Tag Archives: loss

We Should Have Heard You: Ashley Billasano’s Final Words Uncut

Ashley Billasano was a girl just like me. So much like me, that this story has affected me in a deeper way than perhaps it would have otherwise. Ashley and I both grew up in the Austin area. We both were sexually abused by our fathers, raped other times, and used eating disorders and self-harm to cope with this. Both of us were failed by Travis County Child Protective Services, who neither served nor protected us. We both attempted suicide more than once. 

The difference is, I survived.

Eventually, someone heard me. Eventually, I received the help I so desperately needed. Tragically, no one heard Ashley or was able to help her before she succeeded in taking her own life. I can’t explain why I was spared and Ashley wasn’t. I can’t explain why someone intervened on my behalf and no one got to her in time. And I can’t imagine how Ashley’s friends and family are feeling right now.

But I can imagine what Ashley was feeling. I remember vividly what it felt like to think that no one believed me and no one was going to help me and I was all alone with my hellish pain. Ashley left us with a record of her pain, a record of her experiences and reasons for taking her life. She made it public for a reason. And when I heard that Twitter took those messages down I was angry, because she wasn’t heard when she was alive. She deserves to be heard now. So I am publishing her tweets just as she wrote them, unedited and uncut. Ashley wanted the world to know what she went through and she wrote it rather eloquently. Perhaps her writing will encourage other survivors to come forward with their own stories. There have been far too many deaths due to silence. Let us remember Ashley Billasano and how the system did not work for her. Let us do better the next time a victim has the courage to report. Please, let us  do better. 

A website and foundation have been set up in Ashley’s honor, their mission to help victims of abuse deal with the effects and prevent more tragic suicides. www.ashleymariejustbreathe.com

 

10:50PM Nov 6th: “I fuckked up my own suicide” yeah tell me about it…

6:44AM Nov 7th: Staying home today. Can I reach 1000 tweets??? I’m thinking yes!

9:45AM Nov 7th: just woke up

9:45AM Nov 7th: Don’t feel too well

9:45AM Nov 7th: There is somebody in my dreams

9:46AM Nov 7th: I want them gone

9:46AM Nov 7th: How can we control our dreams?

9:46AM Nov 7th: Hummm wish somebody would text me

9:47AM Nov 7th: Kinda lonely right now

9:47AM Nov 7th: There was so much more I wanted to do

9:48AM Nov 7th: Ahhh well time to move on

9:48AM Nov 7th: My thought process is too crazy

9:48AM Nov 7th: I totally think I’m bipolar

9:49AM Nov 7th: Or just crazy

9:49AM Nov 7th: Idk.

9:49AM Nov 7th: Humm I remember why we broke up

9:50AM Nov 7th: I shall do it again

9:50AM Nov 7th: Because this time I don’t have a bf

9:50AM Nov 7th: And I really don’t care anymore

9:51AM Nov 7th: I should get ready then

9:51AM Nov 7th: Should have gotten everything last night

9:52AM Nov 7th: Still just trying to raise my numbers

9:52AM Nov 7th: So I met this boy

9:52AM Nov 7th: He was very cute you see

9:52AM Nov 7th: Quite popular too

9:53AM Nov 7th: Me and this boy started talking

9:53AM Nov 7th: Then we talked a lil more

9:53AM Nov 7th: Then he let me in his front door

9:54AM Nov 7th: We walked up the stairs where everything was quite

9:54AM Nov 7th: And he whispered ‘you look beautiful’ into my ear

9:55AM Nov 7th: Shivers moved down my spine

9:55AM Nov 7th: And then he began to kiss my neck

9:56AM Nov 7th: I know you’re thinking ‘why did she go’

9:57AM Nov 7th: And all I can say is my father told me so

9:57AM Nov 7th: So he kissed me sweet and laid me down on his bed

9:58AM Nov 7th: I started to shake he said ‘give me head’

9:58AM Nov 7th: I laughed at him and said ‘I’m a vegetarian’

9:59AM Nov 7th: Then I wondered why I had really come to him.

9:59AM Nov 7th: See I’ve been in this situation before

10:00AM Nov 7th: When a boy I loved said he would leave if I didn’t give it up

10:00AM Nov 7th: And I told my friends I had done it even though it wasn’t true

10:01AM Nov 7th: Because he was telling everybody the same things too

10:01AM Nov 7th: But here is the honest truth

10:01AM Nov 7th: I never did it till I was sixteen

10:02AM Nov 7th: I did not know the boy

10:02AM Nov 7th: And I never got to know him

10:02AM Nov 7th: He was older stronger and high at the time

10:03AM Nov 7th: He probably will never admit I was a crime

10:03AM Nov 7th: His breath smelt sour like smoke and his kisses became rough

10:04AM Nov 7th: Then I tried to sit up and say ‘I’ve had enough’

10:04AM Nov 7th: My attempt of getting free were feeble

10:05AM Nov 7th: I decided to scream ‘please stop’

10:05AM Nov 7th: but he just took a pillow to my face and put me in the dark

10:06AM Nov 7th: First to go were my shoes. I feel my feet go cold

10:06AM Nov 7th: Next my pants, he was so bold.

10:07AM Nov 7th: It hurt so much as he entered me

10:07AM Nov 7th: Guys I’m telling you my first time was taken from me

10:08AM Nov 7th: He noticed and said ‘are you a virgin?’

10:08AM Nov 7th: I nodded through tears as he kept barging in

10:09AM Nov 7th: He finished and was done with me

10:09AM Nov 7th: I lay on his bed lifeless

10:10AM Nov 7th: He let me stay there and sleep

10:10AM Nov 7th: Then he offered me some weed

10:10AM Nov 7th: I said ‘no thank you I don’t do that either’

10:11AM Nov 7th: He said ‘girl you’re no fun. See you later’

10:12AM Nov 7th: I started to get dressed and he came back in

10:12AM Nov 7th: He came close; i tried to get away from him

10:12AM Nov 7th: He told me ‘dont be scared’

10:13AM Nov 7th: and like an idiot I believed him

10:13AM Nov 7th: He asked if I liked it

10:14AM Nov 7th: I shrugged my shoulders

10:14AM Nov 7th: He leaned in for a kiss, and I let him

10:15AM Nov 7th: He laid me down and rubbed my back

10:15AM Nov 7th: I cried in his pillow. He cried back

10:15AM Nov 7th: He said he was sorry

10:16AM Nov 7th: I said ‘it’s okay’

10:16AM Nov 7th: we laid there together just bathing in our fears

10:17AM Nov 7th: I don’t know why. But I saw the human in him.

10:17AM Nov 7th: He was probably just as broken as me

10:18AM Nov 7th: He drove me to my park

10:18AM Nov 7th: I got on the swirly slide. I just laid there and cried

10:19AM Nov 7th: I finally walked home

10:19AM Nov 7th: My father opened the door

10:19AM Nov 7th: Asked me ‘how was it’

10:20AM Nov 7th: I said ‘i’ll never forget it…’

10:20AM Nov 7th: as he pressed for questions. I grew impatient

10:20AM Nov 7th: Said ‘dad in so tired can I just go to bed’

10:21AM Nov 7th: he dismissed me and I trudged up the stairs.

10:21AM Nov 7th: My legs hurt. And my heart was filled with despair

10:21AM Nov 7th: I went to the bathroom and locked the door

10:22AM Nov 7th: I took apart a razor I had just gotten from the store

10:22AM Nov 7th: I did what I had to do to forget.

10:23AM Nov 7th: It seems it’s been my only way since sixth grade

10:24AM Nov 7th: When the kids called me fat even though I was a double zero

10:24AM Nov 7th: And I began to watch my weight like it was a MTV show.

10:25AM Nov 7th: I cried as I remembered how I’d starve for days

10:25AM Nov 7th: And my parents never noticed

10:26AM Nov 7th: So I laid there and watched the blood gather on the floor

10:26AM Nov 7th: Then my weak hands reached for the door

10:27AM Nov 7th: I ran into my little sister she saw and shook her head.

10:27AM Nov 7th: Then she looked at me and said. ‘Just don’t let them see sissy.’

10:27AM Nov 7th: she kissed my head and walked away

10:28AM Nov 7th: I swear after that night I was never the same

10:28AM Nov 7th: My dad became to want ‘favors’ from me too

10:29AM Nov 7th: He would use it to bribe me if I wanted to hang out after school

10:30AM Nov 7th: I didn’t know that I should have told somebody what he was doing to me

10:30AM Nov 7th: Sex just became second nature to me

10:31AM Nov 7th: My father let me as long as he got details sometimes I’d even have to let him see

10:32AM Nov 7th: I was just a young girl. Who quickly became afraid of men.

10:32AM Nov 7th: Then years past and it never stopped.

10:32AM Nov 7th: Finally on day I began to pop

10:33AM Nov 7th: I sent a boy away

10:33AM Nov 7th: And told my father enough was enough

10:33AM Nov 7th: He cried and said ‘I’m just so weak’

10:34AM Nov 7th: I looked at him and saw the brokenness too

10:34AM Nov 7th: I took pity on him and became the fool

10:35AM Nov 7th: Things never changed they just got worse

10:35AM Nov 7th: Till one day I met a boy who in the end hurt my heart worst

10:36AM Nov 7th: We met in my typical situation

10:36AM Nov 7th: We were both undressed within a matter of seconds.

10:37AM Nov 7th: But I could tell he was different.

10:37AM Nov 7th: I pledged myself by not hooking up with complete strangers.

10:38AM Nov 7th: But for him I was eager

10:38AM Nov 7th: But there was something different about this guy

10:39AM Nov 7th: He returned the favor and actually said goodbye

10:40AM Nov 7th: On the bus ride home we sat next to each other. Talked for hours on end

10:40PM Nov 7th: We held each other’s hands and told each other our favorite bands

10:41PM Nov 7th: He looked me dead in the eyes and asked if I would please consider seeing him again

10:42PM Nov 7th: I went home filled with smiles and cheer

1:01PM Nov 7th: Annyways. The guy eventually asked me to be his girl

1:02PM Nov 7th: And things were great for a while

1:04PM Nov 7th: But my dad got in the way. And ruined everything. One day I just couldn’t do it. So I told my boyfriend my secret

1:06PM Nov 7th: What happened next was a blur. I told him not to tell. We tried to act normal. We had been dating for over a month when I took his virginity

1:07PM Nov 7th: I fell in love for the first time. But my secret was too much for him. He needed time to think. I thought I was going to lose him.

1:09PM Nov 7th: A lot happened. But all that matters is that my secret was about to become puplic. Him & my friends made me tell

1:10PM Nov 7th: All my efforts to keep a normal life were crumbling right before my eyes.

1:11PM Nov 7th: I remember telling my closest teacher and CPS and the police and dectectives. I remember having to tell them everything about my dad

1:35PM Nov 7th: It was my boyfriend who told my mom. And she came to get me.

1:37PM Nov 7th: Weeks passed then I got the call. They said. ‘Sorry but there isn’t enough evidence’ I hung up.

1:38PM Nov 7th: That’s when I changed. I didn’t care anymore. And the people I was meeting gave me no reason to.

1:39PM Nov 7th: The guys I’ve been with, ha none of them care. They just look at me like I’m just some other hoe.

1:40PM Nov 7th: To that I say. I guess I am. I don’t know how else to be. It’s not my fault. Somebody else chose that for me.

1:47PM Nov 7th: Well that’s. The story of how I came to be who I am. Well the condensed version. I’d love to hear what you have to say. But I won’t be around

2:08PM Nov 7th: Take two. Hope I get this right

 

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Unchained Memory: Letting Go of My “Survivor” Identity

My therapist suggested something really interesting today that got me thinking hard, and I had to share it with you.

I’ve been feeling stuck for a long time now. Today I had a breakthrough because of my therapist’s suggestion, and this was it: Perhaps I need to stop identifying myself so much as a victim, as a survivor. Perhaps doing that keeps me chained to my past in a way that is stopping me from moving forward in my life, weighing me down, keeping me stuck. I like the way that telling my story helps other people tell theirs; however, at a certain point, does telling my story keep me in the story? Does talking about it constantly keep it alive in a way that it doesn’t deserve to be? I have honored my past. I have looked at it, worked with it, worked through it, talked openly about it, shared it with the world. I have analyzed it to understand how it affected me as a child and how it affects me now. I have written poetry about it and written it as a narrative. I have acted it out in psychodrama, made collages and paintings in art therapy, built sculptures in sand trays, and voiced parts in family systems. It has moved through my body in dance therapy, and moved through my thoughts in meditation. I’m not sure there’s anything left do with my past.

Except, perhaps, to leave it behind.

That is the one thing I have not done. I have not allowed myself to put my past in the past. I have kept it in the present by writing about it, publicizing it, using it to help others. And I’m proud of that. But keeping my past in the present like this seems to be detrimental to my future. I can’t wear the survivor badge forever. Not if I want to move on to other ways of being, move on to play other roles on my life. For instance, I want to be a nurse. I want to be a wife someday. I want to be a mother. I want to continue to be a writer, but about different things. I want to be a good daughter. I want to volunteer. There are a lot of roles I want to play in my future, and it will be hard to do while carrying that weight of my old victimhood. I just don’t need it anymore. I can be other things. I am so much more than my trauma. I am so much more than a rape victim, an abuse victim, a victim of any kind. I am so much more than a survivor. I can use those skills that I learned in my past as a survivor without dragging up the past with it. I can be a fighter, a fast learner, an intuitive person, thick-skinned, all those assets, without bringing up their origin. I can just appreciate their existence.

I am saying I can do all these things, but even as I write this, I am doubting it. Changing my perspective, letting go of my past will not be easy, might take some work. But I think I am ready to do it. I wanted to tell you all this, because it means there will be some changes to Writing for Recovery. I probably will not be speaking about my own past experiences anymore if I am going to really attempt this. I hope you all understand. I think I have written plenty about my history; enough for a lifetime.

What comes up for you when you think about letting go of that victim/survivor role? How would that change your life? I’d love to know what you think.

Thank you for supporting me in this. I hope you all continue to write and tell your stories as much as you need to, until you are ready to let go like I am. All my love, Sarah


National Recovery Month Stories: S.

Hello everyone, welcome back to the Recovery Month Story Project. This week’s story is brief, but extremely powerful. It was written by a woman I think of as part of my family, a woman who treats me like a daughter, a person I love dearly. What her family went through with her son’s long addiction to drugs was painful to watch, and I probably made it more painful at times by being another person they loved who was a sick addict, even though I wanted to be there as a comforting friend. For that, I can only apologize, and try to be better now. I can also tell a little bit of their story, in hopes that it might help another family.

 

We went to my aunt’s 90th birthday party last month, a jolly occasion with lots of laughter and excellent speeches. Then we noticed a cousin who has cocaine induced schizophrenia. He is now in his late 30’s and I hadn’t seen him since he was a bright, fun loving, enthusiastic and interesting teenager. The contrast between that full of promise for a rosy future lad and the zombie with necessarily over medicated shaking hands and spittle escaping from the corner of his mouth is truly terrifying, and for the very first time since our son died aged 22 from a heroin overdose I felt that yes, there are worse outcomes than death. I felt grateful that our son has been spared the twilight life that young man has to endure.

– S.

 

 

 


National Recovery Month Stories: Nikki

Welcome, everyone, to Writing for Recovery’s National Recovery Month Story Project! I’m honored to be able to bring you these narratives, written by the people who experienced them. I’m grateful for their vulnerability in sharing these pieces of their lives, in hopes that others may take away something that helpful.

This first story is by a dear friend of mine. It is beautifully, if painfully, written. She has been through more pain than anyone should ever have to endure; and yet, despite that, she has a firm conviction about her recovery. An amazing story, a great way to start. Thank you, Nikki.  -Sarah

 

Imagine a girl.

Imagine a girl who was broken. A girl who was abused, neglected, and abandoned throughout her life. A girl who couldn’t trust her father. A girl whose mother picked drugs over her. A girl who was bounced between family members for the first 10 years of her life, only to be permanently placed with the most abusive one of them all.
A girl who stopped eating. Started purging. Cutting. Eventually moved onto pills. A girl who hated herself and felt unsafe in her world. A girl whose mother died when she was 21. A girl who discovered her biological father, her last hope for a parent, had died when she was 14. She never knew him.
A girl who went in and out of so many treatment places that she has even lost count. A girl who lied and manipulated others. A girl who hurt and was hurt. A girl who almost died, should have died many times.
2 serious suicide attempts. 2 surgical feeding tubes. Crushing pills to dull the pain. Purging. Thousands of dollars spent. Dozens of therapists seen. Blame, hurt, sadness, anger, despair; often misplaced.
Imagine a girl who hated herself.
Then decided, one day, she was tired of hating herself. Tired of lying. Of pain. Of hurting. Of hating being alive.

Imagine a girl who clawed her way out of the mess she had created. She fell a few times, but managed to find her way out. She made amends with family, forged new friendships, and decided to begin living again.
One day, that girl met the man who became the love of her life. He understood her, loved her for who she is, not who she was, and knew everything about her. He didn’t care about the past, he fell in love with this girl.
Many months later, this girl got pregnant. After all of the abuse she had shown her body, she was told it would never happen. She had abandoned the hope of a family, of children of her own. She was overjoyed. Grateful. Blessed.
15 weeks later she was grieving, broken, devastated.
“I’m sorry, your son has no heartbeat anymore.”
Words that came to define her life.
She cried, screamed, got angry, sad, spent nights in despair.
But she did not fall. She did not relapse.
3 months later, she got the surprise of her life when she discovered she was pregnant again. Joy combined with terror and fear.
Please don’t let it happen again.
At 8 weeks:
“I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat.”
And there she was again, sitting in a funeral home signing a fetal death certificate. For her second baby. Devastated.
But again, she is not falling. She has not relapsed. She knows her recovery is real. She knows that no behavior will bring her babies back. Starving, cutting, purging, running, pills; nothing is distraction enough to take away the pain of losing her children. Her hopes, dreams, visions of the future. Gone, in the blink of an eye.
14 days after the news, she is still angry, sad, broken, defeated, devastated, and in agony. She cries daily, nightly for her babies. She needs them. Wants them.
This girl’s recovery has been tested, and still stands strong.

We are stronger than we give ourselves credit for, stronger than we ever thought we could be.
This girl is me. And I am proud to say, that despite losing my baby Aiden, and my second baby (who we take to be a boy) Connor, I am still solidly in recovery. I waiver in many things, but never that fact.
I know pain, the worst kinds of pain. And I know that behaviors, of any type, only multiply pain.

Thank you for allowing me to share my story.

Nikki Albrecht

 

 


Poem: “Tyler”

This poem is a dedication and a remembrance. I wrote it in pieces. The first pieces came just weeks after my cousin Tyler was tragically and suddenly killed in a train accident; after a few lines, however, I couldn’t go on with it. Seven years later, I picked it up again and finished it as a way to honor Tyler. It’s the only way I know how, really. July 2oth, 2011 would have been his 31st birthday; I’m so sorry that he isn’t here to celebrate it. This is the least I can do for him, though a tribute like this probably would have embarrassed the hell out of him. I don’t care, Ty. I love you; get over it. 🙂

Thank you to everyone who reads this. Peace, Sarah

 

 

Tyler

 

On a midsummer day a blank canvas was born

No one would have ever expected to mourn

 

This brilliant young light that came into our lives

After all that it took for you to survive

 

A difficult birth, the odd way you arrived

From the start you were different and struggled to thrive

 

In a world that just didn’t seem to understand

The vision you saw, the work of your hand

 

Like all the great artists you grappled to find

The right path to follow in your heart and mind

 

You were intense and solemn, wise beyond your years

Yet funny and clever, good-hearted and dear

 

A sensitive soul with your heart on your sleeve

While conducive to art, a burden to grieve

 

For this opens one up to feel deeper inside

To know levels of pain one cannot abide

 

Yet to also feel joy and love so profound

That, awestruck with grace, one cannot expound

 

What you brought to this world cannot be replaced

Your spiky black hair, your sweet smiling face

 

Your presence was quiet, soft-spoken you were

But behind that calm surface your passion was pure

 

The way you let everyone into your heart

Was through your beautiful music and art

 

Your gifts were incredible, you broke the mold

Though at times you didn’t do what you were told

 

It’s heartbreaking to know that the world’s now deprived

Of what you’d have created if you had survived

 

But my cousin, my friend, in this world you were loved

I believe you are now looking on from above

 

You see we remember and you are at peace

Knowing our love for you will never cease

 

 

Sarah Ann Henderson 2011

 


Poem: “Land of the Lost”

Hello everyone. This poem is sort of an addendum to the journal piece I wrote last week on grief and loss. I appreciate you all supporting me on my journey through this; it means a lot to me. Thank you. Peace, Sarah

 

7/22/11

 

Land of the Lost

 

How do you say good-bye

How do you ever let go

 

When vital young people have died

Is possible to do so?

 

23, 22, 20

Unnatural ages for death

 

Out of the cosmic order

To think of it takes my breath

 

The unfairness of certain losses

The wishes and trades I’d make

 

It leaves me feeling angry, quixotic

The universe made a mistake

 

Horrible people should die in crashes

And loving people should live

 

This feeling that something went cosmically wrong

Is terribly hard to forgive

 

I don’t think I’ll ever make sense of these losses

I don’t think I can understand

 

The reasons behind why these people were taken

Why this was part of the plan

 

So the only thing left to do

The only way to move on

 

Is to try to accept that it is what it is

And look forward to each new dawn

 

That doesn’t mean forgetting the lost

In my heart their memories survive

 

And I believe that as long as they’re remembered with love

Their spirits are always alive

 

© Sarah Ann Henderson 2011

 


Good Grief: Where I Am On the Path After Loss

I was hoping it wouldn’t hit me this hard.

I didn’t want to be affected so much. I didn’t want to end up feeling like this, not like this, not for this long. I feel sad; that’s to be expected. I feel empty and depressed. I’m restless, hurting. At times very angry, spoiling for a fight with anyone who dares cross me. At other times severely apathetic, almost to the point of recklessness; a sense of fuck-it-all-who-cares.

I’ve been ignoring things I need to do to care for myself, and that’s not good. I gave up a job opportunity where I could have made really good money, but I backed out of it suddenly because I just didn’t think I had the physical energy to keep up with it. (Granted, 55 hours a week chasing after two toddlers is a hard job.) I’m scared of how exhausted and just…off I feel. It sucks majorly.

The thing is, this is not just about the one death of my godfather this past week. This feels like it’s about more than that. I think it’s the cumulative effect of so much death that happened in my life this month…the impact of it all together is crushing.

This month, July, also happens to be the month that my cousin Tyler was killed in a freak accident, hit by a train, just three weeks shy of his twenty-fourth birthday. It’s also the month that a girl I knew from treatment died suddenly of cardiac arrest due to complications of her eating disorder. Later in the month, July 20th, is of course, Tyler’s birthday. A few days later comes the memory of the day that my best friend’s brother died of a heroin overdose. He was only twenty-two. Now to all of that I get to add the day that my godfather, my Uncle Lyle, died in a private plane crash.

It’s enough that I just want to scream.

How can the universe do that? How can it cram so much death and tragedy into four little weeks? How can it bear to break so many hearts at once, shatter so many families, cause so much grief? It seems out of order somehow, and I want to argue with the universe: How dare you! What the hell are you thinking? If you have to do this at least spread it out a little so we can manage?! And all the universe seems to say in reply is: Live with it.

Of course, part of me says that I have no right to be bitching. It was not my son who died. Not my daughter. Not my husband. I did not lose a sibling or a parent, surely a much more devastating loss than a cousin or a friend or an uncle.  Who am I to be complaining about how hard it is to live with grief, when I can’t even comprehend the kind of grief that those families must be feeling? I know there is truth in that.

However, another part of me- the rational part- understands that I have a right to grieve those losses too. Grief and loss are relative things, like trauma; in fact, they are a special form of trauma in themselves.  Different people experience loss in different ways and move through it in different times. Also like trauma, people have different levels of tolerance for such events, different capacities for coping. For someone like me, who’s experienced a lot of grief and excessive amounts of trauma as well, even losses that may seem more peripheral in nature may affect a person as if they were much closer.

On the other hand, the closeness of relationships can’t be judged by their title. Some siblings never speak, some parents are estranged, some cousins are like siblings, some friends are closer than family.  For instance, if my father had been the one killed last week, my life would be no different in any way. The last time we spoke on the phone was the day he died for me, so his physical death is all but irrelevant.  I worked through all I needed to work through, grieved what I had to, and let go. So when he physically dies it really isn’t going to matter; I’ve been through that process already.

Which is what made me think, as I was standing there at my godfather’s funeral, that I wish it had been my father who was killed. That sounds horrible doesn’t it? Only if you didn’t know those two men. On the one hand, my godfather: a brilliant, generous, adventurous man- a surgeon, a pilot, and a veteran-who was bigger than life to me. He was the Gentle Giant; at over six feet tall, when he picked me up as a little girl and carried me around on his shoulders I felt like I could see the whole world. Having three sons with my Aunt Pat, he was thrilled to have a little girl to fuss over, even building me a gigantic dollhouse from scratch for my sixth birthday. He was protective and kind and nothing but sweet to me; he didn’t understand and was possibly a little hurt by the fact that I sometimes feared him and couldn’t explain why. “Why” had to do with the other man, the one whom I assumed had loved me but couldn’t possibly because a father that loves his daughter does not abuse her. He does not rape, molest, hit, and threaten her. He does not ignore her existence the other twenty-three hours of the day. He doesn’t treat her mother like shit. And he doesn’t tell her that she is worthless. That’s the man my father was…is. So why does he get to live while this other man, the one who truly did love his family, he died? It doesn’t seem right.

I should probably feel bad about wishing my father dead in place of my godfather but I don’t. I feel like the world should be a fair place, like loving and kind people should get to live and horrible human beings who abuse their wives and children should die in plane crashes.  I try to tell myself that God will even things out someday, that there will be justice even if I never know about it, even if it occurs beyond this life. And that has to be enough.

But it doesn’t stop me from wishing that I could have my Uncle Lyle back.

I will always miss him. He gave me an example of the kind of father that I should have had, the kind of father I deserved. He gave me a some of the love that I desperately needed from a father figure, and I dearly wish that I had been more able to receive it. This month will always be hard for me, remembering all the losses, the lives of people I knew, loved, and respected that were cut short. But I think the only way to get through it is a concept a friend recently mentioned to me called radical acceptance.  Understanding that while these people have passed from this life, they still live in the hearts and minds of the people who loved them. And as long as I can remember my cousin teasing me and laugh, remember my godfather picking me up and smile, they are never truly gone.

© Sarah Ann Henderson 2011