In just 5 days my life has changed completely.
We all know Thunderbolts from the blue do happen. Six years ago I had a 15 year old son – in a matter of seconds he was gone. Our lives changed forever. That is the worst time of my life.
I’d lost my Dad, then later, my Mum well before and both had devastated me but nothing like that. These last few days have come close though.
A week ago all was rosy in the garden, at least in regard to this. So, what happened to cause such pain and upset?
Well, at 25 yeas old, my surviving son Lewis has decided to move out of our home and into his girlfriends. I’ve not shed as many tears since Connor and my reaction to the news has almost ripped what’s left of my family apart.
“What?” I can hear you say “Are you serious? What the hell is wrong with you? You’re creating a situation and risking pushing your son away over something that is the most natural and beautiful thing in the world? A young man falling in love and setting out on his own journey. Your work is done! You have succeeded in the most privileged job you will ever have”.
A good and fair response. And the thing is, I know that. I know I’m not just overreacting, but being completely and utterly ridiculous. But the life I have lived, and the events that are part of it have shaped what I am now, just as yours have shaped you, and I while I’m not at all pleased with how I’ve turned out I do know a couple of things.
1: I am what I am and not what I wish I was. I can’t change the past so changing how it has effected me is not really possible, I can only hope the future changes me for the better. Your life is an ongoing process and as it evolves so too do you bend and mold to it’s presence like a tree does to the wind.
2: For all my negative aspects – immaturity, selfishness, irritability, the list goes on – I do have one redeeming quality and that is love. Whatever you define love as, and I’m not talking about the romantic kind of love, for me it is the thing, the power, the essence , the force that underlies life itself. Its the feeling, deep within your stomach that pervades your entire body when someone you are connected to by this force with is upset, or overjoyed or in danger or late home – it’s the reason you text them even though you shouldn’t. It’s the same feeling you have as you remember a lost love one that makes you both laugh fondly and weep uncontrollably. It’s the force that would move you to give your very life to save that of a loved one or to be with a past loved one. Its the power that not only connects you but makes you part of those you love – losing someone is actually losing part of you. It is eternal and crosses life and death, past and future. On a lesser scale it makes you care about things you believe to be right and good. It makes you spontaneously donate to some charity, or try to make someone smile – make someone’s day better. It’s the force that makes me shed tears at the thought of seeing less of my son yet also weep with joy knowing that he will be loved when I’m gone.
It’s the force that is churning my insides and torturing me at the though that my behavior in the last few day has upset the two people most close to me, who mean everything to me. It’s the force that also make me ashamed of myself.
Yes, I am filled with love. Unlimited, unconditional love in my heart. It’s just not backed up with much wisdom in my brain.
It really struck home today when a text from my son arrived.
To date, if I were having a life review, a resume of my achievements I’d would put only two things in the plus column. One would be Connor, the son who lives in heaven, and the other would be Lewis. On reflection maybe I wouldn’t even take credit for them, they are the two most extraordinary, pure, caring, selfless, thoughtful, patient, loving, devoted sons this world has ever produced and maybe that’s despite me rather than because of me. At this point I should mention the other person most close to me, my beautiful wife Anna. She does have to take a huge amount of credit for how my sons turned out, she has a lot of those same qualities, and this weekend I’ve put her in turmoil too. Of course, the people who take most of the credit are Lewis and Connor themselves, each one so much more that the sum of their parts.
I’ve always felt hard done to by life, and of course, by comparison to some my life has been a dream, but I’ve been advised that comparisons are irrelevant, no-one has the same life as you so there is no like-for-like to compare against.
What I do know is that Lewis has had a far harder time in his 25 years than I’ve had in my 57. Born early, in an emergency operation he barely survived. Looking through my teary eyes into his, in his incubator, all I saw was infinity and wisdom and serenity on a scale I couldn’t understand. I’m sure I was looking into eternity. I could almost sense him looking at me and telling me to calm down man, everything will be okay. I’ll never forget that.
Since then he has struggled. First with nutrition which made him undersized and an easy target for school bullies right from his first days, not helped by problems which saw him missing his front teeth until he was well into his teens. He’s undergone three hernia operations, two dental ones and the biggest, most devastaining of all, the loss of his younger brother and closest pal. He’s always picked himself up and smiled his way back, where people like me would give in and bemoan my luck.
It’s natural for a young boy to hero worship his dad – I did mine, but for me it’s the other way around, I hero worship him. I’ve told him this in the past and hope he knows this now. One day his children will idolise him the same way I do because, in the same way that I am privileged to have been in this company for the past years, they too will know that honour.
What has hurt me is the suddenness and imminence of his move, and only that. I just wish I had more time to do the things I haven’t done together with him – to make sure he knows how much I love him – he’s not just my son, but my hero and my best pal. I have no right, nor no desire to tie Lewis here. Wherever myself and my Anna are will always be his home, and he will always be part of that. wherever he goes he will take my love and blessing with him.
I have never seen him happier than in the last few weeks, and my heart has swelled with pride and joy.
And then the text message, telling me how mush I was hurting him!
The force I mentioned earlier – at knowing someone I’m connected with is in turmoil is now churning me inside and I feel as worthless and small as possible.
God bless you Lewis, and save you from me in times like this. I will love you forever so please know that your happiness and your company that for the last 25 years hopefully will share in the future are the greatest and most treasured gifts that I have been given.
Start your new journey with an open heart and mind and know when you look behind you, even when you can’t se us, we are there.