Sometimes we’d rather believe the worst possible lie than face the truth.
The thing about the world is, you can’t change it. No matter how much you want to. It doesn’t matter how much you wish it were different — or easier — or less frightening and ugly. You just can’t change it. It’s like an out of control freight train on a track that heads straight to hell.
To love, to live, to forget, to pretend, to dream, and to die — human beings have so damned much capacity, even in a world that we can’t do anything about.
Sometimes I wonder if we actually have the capacity to draw the line between what is real and what never was — to distinguish between real life and fantasy or even dreams as we hold on for dear life, speeding through space, darkness, and time.
- Do we ever really know what reality we’re living, or what even constitutes reality?
- What is it about the truth that makes us lie so desperately to ourselves?
- What keeps us yearning and trying so hard to reach for something more than the actuality we face?
- Why do we constantly strive to get to a place — any place — that’s different than the one we’re currently in?
I have a lot of questions like these, and by rights, I should have. I can’t think of too many people who should ask them more than I should. Because I’m dead. Lifeless.
All this time — all this time! I believed that I existed! That I woke up unprovoked one morning and found your cold and stiff body. As horrifying as that was, I could make some sick and twisted sense from it.
The very idea that you had left me had my mind reeling in shock — oh, but hadn’t you prepped me for this very moment by asking me in advance to forgive you? “Will you forgive me, Mother?” you said. “Will you ever forgive me?” And in my innocence, I answered you with a mother’s true love and said, “You’re my child, I’ll forgive you anything!”
I, in my small mindedness, had the audacity (or you could even say, the CAPACITY) to believe that was true! That I would forgive you anything! I wasn’t thinking about what you said earlier in the week, that you’d often thought about sneaking into my room at night to kill me. I knew you were just talking — of course you were! You’d never do such a thing. But you did, didn’t you, Son?
Never would I have believed that you would follow through on your casually spoken words! No one could’ve ever made me believe you would be a threat to me! I brought you into this world — I did! As your mother, I loved you so much more than anyone else (past or present) that you might purposely or accidentally encounter. I’m your Mama — you didn’t mean it! You couldn’t have, because that would mean that you were someone that I didn’t know — had never known — and that just isn’t possible. You’re my baby. I love you more than my own life.
I wish that clarity could have come in some other less unforgiving way, that on the day I was destined to find the truth there would be a laughing acceptance and the flippant toss of the head and “I knew it all along,” spilling out of my mouth.
Oh, if only I wasn’t standing here invisible, looking at you, and what you’ve become in this world and screaming, “NO, NO, NO, NO!!” This is my BABY!! It can’t be the way it is and yet — my mind knows now, and I don’t have the ability to make it any other way. You’ve done what you threatened to do — in fact — you reached that goal long ago. I thought I found you dead, instead they found me.
How can the dead refuse to be dead and even insist that there is life and recovery and all the things that most human beings strive for after a loss so complete? How did I get to this place where I thought that the worst that could happen had already done so? Capacity. I lost the capacity to snatch the truth out of the swirling particles of reality and fear in front of me. When you’re dead, you can’t know the truth.
Proof of Life
What about those babies that I love so well? They scream my name and run into my arms when they see me! They grab my leg when I try to walk and say, “I don’t ever want to let you go!”
None of this seems odd to me. I’ve been there! I have! I have lived! You didn’t kill me! You couldn’t have! You’re my Son! I cried for you, for years on end — how can the dead just not stay dead and slip into the infinity that we claimed would be consumed with our love for each other?
Even more — how can I not now find that my greatest wish has come true — that YOU are alive?? Because if I’m the one who died — then YOU LIVE!! You live! My baby lives! I know this must be true in the same moment that I realize that I’m not alive, and do not live, and indeed, haven’t for many years.
Can the dead be crazy like the living? Does the mind just continue to fabricate an existence to protect us from the things we can’t face? But — maybe I’m wrong! I must’ve found some OTHER way to die — some accident that no one saw coming and never thought to warn me about — That has to be true. I could NOT have died BY YOUR HAND! Not the hand of my Son — the hand that was once so tiny and fragile and the only thing of you that I could hold when you first made your entrance into this world.
The truth is such an elusive (and in some cases, abusive) creature. We can tell ourselves anything — we all have the capacity to believe our own lies and act on them. Somehow though, if our foundation is steady, we make our way back to the truth eventually. Whether we like it or not.
I did, indeed, die by your hand. I died a million times inside, remembering what you said, and knowing you could never take it back. I died when I found you asleep forever, lying as if you might get up any minute and argue with me about who was going to cook supper or wash dishes.
I died as they tore your body away from your Mama’s hands and loaded you up to take you away from me forever. I died with the flood of memories which took me back to every single thing that I had ever done to hurt your heart — each time I yelled at you — when I snatched your cap off your head because it annoyed me — when I gave it back to you because it annoyed someone else.
You Killed Me
I died when I realized that I could never make it right. I died when I remembered telling you that I would forgive you anything and realizing that it wasn’t true. I died a million times and in a million ways and it was by your hand — because it was your hand that held the pills. Your hand that lifted them to your mouth to swallow them. YOU killed ME in that moment, more effectively than if you had actually snuck in my room and cut my throat.
I have so many memories of you, my son. So that one statement that you made to me in that one moment shouldn’t weigh so heavily on my heart — and if you were here now, laughing with me over something silly that you said almost 13 years ago — it wouldn’t be significant at all.
Instead, you aren’t here, and I’m alone in my room, my pen moving across this page so fast that I can barely read the words while my mind tries to make up ANY scenario that keeps you breathing on this earth — EVEN IF IT MEANS I’M NOT.
The Capacity to Love
Because Mikey — I love you. Whether you’re dead or I’m dead, that doesn’t change. I love you even if you killed me by killing yourself. Even though it wasn’t an intentional act on your part, it forever changed things. Still, it didn’t even remotely touch the fact that I LOVE YOU. I loved you then, I love you now, and I will love you forever. God gave us the capacity to do ONE thing eternally — to LOVE.
He also gave us the capacity to forgive, and I forgive you — on most days. I forgive you for killing us both that day, and for not killing us both that day. Regardless, I know that God has resurrected us both, but not in the same way. You are in your place that God had ready for you, but I am here in this one — struggling to overcome and live a life of purpose. You left this world, Son, but not in vain. Because God always has a plan. He alone has the capacity to turn destruction into beauty.
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound–that saved a wretch like me…
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail, And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil, A life of joy and peace.” John Newton
“Capacity” by Allison Divine Bridges was originally published July 3, 2019 here.
I’m an artist and a writer. I believe in God, family, hard work, and community. I try to use my gifts to reach out, encourage, and motivate, and to let other people like me know that they aren’t alone in this broken world. Thank you for taking the time to read my story.