Saturday, September 29, 2018

One Saturday Morning

The previous night I'd had a really awful PTSD attack. Wave after wave of horrific anguish washed over me, and would have completely overwhelmed me if not for reaching out to God with the Jesus Prayer. You can claim to have faith all day, but when the night comes and the darkness comes in what do you do? Anyway, the next morning rolled around and I felt pretty awful. I was having trouble with the trigger, which was still riding it out in my body. I didn't know how long it was going to last, and frankly I didn't know if I could deal with the truth anyway. So my family and I went for a stroll.

It was still a bit cool; the sun hadn't reached its typical Oklahoma awfulness.  On this day you'd almost believe it was a normal August day anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon. My 3 year old was skipping along, and the wind was just the tiniest bit crisp. That's about as close to Fall as we'll probably get for a few more months yet.

I was enjoying the weather, despite myself. After all, it's not too often where you get a break before November in this wretched state and even I could tell it was a good morning, even if I couldn't appreciate it. The mind of someone deep in a trigger is of bolted down boards on roiling chaos. It's hard to adequately express it, only that at some point the body wears out of being in so much supposed danger all the time and you begin to feel depressed, since there's really not a whole lot more to do at that point.

And then we happened upon the graveyard.

Now, this graveyard was not a surprise; we live right across the street from it, after all. We'd known about it for a few weeks. But we'd never gotten to visit it. Well, today was the day. And I was welcomed with the greatest gift a troubled man can receive: silence.

No, I didn't say quiet. The graveyard was far from quiet. There were people doing maintenance and there was a woman walking, talking on her cell phone. But something hung here, in the air, serene, passive, and patient. The instant I stepped foot on this ground I could feel my body change. Gone were the aches and pains. In its place was the realization that what I was feeling would pass. These people lay here, awaiting the day they would come back. I was awash in something that is very rarely felt: peace. I found myself laughing as we walked between the gravestones, heady with the borrowed freedom of the dead, the knowledge that this too would pass. Oh, it was not not my freedom, and I knew it. I knew that, once I walked away, the battle would begin again. The memories would begin to fight to come back, and I would be faced with something new and horrific to suffer through, all over again. But, for that moment, staring at the dead's tombstones and realizing how little time I actually had, I was free. The Gift of Illuvatar was, indeed, just that: a gift! And  while that gift would be mine someday, it was not yet. And so I enjoyed my troublesome and stubborn flesh as we walked. These people were waiting. They were at peace. And one day I would join them, when it was time. Fortunately I do not dictate that time.

I stopped, took a deep breath, and walked into the area. There were single days on these gravestones, with toys (illegally) stacked atop them. The air itself changed; anguish overlaid itself on the peace of the rest of the yard. My wife and I stood, staring at the gravestones, and cried as we looked at our little ones, one strapped in a carrier to my wife and our three year old running around, oblivious as to where we were. Death may be a gift of release from this cruel world but that doesn't mean it's any less painful for those left behind. These little ones had such a small amount of time, months at the very longest. Looking at our little ones my wife and I were overwhelmed by it all.

Drying our eyes the best we could we left the silently grieving area and started trying to corral our three year old back to our house for food. It was almost noon, no one had showered, and we'd barely eaten anything. But, of course, a three year old in an open space is going to run like the dickens, and he had to be caught. Across the road, closer to our house, is a pair of fountains. We offered to stop there. Our son found this acceptable and, crossing the usually-busy road, we made our way to the fountains.

As you can see, there are multiple levels down to the water; we never let our children down to the last one, because it's so easy to fall in and with the reeds, we might never even notice what had happened. Fortunately our eldest son was in a good mood about that restriction today. Instead, he walked up to me, held out his hand, and shouted "JUMP DADDY!" I looked down at my little angel, one who at so many points infuriates the holy hell out of me, but then inspires with pure goodness a moment later. I looked down at the half of a six foot drop to the next level. He probably didn't need me to do it, but that was besides the point, wasn't it? I grabbed his small, delicate hand and, yelling at the top of our lungs, we jumped the half-six feet , to the next row below.

And we did it over, and over, and over again. Each time we laughed and, for the briefest second, there was something far better than peace. I only wish I knew how to describe it to you.

Lunch was delicious, by the way.

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