[I originally wrote this June 9, 2006, not quite six years after my mother died suddenly, and not quite a year after my father died of cancer. I'm offering this today very slightly edited.]
Every Halloween we are treated to images of ghosts with rattling
chains. In Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," Mr. Scrooge is
confronted by the shade of his old business partner. Marley's Ghost
is chained and burdened by cashboxes, coin purses, locks. The things
that occupied Marley's thoughts are supposed to bind him to earth
Bah, humbug! The image may function for the plot of Dickens' ghost
story, but it hardly jives with my world-view, let alone my
In my dreams my mother walks without a limp. In my dreams my father
is healthy, unworried, well-rested.
No, I don't think it's the shades of those whom we have lost who bear
The chains are the ones I carry. The chains are the burdens of
accumulated grieving, loss after loss. The chains are the regrets and
second thoughts and wish-I-hads. The chains are the freedom I dare
not grant myself -- perhaps the freedom to be angry at Dad. Or
perhaps the freedom to create my own standard for being ME, a
standard that would not be always a comparison, a relative judgment
about me *as* son, or me *as* friend (or me *as* blogger).
Are my chains, my burdens, ones I *choose* to carry? Why should there
be something inescapable, something inevitable, about the burdens
*others* put upon us? Oh, how I wish I knew the ins and outs of the
countless little habits I have developed over the years, habits for
making my chains seem normal, necessary, even *deserved*.
Many of the links in my chains are negative memories. Some of the
locks are believing that I failed to meet expectations. Here is a
coffer full of guilt. Here is a cashbox filled with the coin of
Every relationship -- even the very best -- has challenges and
difficulties. I keep saying that one of the principal tasks of grief
is to find a way to keep our love alive in spite of the fact that the
one we love is gone. I am barely beginning to learn how to deal with
the fact that the challenges and difficulties, the bumps and
barriers, have not gone away.
But now the relationship is a bit single-sided, no? If the bumps are
going to be smoothed, it is I who will have to do the smoothing.
I know: how 'bout if I work on forgiving ME for the failures and the messes?
Mom would if Mom were here. Dad would if Dad were here.
There is a song by Aeone that says in part:
From a point of faith within my head
I believe in all the choices I have made;
From a point of love within my heart
I forgive myself for all of my mistakes.
That would be nice, wouldn't it...
Peace and happy dreams,
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