Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son ?
And where have you been my darling young one ?
I've stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I've walked and I've crawled on six crooked highways
I've stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I've been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I've been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall. -Bob Dylan, 1962
Well, my eyes’ may not be blue but for the past eight months I have truly been ‘10,000 miles in the mouth of a graveyard.’ When I last left you, dear reader, it was summertime and the living was easy. I had plans for my next blog, a seasonally appropriate discussion of the sun, sunscreens and skin cancer. Then the unthinkable happened.
On a hot Saturday night in July my wife’s brother, age 58, committed suicide. In a tub. All alone. With a knife. He left a note. It provided more questions than answers. In it he wrote that he “knew” he had colon cancer and “couldn’t put” his family “through that.” We now know for sure that no doctor ever told him he had cancer. And that he had a colonoscopy scheduled for the following week.
A hard rain, indeed.
So we are left with the unanswerable question: Why? And a psychological residue that is very different from the grief I’ve experienced following the death of loved ones by illness, accident or violence. This act was a choice. And that makes everything much more complex for the living. The rational mind wants answers.
And I think for Scott it was all about fear.
I have had my own terrifying bouts with fear, an irrational fear from ancient trauma that manifests itself in the form of claustrophobia. Faced with ‘real’ danger… like running into a burning building… staring down the barrel of a gun… or hanging out of an airplane… just to take pictures…. all real situations from my journalism career… I was Mister Cool. But confront me with a crowded elevator full of people and no way, baby. I am frozen with fear.
For Scott, fear was a different beast. I think he was afraid of the future. For years, in conversation, he lived in the past, with warm fuzzy memories…or in the future, with worries of layoffs and economic ruin. He never lived in the moment. He was always in a hurry. But ‘in the moment’ is the only place we have any power at all. And Scott, like so many of us, gave up that power.
I believe he was so afraid of what the results of that colonoscopy would show that he took his life as a preemptive move. Wow. Nearly 70 percent of Americans diagnosed with colon cancer survive. Not bad odds.
Needless to say, our lives, Leslie Ann’s and mine, were thrown into turmoil, grief and pain. Three or four months passed without opening our mail. We almost had our electricity cut. None of that mattered. There was just this giant primordial hurting in my heart. Nothing else. And I stopped taking care of myself in the process. I tried to stay in the moment, but could not. Meditation failed me. I got fat again. Yes, again.
Grief is a relentless shadow that haunts every move, yet a necessity that forces us to confront the big question: How do we, right now, moment-by-moment, affirm life?
The hard rain’s letting up now. The sky is getting clearer. I’m restoring cleanliness to my diet… and my surroundings…I’m exercising again…and trying to keep up with the mail. And now I’m blogging again.
It feels good to be back with you, in the moment, in spite of the weather.