As I flew back from the mainland to Guam (with a little hop in Tokyo), I wrote this little missive to my father regarding our experiences in Boston, which I later penned on a card and mailed to him (as we all can agree that the handwritten word can at times show more of the hearfelt sincerity than a typed email)
April 25, 2013
As I write this, I am starting to truly process the experience I had with the bombs. The events were an encounter with an unspeakable, inexplicable horror that no one should have to be exposed to.
That being said, I do cringe at the extensive use of the word “evil”. I see the actions caused by a loss of hope, which is perhaps the most dolorous condition in which a human being can find their soul mired.
I do not wish to imply that the brothers responsible for these heinous, incomprehensible crimes deserve sympathy or forgiveness. That is a choice for each of us to make individually, after much introspection.
I state the above because, for me, the most sorrowful aspect (of course in addition to the loss of life and innocence for many) of the bombings and their aftermath is the resultant loss of hope. That these brothers attempted and in some cases have thus far been successful in dragging others away from the natural state of grace, while it does not anger me, deeply saddens me.
When you spoke of your feelings (which I am extremely glad you felt it necessary both to share them and to simply accept and acknowledge them, because they are your feelings and thusly valid), my heart ached.
I know you have witnessed acts spurred by an individual or group’s lack of sanctity for life firsthand. I am grateful every day that you survived them, not for the mere fact that your survival led to my own creation, but that your disposition allowed you to lead a positive life, seeing through the negativity and destruction and rising above by choosing to have a positive impact on countless others.
I am guessing (so please feel free to correct me) that part of the disillusion you expressed to me stems from my and Mom’s direct exposure to the darkness of humanity. I feel like it is rooted in your desire to protect us and to shield us from that darkness.
I’m not going to say “Oh but we saw the light in others that day too” because while yes, we indeed see the beauty and grace in those we share our earthly existence with, the bombings were a terrible thing to be so close too. I still shudder when hearing loud explosive sounds and when the ground shakes. I know that the process of coping with the bombs and the aftermath will be marked by a constant undulation. It will not be easy, that’s for damn sure.
But please don’t ache for me. I am not shattered.
I still find myself overwhelmed with gratitude. We are alive. Alive! We wake up each day with a multitude of opportunities, some expected and some wonderful surprises. The bombs have affected us so for the precise reason that they are not a part of our everyday existence. We are so lucky that we can say that, because that is not a circumstance that some in this world find themselves in.
Again, I must emphasize that I do not mean to imply that I do not find your distraught reaction valid. As I said before, it is how you are experiencing it, and that experience is shaped by your past experiences and perceptions of those experiences.
I simply want you to know that I am doing okay. Even in those moments I find myself crying in sorrow for the lives lost, the innocence shattered, the hearts torn asunder . . . I find comfort in trust. Trust in God, atman, the love that flows within and connects us all, whatever word or phrase one chooses.
This path is right for me, and perhaps by sharing it I might help you along with your own journey.
With thoughts of peace, wishes for grace, and genuine and enduring love,
My dad responded with this email:
Thursday, June 20th, 2013
You may, at first, be somewhat put out by hearing that only tonight did I finally get to read the lovely letter you sent near the end of April.
I think I should bronze it. You know, like people used to do with their kids tiny shoes. Probably not in vogue these days. Everything is totally disposable. Just take a picture and trash the item. Then watch the picture decompose on a predictable schedule.
To your letter. Yes, for the first two weeks, the vivid memories of that day brought on more discomfort than I anticipated. With time, it will lose its harshness. But it never goes away. Either for you or for me. Loud noises bring me up short every time. I never care for surprises of that sort.
My heart will always go out to those whose lives were severely impacted that day. Some physically, some mentally, some both. Those arriving on the scene at first . . .seeing the immediate aftermath. Others paying the supreme price for someone’s . . .I can’t think of the proper term for it. . .their bad decision.
Never thought that I was being over-protective of any here in the family. If anything, I tended to watch at arm’s length as each of you suffered through illness and injury; not given to excessive emotion. That’s part of growing up. Everyone gets a little dirt off the road and some pains. If we’re lucky, it goes away in due time or we learn to live with it. At worst, we learn how to accommodate it.
Your letter just made me extremely proud of you for a wide variety of reasons. However, I still worry about you…and all the others including Carol. Overall, I’m well pleased.
Thanks so much for writing one of the nicest letters I have ever received. When I opened it the first day it struck me as something very important. It just didn’t feel right to give it a quick read. It deserved some time on it’s own and that arrived this evening.
You are the best.
I asked his permission to publish both my letter and his response. I suspected he would be happy to let me, but I would have also respected his wishes if he had indeed wanted me to maintain the privacy of our exchange. Today, I received this further response:
And now, this evening (Tuesday June 25th):
Allow me to presume your April letter was written à la fois. . . du cœur. Apology, your forte is Latin, not French.
Allow me to presume your April letter was written statim. . . a corde. As a result, you may not have a hard-copy of this. Nicely written, lush with sincerity, you deserve to have another look. I took the liberty. . .etc.
You know, it’s sort of like speaking. It always depends upon who you are speaking to, what you are speaking about. . .and a host of other factors that forge the speech.
With writing, the words well up and you cast them into highly personalized cursive form. And you continuously ask yourself, are my feelings clear? Am I presenting myself properly for the occasion? And so on.
For me, I occasionally pen something which seems to have the exact right balance of . . . well, everything that I hold important. . .or held important at that particular moment. A lot depends upon who I am writing for. And, obviously, a broad list of other considerations.
So, here is Megan, writing to her Dad. I have already forgotten what prompted your missive. I recall being caught up in class a few days following our return from Boston. And I choked up. But this is no surprise. Typical for me. I never tolerate someone else’s misfortune without experiencing some personal distress. It’s never easy to observe anyone else in any sort of pain. Must have shared this with you.
Your warm letter was startling, surprising and warm. I was caught totally off guard. If it is your wish to publish your letter and my response, feel free. When I compare these, what I see is someone your age holding your father closely and understanding his feelings. And, at the same time, providing your own personal understanding of the situation we shared.
Your feelings developed during the times you matured. Mine, created generations earlier in accordance with life as I experienced it. It could have been a mismatch except that you and I each have developed a penchant for revealing our honest feelings. This is our similar style. At times we get banged around for doing this. I look back and have the feeling, after any of these butchering sessions, of thinking I had the courage to do what many are so scared to do: Laying out my feelings in an honest, straightforward manner when most of the critics lack this resolve or compassion. They may have been the critics, but I was the WRITER ! Do you want to climb Mt. Everest. . .or write about the mistakes of the climbers.
My hat is off to you. Keep writing. Keep track of what you write and watch your style change and improve. This is a delicious, personal reward. Never stop.
I know my dad is not immortal. When he goes, I will proudly wear the cloak of the responsibility of being one of his living legacies.