There is a touch of winter in the air today, although November has just begun. By my calculations, winter is weeks away. But it is gray and cold and feels winterlike. In my heart as well. Winter has descended early.
I’m not sure why this is, but maybe it has something to do with a conversation I had yesterday with a friend. Or maybe it is the sick call of the train whistle in the distance. The train really does sound sick. It is a forlorn cry for help as if the train is in distress and reaching out for help. Do trains get sick? I suppose they do.
For some time now I have been plagued with frightening dreams. My friend asked if I had always been plagued by dreams. I couldn’t answer her. I thought about this but couldn’t answer her because I didn’t have an answer. I told her that, for sure, I have been plagued by dreams ever since my son’s suicide in 2011. There is a clear before and after in my life. I am not sure if I had frightening dreams before my son’s suicide. I don’t think so. But I’m not sure. I remember those times as if they were yesterday. They were yesterday. And I remember sunshine then, I do remember this. My heart was bathed in sunlight. But this is probably an exaggeration. Or a mirage. It couldn’t have been all bright sunshine and happiness. There had to be some heartache. But nothing compared to the heartache that would come into my life with my son’s suicide.
For a year after my son’s suicide, I didn’t sleep much at all. I would lie in bed without feeling anything. I was hollow when I was awake, a phantom or shadow of who I used to be, and I carried this hollowness to bed with me. My wife never slept either. She took care of her insomnia, however, by committing suicide herself, one year after our son did. It was a very brave way to deal with her insomnia, I think, and a brave way to get out from underneath her hollowness.
Before and after. This is how my life is divided now. I guess all our lives are divided into before and after. Before we are born, after we die. Our births and deaths clearly define our lives, but these are befores and afters we are unaware of. They make up our lives as retrospectives. What about the befores and afters while we are alive? How many of us can point to clearly defined befores and afters in their lives?
We learn of the world we were born into from our parents and grandparents. But what about the world after we die? Who will continue that story? Will the world change when we are no longer here? Can we leave something behind as a marker that points to our existence? A story or a sculpture or a drawing on a rock wall? Maybe our initials carved into the bark of a tree? Or is it enough to be carried on in the hearts of our loved ones?
My heart carries a heavy load. It seems to be stuck in perpetual winter. I know my son and wife didn’t want to leave their burden behind for me to carry. But it is what happened. So, on this cold, gray November day, I ask myself how will I ever lighten this load? Where will I find some sunshine for my weary heart?
I try not to sound as if I’m complaining. All of us carry around a heaviness in our hearts. And all of us feel the sharp bite of winter while we long for the warmth of spring. I only wish to relate my thoughts on before and after, dreams, and cold November days. My meditations don’t mean much to anyone else, not really, because they claw at the inside of my heart trying to get out. I wish they would find a way out. I’d like to be done with them. But I figure they aren’t really looking for a way to escape, they are just clawing at my heart to remind me that they exist. They are markers of before and after. Markers that point to my wife and son. Dreams. Stories. Initials carved on the soft tissue of my heart.
About the author
I am a writer living and working in Longmont, Colorado. After the suicides of my son and wife, I have devoted my life to the existential examinations of the fragile human psyche in the hope I might help others find the courage to go on.