my path. I know you can’t come to a solution in 30 seconds that I haven’t spent months already evaluating and weighing the costs. There is a part of me wishes you had walked some of my path so you could understand. Yet I am not the sort person who could wish so much pain on someone so tritely. So I wear my mask because some faces are best left for private.
No one ever tells you the future can weigh so much, all the things in my children’s life I won’t get to see. Not being able to help with homework, to see them come home from school, to put them to bed every night and all the rest. The weight of the world is nothing compared to the weight of a future which will never exist. I think those future moments are where my heart went so few years ago, disappeared to a place I can’t reach. It’s hard to heal with my heart dissipated in moments out of time yet still I must rebuild that hole in my chest.
I build a new heart now, one with new memories, new experiences and a new future with my children. It’s not the same as the heart I once had, it isn’t as strong yet but it does understand one thing. No matter how short your time is with someone there is only ever one place in time, it’s the place called now and it’s the only time where you can build a new heart. Now is the only place you can create a life worth living, it’s the only place where healing can occur. The past is nothing but memories of other now’s, and the future, it’s the places where the choices we take now may take you. Those other futures, those older futures I can no longer reach, they have so much weight, but I understand now. I will never see those old futures but I will see other futures, maybe better ones, maybe not, but I will be trying to reach the good ones as best I can.
I miss my kids, I hope they understand one day the decisions I have had to make and the costs I have had to pay. Yet I hope they don’t, because it means they have had a hole in their chest as large as mine to heal.
*A minstrel was a medieval European bard who performed songs whose lyrics told stories of distant places or of existing or imaginary historical events. Although minstrels created their own tales, often they would memorize and embellish the works of others. The Modern Minstrel observes the world around him and shares it with us as lyrical story. This series was inspired by Luke Davis, whose eye for story and ear for lyrical prose are featured here.
Photo: Flickr/Mohammed Mustafa
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