What do you say to someone when they no longer hear you? What if their mind is made up before you know they are gone? How do you reconcile loss when you failed to save them? Why didn’t you see that bad was worse, that only you could have said stop? How do you console the dead for their dying?

How does one hush the heart?

Demons reside in the pools of the forgotten past — lurking. Flare, they might, from time to time. Floating midst the wake of memories basking, begging their chance to rise and taunt. You are as guilty as you let yourself be if you let the past overtake you. If you give in to the memories, they devour you, they take the bad and feed on your good. They consume the waking hours with your potential destruction until you deliver unto them what they believe is theirs.

Persistence to ignorance of their existence is the only salvation to distance yourself from their fateful folly. As much as your world’s bleakness beckons, refuse its call and forgive yourself.

We had known each other since high school; both served in the military, both had bad marriages, and were swept together in a downward spiral. We thought we could heal each other — till one of us gave up.

We had both been victimized as kids, had ugly in common with the beautiful that our acquaintance became. We were young, ambitious, and determined, but could not see our likeness. We saw competition and conflict, parting for separate ways back then.

A few years passed when we happened a brief encounter. We had lived full lives five years in the interim, marks of experience had already overtaken us and we could see no clear paths to resolve our infected souls as we plummeted into young adulthood.

Forward the years raced, careers consuming, children raised, spouses accompanied not so willingly to each their own race. Trials of marriage were many; children would eventually escape, leaving damaged parents gnawing each other, too few and forgotten, a loving embrace. Love is many things, love for children, blind and easy, but for those responsible as father and mother, many a wound and a scar remained.

We met again on the plains of our hometown when time brought middle age and marriage had ground us down. Weak and wanton, we were receptive and ready for each other, willing to forgive each other their combined sins from living, though forces outside of us saw things differently. Love was no longer easy, but complicated, jealous, vindictive, and blinding.

Neither of us knew failure was natural, normal, could not learn to forget its bitter taste. Guilt of her past consumed her, she could not live with nor forgive herself.

She told me to write the story.

Her suicide haunted me until I could comply with the pain of remembering the words on paper as I promised her, and, hence, learn of myself.

Guilt is the major cause of death in the world. Learn to live with and love yourself. The only way to live one’s life is you have to learn to forgive yourself.

Karen Leona (Dwyer) Tew, Lieutenant Colonel, United States Air Force, was born November 12, 1955. She killed herself on March 16, 1997, on an otherwise quiet Sunday morning, while her parents were at church.

armor of glass

I told her twenty-four years too late that I loved her. I know she forgives me.

Armor of Glass is the story of how we failed to love each other enough.

Originally published at RMA Spears.

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