I received an email from someone I have known for many years. The message was very brief: apart from some supposedly funny jokes, this former friend seemed to imply I no longer cared about our friendship.
I decided I would reply. “Nothing further from the truth”, I said. “It seems a difficult task for lots of people to accept that the Jorge they once knew died on Lalomanu Beach on 29 September 2009. He’s not coming back. […] The dead never come back to give us peace, to reassure us that everything is alright Because in fact, it is not.” I attached a copy of a sonnet I recently wrote, one that has not been published yet. It’s not every day that you send poetry to people you know, is it? It might be seen as something special...
A longer reply came back a few days later, the first truly meaningful message in three and a half years. Well-meaning, of course. It reminded me (as if I did not have all of this before losing my daughter) that I “still have a wonderful wife and two sons”, that I am “in good health” (how do they know? Have they spoken to my GP?) “a job” (Wrong! Not true! I quit my job more than a year ago, and I work from home now…) “a healthy household economy” (again, how have people gained access to my finances? I must speak to the bank manager about this soon…) and also that I have “intelligence”. The icing on the cake is that “that is a lot in a world where, you know only too well, there are plenty of people who lose their loved ones, and on top of that, they have nothing at all”.
Perhaps the person they once knew they no longer know. Or perhaps, they can't be bothered to make the effort (yes, I acknowledge it takes some effort) to reconnect with the new me I am. Perhaps this me I am in 2013 is altogether too painful, too raw. It takes guts to reach out. It takes guts to pick up the phone and hear my voice, the voice of a broken father, the voice of a sad man nearing his 50th birthday and who still cries every morning because his only daughter was killed by a tsunami during a family holiday, and although he saved one of his sons, he was unable to save her and could not find her body despite searching for her for hours.
I guess I should seek forgiveness from them. For my shortcomings, for my inadequacies, for being unable to realise “how lucky” I should feel. Perhaps I should seek forgiveness for having bared my soul to them by means of a book, a book that I wrote, published and mailed to so many at my own expense.
I mean, how or why did I dare reveal my trauma and my grief? Stepping across the comfort zone? Heavens forbid! Surely I should have kept all of that to myself, so as not to disturb sensitivities…
― William H. Woodwell Jr.