Sunday, December 20, 2009

Be Positive

Strap yourselves in, kids, this is a lo-o-o-o-ong (important) one.

We had a long-overdue visit yesterday from an old school friend of Steve's. We lost touch with him some years ago, in fact I don't think we've had contact since the mid-90's. But in that strange "other world" that is Facebook, they found each other. Funny, the two of them don't actually use Facebook and also both only just joined.

Dave hasn't intrinsically changed. His hair is longer, more unruly, he's a Dad now, he is still impossibly affectionate and good looking, in a very seasoned, rugged way now. He had his stunning, charming 10 year-old son in tow - a real, easy-going salt of the earth kid who would make any adult melt - and was a bit older around the gills. But it was still the Dave we affectionately remember.

I noticed early on in the visit that Dave now has an involuntary tic. A head nod he is apparently unaware of. I guessed that what he had seen during his years as a medic in the army (he has seen action for most of his 15 years' service) would deeply affect a person as sensitive as him. I felt so humbled when he spoke of his time serving - in Rwanda, Somalia, Bouganville to name a few - and although some of the stories we have heard before (having told us during his tours or when he returned and was still in the heightened gung-ho-ness of it all as a much younger man), I heard a much more harrowing, truer version. As if he had lifted the veil on the romanticism of having mates and good times, hijinks and high adventures in different countries that didn't speak his language.

When Dave turned conversation to the children, I braced myself. I truly had to put on my professional hat and not go into the personal effect on me, that what I was hearing was healing for him and not for me to own - not right then and there, anyway. I could go away later and have my cry, for him and for the children. I'm yet to do that, I think I'd like to actually go and do a bit of a clearing on it. It was a stark reminder that there is so much suffering, of the nature we rarely if ever hear about and yet, there are people, young people with their now-affected lives ahead of them, cleaning up the effects of warring factions - literally scraping these "effects" up with shovels - gruesome, harrowing work.

Dave spoke openly this time about his breakdown which came about six years ago. A car backfire sent his body into such a state of shock that he lost control of his bodily functions. Can you imagine a shock so great that, years after you thought you had buried the event and recovered from it, you were rendered useless? I can't actually. But I was so grateful to the brave man standing in our kitchen yesterday, who showed us a very healthy way through such a traumatic life-altering journey.

I never knew, but after spending time holding babies in his arms so they could "die knowing they were loved" (maimed or beyond any surgery, after their mothers had been killed from landmines or gunfire), Dave furthered his training by becoming a Paediatric Nurse. He specialised in theatre - cardiac at first, then neuro which he said fascinated him more - and the intrigue that studying the anaesthetics held for him was evident when his face lit up.

He asked questions. Interested, educated questions, about our time with Ellanor. He was exceedingly gentle and pained. Every time Steve went out of the room, he sidled over to me and wanted to express what, I guess, a mate can't say to another mate (I know girls do, I don't think boys feel they can.... which is sad) - that he was simply "gutted" to hear what had happened to us. That he had tried, so many times, to reach out to Steve.... but he didn't. Something held him back, I guess. An inability, even after all Dave had seen and experienced during his time serving, to know how to approach someone he cared for dearly and say he was sorry.

Perhaps he felt it wouldn't be enough? Perhaps he thought Steve was being cared for already?

No. Neither of these assumed presumptions is correct. Should never be correct, if you are concerned about how to approach someone who has lost their baby. Bridge the divide, before it's too late and you feel the moment is gone. Reach out, you won't be sorry. It will be appreciated. Particularly, and I underline this for emphasise, those fathers. Don't forget the Dads! Please. It is such a silent, insidious, continuously underlying grief for so many men. So much so, I'm certain many aren't aware how it has permeated their character and affected how they interact with everyone around them - it simply sidles on in and becomes them. And it doesn't have to be that way, if they are encouraged to open up in a safe environment. The partner who has lost as well cannot be that sounding board, it's impossible.

In our case, I was Steve's only sounding board. I wished he had Dave around to talk to. Dave would be/is perfect. He has had so much experience with death, more than anyone I have ever met. It nearly sent him under. It has affected him physically and the mental scar may never completely go away. It is his to hold onto as he wishes, it's what defined him, I suppose, as a person.

But you know, the amazing thing I saw yesterday was what I really wanted to share before this mammoth post comes to a close. I've only ever had this experience once before. Very interestingly to me, it was another man (my obstetrician, actually) I witnessed it in. That time, he had taken me out for lunch about four days after Ellanor died. I was so nauseated I couldn't manage to eat. He talked to me, about what I have no specific recollection, but I do remember it was about his own experiences with death of babies. And what I saw that day was the same as what I saw working through Dave yesterday.

Dave was talking about some of the specific children he remembered from his time there. The funny things he did with them, the defining moments of their deaths. And I swear, despite the kids giggling and playing the Playstation games in the background and Steve standing to one side and other peripheral things, Dave was focused on what he was saying. The way he talked and what he was saying, reminded me of my Ob six years ago. His face was so intent, his voice soft, steeped in the recollection of what he was saying, as if it was right in front of him.

I realised then that this was probably the moment when the "real" Dave was "born" - he made a connection with his soul purpose. I could hear it in his words. It was as if an angel had come down and touched him lightly on the shoulder and given him the big nod. What a blessing. For him, for those kids, for anyone who meets Dave. He has that attracting and attractive light about him.

It was interesting to me, because just the day before, I had come across the quote I have shared on here once before - mistakenly attributed to Nelson Mandela, but apparently it's not his! - and it reminds me now of Dave:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson

Towards the end of their visit, Dave was talking (he loooooves to talk, even more than me!) about blood groups. He said his was B-positive, like his Dad. Mine is too. And we had a bit of a chuckle over that similarity (because apparently, it's not all too common). He didn't get me going, all the time he was sharing his experiences with us, but when he said that during his darkest times he chose to consciously tell himself that, like his blood type, he "has to Be Positive, because it's running through my very veins", I went to mush and teared up. He nodded, grinning widely and pointing at me. He knew I knew what he meant - "Ah! HAH?! Right?!!" he said.

Yup. Too right.

It is exactly what I have told myself, privately, so often these past ten years of our struggles and trials. Be Positive. It's in your veins.

Archived Posts


Related Posts with Thumbnails