Reflected Light

David and his mother, Charlotte.

There are things I have to write which I have no idea how to write. It’s been over a month since the pre-dawn phone call came, and I haven’t written a word; I have danced around hard words, looked at them from the corner of my eye and glanced away. If I kept them in my peripheral vision, where dreams and fairies live, they wouldn’t be real. Right?

I’ve tried a hundred ways to internalize the idea that “David is gone.” It’s the period at the end of that sentence that kills me, a tiny black hole I cannot follow. I desperately want the period to be an ellipsis. It’s not.

Words, always my buoy and salvation through all the seasons and typhoons life has brought, have failed me now. I type and re-type sentence after sentence. Tears make paper fragile, and erasers tear through damp fibers yet again. You can only rub out inadequacy so many times before the paper cries for mercy and gives way.

There are people who are who are in the world, but who never belong to the world. David was one of those people. From the literal day we met, when I was seventeen, there was an indescribable bond between us. We had a friendship that transcended time and place, and we thought we could turn that friendship into a marriage. We also learned the hard way it doesn’t always work that way. I am not romanticizing in retrospect— it is this, this abiding and deep understanding of each other that allowed us to forgive each other so fully when our marriage imploded.

There are trite colloquialisms about how the cracked vessel lets the light in… David’s gift to those who knew and loved him was his light. But we cannot ignore that the source for that light, like any star, was internal fusion and catastrophic combustion. So many of his friends grew in his light, warmed their hearts and hands on his heat, and found their own path with the help of his reflection- but there was always a cost to him.

In another day or another time, David might have been a seer or holy man. He had vast spiritual gifts, but in the times in which he was born, finding a home for those sensitive, intangible gifts proved impossible. Even when you cannot find your home or place in the world, your heart doesn’t stop yearning. It is that search for home and for peace that led David down pathways that ultimately harmed him.

While I cannot relate, I can understand, and I can forgive him. My heart aches and I choke on tears when I realize my children will not know the best parts of their father. I again face my own inadequacy at the daunting prospect of only having my words to convey to them the light David gave me. And then, just like that, I can hear him laughing— deep, rich, hearty laughter. He’s making fun of me for my doubt and is genuinely mirthful. “Please. You’re a star. You can do anything.” And he believed it.

For my children, I will tell his stories, giving back reflections of what he gave me. We’re all stories in the end, right?