Monday, September 26, 2011

The Stories Of Our Lives

Lisa clutched at the tissue dangling from her hand as we settled into an awkward silence. The only sound in the room came from her seven year old son obliviously sitting in the corner. He violently smashed two toys together and then made laughable siren noises while reaching behind to grab a miniature police car.

We stared in his direction content to have a distraction from the intensity of our conversation. In the lull that followed my thoughts wandered back to childhood. I remembered the day my father died.


My mother is lying in bed. Her head is barely visible hidden under floppy curls of disheveled hair. She is thirty seven years old. My childish body struggles to climb over the ledge as I flop onto her comforter. My older brothers are busy entertaining the crowd of people who wander in and out of the house at random intervals.

I watch as her body heaves up and down slowly. She is weeping. I place my hand on the part of the blanket that is covering her shoulder. I know that there is something wrong but at seven years old I don't have the intellectual capacity to understand.

I feel the faint excitement of missing school but I am distressed by my mother's grief. I coax her gently.

Mommy. Lets go out and play.

She lifts her head and looks over in my direction. She smiles faintly.

Maybe in a few minutes honey.

The adult in me wishes I could reach back and comfort her. Tell her that although happiness had left us, it would return eventually. Assure her that her boys would grow up to be successful men. Touched by their father's death but not destroyed by it.

Remind her that our greatest gifts are bestowed upon us not only by our triumphs but also by our sufferings.


The police car has now pulled up to the fake crash seen. Lisa gasps as she realizes that her son is using toys to reenact her husbands fatal accident. Her eyes fill with tears as she turns her head towards me. She is drowning.

I have already accepted my fate. But him...

She gently motions her head toward the shy boy playing in the corner. She can't finish the sentence.

I open my mouth to speak but have trouble conveying a lifetime of experience in a coherent manner. I want her to know that I am her son. That my father died and yet despite this tragedy my life has beauty and meaning. That I am a doctor, a husband, and a father.

I want her to know that her beloveds death will become part of the vast fabric of her son's experience. But his life will forever guide her son's future. She doesn't yet know that she will have the strength and fortitude to provide for his well being.

Eventually the words come to me.

We tell ourselves the stories about our lives that make it bearable. Or better yet magical, mystical. At forty years old part of your own story is already written. But your son. Your son sits in front of you an open book.

The pen is in your hands.

Write from your heart.

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