(A letter to one of special relation)
I wish that we had known one another when you were not yet so low on the resources required to actively love the silly slip of a hurting displaced young woman, full of false bravado, to whom your son first introduced you.
I wish that we had known one another before the world had whipped you into submission.
I wish I could have known you when you could focus on the hope in a child’s laughter for more than an instant.
I wish I could have known you in the long ago spring, when you were excited about the baby chicks from Sears and Roebuck that would soon arrive in the mail and the other things that would be coming as a result.
I wish I could have known you before the ordinary disappointments of life with their inevitable pain had combined with the traumatic stress unique to your own circumstance to bring you so far down…
And yet I remember…
I remember moments, however fleeting, when you threw out a witty one-liner or gave an account of something truly humorous, and together we laughed so hard we nearly cried.
I remember occasions when we witnessed a heart-touching scene on the silver screen and you turned to me with tears in your eyes to see the same mist in mine and we acknowledged one another in quiet understanding.
I remember moments when you confided in me something sorrowful and allowed me for a brief time to be some solace to you.
I remember how I admired who you must have once been when I learned of some of the hardships of the child of a south Alabama sharecropper’s daughter; when I discovered that you had been truly grateful for school and had been a good student, and that following your high school graduation you had unflinchingly boarded a bus for the city, with a watch and a few dollars to enter nursing school and make your own way in the world.
I remember how it tickled me when you so candidly related the story of your first date with your eventual husband, when you told how you asked him to let you out at a stranger’s doorstep pretending all the while it was your own, as you were sure he would not ask you out on a second date if he saw your actual humble dwelling; and how you, with even greater transparency, related being finally engaged and parking with your intended in front of the imposing sculpture of “Vulcan, The God of Fire.”
I remember learning of how you and your beau married before he finished school and so you worked while he completed his education, and I thought it was a courageous move, especially for the time.
I remember the common ground that we easily shared as “bargain hunters,” and the genuine excitement with which you would relate the tale of a particularly exciting find.
I remember how you appreciated showing me any new acquisitions, great or small, around the home you were continually building on the hill; how once as we stood in front of a lovely picture of an idyllic vista you said, almost as though speaking to yourself, “I’d love to go there someday,” and I was most amused as the picture was of nowhere specific- and then how one day, when your namesake was five, she stopped in front of a similar rendering and dreamily stated the very same. In that moment, it occurred to me once more that we live on- sometimes in spite of our best efforts to do otherwise.
I am often reminded of a particular gem in my back pocket, where I compliantly placed many at your instruction. Some have proved most useful, and I thank you for them.
And yes, sadly I remember how you repeated to me several stories of traumatic memory over the years, the same recollections again and again, and I remember my ignorance.
I remember realizing your turmoil was great, yet the only help I could think to give was to remind you of Christ, of Scripture, and of the need for surrender and prayer. (All wonderful and true things, but a man who is bleeding to death can rarely focus on them before his wounds are properly addressed.)
I remember the many things that clearly indicate that you were suffering emotionally, uniquely and intensely, and that you were in need of greater understanding than I was able to give to you then.
I hope that somehow in your life now you can know that I grieve for you, and that I recognize how very much was lost to all of us.
I hope that somehow in your life now, you can realize that you were a large part of my motivation to seek the specific education I did, allowing me to practice as a counselor to others who are emotionally damaged, and I hope that it makes you glad.
And I hope somewhere, somehow, you know I have forgiven you your harsh moments, as I hope you have forgiven my offenses, and I want you to know that I loved you and I still do.
Copyright 2017. L.L. Shelton.