I get daily blogging prompts from the WordPress people to help with writer’s block, I suppose. They are usually interesting and even when I don’t have time to write something, I often turn the prompt over in my head a few times. The one on Monday or Tuesday said this: You have the choice to erase one incident from your past, as though it never happened. What would you erase and why?
I sat frozen because the consideration was too big. I looked up the word “erase” and the definition is “to rub or scrape out; to obliterate; to eliminate entirely.” Erase. I had to move quickly, get dressed, make my to-go cup of tea, and hurry out the door. I wasn’t late. I just couldn’t sit with that thought for very long.
If I could erase something, it would be my son Jack’s death. And the thought of being able to do that was uncomfortable. Not that it isn’t part of every mother who has lost a child’s dream to do. To wake up and find out this was all a nightmare. I can change the ending of my nightmares. I usually startle awake and sit terrified for a few minutes, then re-write the scenario, find a gun in my pocket and shoot the attacker in the foot. Always in the foot so I can run away. Then, I can go back to sleep.
But the death of a child is different. Clawing myself awake in those early months after he died, there was no re-write. No escape at all. Just the reality which has taken me 4 years, 1 month, 3 weeks and 6 days to accept. Not to like. To accept.
My mind lurched back to an interview I heard on Fresh Air. Terry Gross had a resuscitation researcher on her radio show, a man named Sam Parnia who wrote a book called Erasing Death. He said, ““Contrary to popular belief, death is not a moment in time, such as when the heart stops beating, respiration ceases, or the brain stops functioning. Death, rather, is a process—a process that can be interrupted well after it has begun.”
What if I had waken earlier? Could I have saved Jack then? What if I had been able to interrupt his death, keep him alive? Wistful thinking is dangerous for an alkie like me, but I couldn’t seem to shake those thoughts. And now, here was a topic inviting me to think about that premise.
Hemingway said that any writer worth his salt could write a story in 6 words. He bet his friends and wrote these words: Baby shoes for sale. Never worn. He said it was his best work and his colleagues paid off their bets. Since I read that, I for whom brevity has never been an attribute have been summing up meetings and situations in 6 words. Just 6. There they were. The 6 words I’d give anything to erase: Woke too late to save him.
I can’t erase anything that’s happened in my life, however attractive the thought is to do so. I am the sum of all that’s happened these past 60 years. One of the promises of AA is that I will not regret the past. I can’t erase it either. It’s one of my strengths. A few weeks ago, I went to a women’s AA meeting and, through sharing, I found that there were at least 3 of us who had lost sons while we were sober and who had remained sober. Their shares helped me as I believe my shares can help others like me who have lost children and want to stay clean and sober. Six words to describe that? Hope replaced despair. Grace restores me.