Sunday, October 5, 2008


As a 52 year old man, my body has had it share of hurts and pains. My hands are a constant visual reminder of careless times with objects with very sharp edges. My thighs a constant reminder of offending my dad...and of the price felt at the end of a willow switch. There are times when it is a struggle to get up from my chair at work after sitting in front of my computer for hours and I remember days when the pain in my shoulders was so great I couldn't write on the chalkboard of my classroom. The four inch thick mattress on a sheet of steel that I slept on for three years while in prison will probably always leave a toll on my back and my feet. But there is an interesting thing about all of those pains. No matter how hard I try to remember what that pain actually felt like, I can't. I only know that it hurt at the time. I am sure that is God's blessing because we all fall down at times and we all experience physical pain...some of us more than others.

But there is another kind of pain that I am feeling today...and have been for the past several weeks. I compare it to the "phantom pain" that people who have had amputations feel. It is the pain that comes from looking at back at the memories from my past and knowing that they are gone forever. Like the leg lost in battle in Iraq, the "phantom pain" the soldier experiences is akin to the pain I feel at the loss of a wife, a family, a at times, my own self respect.

Last weekend I travelled to my sister's to spend the weekend and pick of the remainder of my possessions that have been in storage with friends since I was sent to prison. On the one hand, it was a wonderful weekend spent with my sister. Her love and support for me have been beyond expectation! Driving down to her home on Friday night, I had no concept of the emotional roller coaster that was facing me. I wasn't prepared for the memory flood that I was going to experience in the next 48 hours, and I still haven't recovered from.

As we descended into the dank, musty basement when my "stuff" was stored and rounded the corner where the boxes were stacked, I was immediately overwhelmed. I just didn't remember that I had left so many boxes here. I thought I would find two or three boxes that we would quickly put in the trunk of my car, go have lunch with my friends Gloria and Alger and be on our way to a day of antique shopping that we had planned. Instead, it was a process of going through every box to sort and repack so I could get it home.

My sister described to some degree the process of sorting through the items in a recent blog she titled "Courage". A strange title as I think about it. I didn't feel courageous...only empty. My tears were constantly right at the brim of overflowing, but it seemed that I had mourned all of this before. Why was I feeling it all over again? Why did I feel like a shell...all of my vitality somehow drained away? Why was the pain coming back like torrents in the midst of a hurricane?

I can only describe it as "phantom pain". The pictures of the most beautiful women I have ever met and a woman that loved me beyond only a memory. Pictures of my kids that are no longer a part of my only an image on paper. The memory of holding each of my grand kids in my arms within minutes of their birth...fading with each passing day with the knowledge that I may never, ever see them again, let alone hold them. Pain in my heart so overwhelming that I can't describe it...except to say that I can still feel it long after it should be gone! Memories amputated by poor choices on my part, no matter how long ago. A part of my life, but no longer a part of me.


Deb said...

The greatest courage of all is to be willing to feel and face the pain, and to be willing to share it. I am honored and inspired by your honesty. I am so sorry for your pain. May you rest in God's grace and know that you are helping others to live with their pain.

I'm so proud of you. I love you.

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