Time keeps on ticking. Twenty years ago today my family lost David. I usually mark this day by reflecting on all the living he packed into his life of 45 years. This year I’ve decided to focus on forgiveness. The trauma of David’s death has been hard to wrestle with. David died of a fatal heart attack at our sons’ school while playing basketball with Andy and other boys at St. Christopher’s School. It is always our hope to honor David’s life rather than his death.
There are rarely days without thoughts of David. His untimely death catches me off guard sometimes. It happened yesterday when I heard my neighbor’s son dribbling the basketball in his driveway. I was walking down the street. I glanced up to see this young man quickly shift his weight in front of the goal. I knew he was going for a lay-up. Of course, he made the shot. I said, “Great shot!” He smiled at me and turned back to his pounding of the ball with every dribble. I picked up my pace to avoid the impending grief settling in around me. I was determined to remain positive.
I looked for nature to help throw off the blues. I spotted a patch of clover growing alongside the road. One of my hidden talents is finding 4 leaf clovers. They symbolize hope for me. Just as I was lifting my hand to touch the top of what was likely a 4 leaf clover, I screamed so loud I startled myself. A long black racer snake was just inches from my fingers. To say I’m afraid of snakes is an understatement. I quickly realized it was not moving. It had likely been run over. I bolted past another basketball goal at the edge of the street.
When I returned to writing this reflection, I found myself thinking of how hard grief is to express. There is no way around it. We must go through it to come out on the other side of it. The hard truths of David’s life and the impact on our grief is messy. I’ve had to forgive David for leaving us much too early in life. I’ve fussed at him in my head and out loud for taking his health for granted. He used to say, “smoking only affects me.” That’s simply not true. He enjoyed being the life of the party, but the impact of binge drinking aged his body too quickly. The hardship of the legacy of trauma that David endured as the only adopted son of a raging alcoholic father affected all of us. His way of coping with his past cast a shadow over ours. During all the years of our grieving his loss, it is finally time to say we forgive you David. As John Prine sang in the song, Fish and Whistle, “Father forgive us for what we must do, You forgive us, We’ll forgive you, We’ll forgive each other, Till we both turn blue, then we’ll whistle and go fishing in heaven.”