I’ve been thinking again. I hate it, but I do it from time to time, or all the time, in fact. I’d rather not think. Ignorant bliss. Comfortably numb. It’s better that way. Don’t you think?
But I’ve been thinking lately. About death. About grief. I’ve been thinking about loss.
In the summer of 2019, I published my first book. A memoir of loss and healing, Where Are You? Finding Myself in My Greatest Loss began with thinking about death, thinking of my stillborn first baby Sophia Michelle, thinking about the suicide of my older brother Brian. My memoir began with thinking about pain and thinking about sadness.
I thought deeply about holding my little lifeless child. I thought deeply about my brother’s departure. I thought deeply about each of their journeys into the deep faraway of never-to-see-you-again, the deep faraway of never-got-to-say-goodbye. I thought deeply about the pain that loss caused me, the distraction and frustration, the hostility and bitterness, the marital dysfunction, the loss of friendships. I thought deeply about my hard-heartedness.
My solution to death, I used to think, in a Keatsian way, was to think until I convinced myself that those things I valued became “nothingness.” So, after my brother’s death, I closed myself off, and after Sophia, I closed myself further.
As Brian Doyle wrote, “for fear of a constantly harrowed heart,” we attempt to protect ourselves from pain by “walling” ourselves off. But the transformation—the healing—of the human heart is only achieved when we open ourselves to others. My thoughts were transformed when I was willing to share them with others, with the very people, the very world that I’d turned away from in an attempt to protect myself from that little touch of loss.
So my thinking was eventually transformed into writing, then transformed into conversations with people like Dr. Rhonda Chervin and Gary Jansen and Dr. Mahfood at EnRoute. And these conversations then formed together into a book. My book. My book about my baby Sophia Michelle. My book—that other people, that “strangers” read—that I read now to audiences.
So these transformations have made me think. Again.
They’ve made me think about the mustard seed. They’ve made me think about that lost sheep. They’ve made me think about Lazarus. And about Jairus and his daughter (“Little girl, I say to you, get up!”).
They’ve made me think of my wife, Tara, Sophia Michelle’s Mama; of my daughters, Judith and Charlotte. I’ve been thinking about all these things. And, in spite of—or in addition to, or with—all of my loss, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve gained. I’ve been thinking about joy!
I’ve been thinking lately. About life. About hope and love.
I’ve been thinking. Again. I love to do that. I do it from time to time, or all the time, in fact. I’d rather think. It’s better that way.