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February 26, 2006

The Answer to my Prayer

The young man came in and sat down across from me.  As I took all of him in it was his eyes that struck me first; but that was only the beginning.  He was taller and his hair was longer and a bit darker…but there were those same eyes, the same softness of his voice, the same way he always looked at me with his head down, his gaze upward. 

And the smile…oh yes the smile…filled with warmth and charm and most of all…a quiet humility.  I had heard from others that it might be like this.  That this young man would remind me of my David…and they had been dead on.

Here I was, at the place I had been a thousand times in the magical thinking of my mind, the place I had wanted to be since the day of David’s death.  Here…now…was the chance that I had first wept for, then cursed for, was willing to give my own life in exchange for and finally, in the end, the chance I surrendered and prayed for.  The chance to talk to another “David”; talk to him about the power and ultimate price of addiction and to say all the things that I should have said before, and all the things that I have learned since…the things that might prevent this “David” from walking down that same fatal path as my son. 

Here was the answer to my entreaties to my higher power, the God of my understanding, but it was not the answer I had expected.

Instead of my own precious Dave I been granted another father’s Dave…

I just hope that I have the right words for him.

February 26, 2006 at 08:51 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 24, 2006

Just Your Normal High School Boy Video

After David death the out pouring of support from family, friends and colleagues took many forms.  In place of flowers we asked that contributions be made in David’s memory to the treatment facility he had been attending when he died. Some months later the facility asked if we would be willing use the money to make a video about our experience.  We agreed and over the next year hours of footage was shot of our family and David’s friends.  The result is a 18 minute video that is entitled “Just a Normal High School Boy”, a 5 minute clip of which can be found on this Blog under the ABOUT section.

If you would like to see the full version you can view it at:

http://video.indiana.edu:8080/ramgen/ip/dmstest/Manlove.rm

To view the video you must have the Real Player video program, a free copy of which is available at:

http://www.real.com/realplayer.html

We'd appreciate your thoughts.

Kim

February 24, 2006 at 04:30 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 19, 2006

Fateless

"There is nothing unimaginable that cannot be endured."

Imre Kertesz

February 19, 2006 at 11:04 PM in The Unspeakable | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 17, 2006

Part Three…The Day That Would Never End

The Phoenix airport was alive with the usual frenetic activity at one o’clock in the afternoon but as I walked up to the ticket counter I felt as if I were wrapped tightly in a cocoon of pain and grief from which there was no escape.  The agent listened intently to my story and accepted my plight immediately, re-booking me on the most direct route home she could, expressed her condolences and sent me on my way.  As I walked to the gate I heard my name announced on the public address system directing me to a courtesy phone.  It was Marissa, her voice clear but strained, asking if I had any qualms about donating David’s organs.  “Of course” I said, “let them take whatever they want,” and then went on to relate my flight details.  It struck me later that I had been too quick and too casual about my son’s body and yet I suppose, in my grief, I grasped desperately at anything that would bring me some good from this tragedy. 

I don’t remember much about the flight home; it was a blur of faceless people in nameless airports, walking down cavernous concourses, aimlessly wandering from gate to gate.  Changing planes but doing so as if I were a traveler in time, disconnected from the people and reality around me and yet powerless to turn back the hand of time.  I spoke to no one, the unspeakable had me by the throat and I was defenseless to the grim hold it had over me.  I changed planes for the last leg home as the sun began to set, somehow found my row and fell into my seat by a window, the weight of my world crushing down on me.  I stared blankly out at the runway afraid to make eye contact with anyone for fear that the torrent of tears would again burst forth and overwhelm me.  A young man about nineteen took the seat next to me and immediately put his head phones on, turned on his CD player and began to play the “gangster” rap that Dave loved so much, and for the first time I wondered would this pain ever stop?

I found myself in a hopelessly confused state, my mind unable to focus on even the tiniest detail.  I decided that I had to focus on something even if it were the most inane topic…and so I started a list of things that I had to do, who to call, who to email, where to go, and most of all what to say!  And then a fearful thought entered my mind, what if there were media present when I got off the plane, not that this tragedy was particularly noteworthy.  What if it were a slow news day, so slow that suddenly the story of a nice kid from a nice side of town who dies from addiction in the swimming pool of a friend, this story gets elevated to page two status.  And so I began to write a “statement” that I would read or give to the “media” as I stepped off the plane, something that would talk about David’s struggle with addiction while asking for the prayers of family, friends and strangers alike.

There was no media, only Marissa and Josh.  Where there had once been a family of four now there were only three, the awareness painfully acute to each of us as we cried together at the gate.  We wrapped ourselves together against our grief and headed to the car.  Marissa’s sister and brother-in-law drove us home, the three of us huddled together in the backseat, no words remembered, the unspeakable holding sway. 

As we turned onto our street I remember thinking our house was ablaze with light and activity.  Every lamp appeared to be lit, cars parked up and down the street on both sides and young people milling about or sitting in the front yard in clusters of two and three.  They held each other, crying softly or talked in hushed reverent tones in the warm June night.  One after another, David and Josh’s friends came to me, hugged me and then made way for the next…it was like the day would never end

February 17, 2006 at 10:16 PM in The Unspeakable | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 10, 2006

Part Two ….. The Limo Preacher

After I hung up the phone the hotel room became a scene of emotional chaos. In my minds eye I recall my brother, who rarely sheds a tear, crying softly while standing in a corner near a closet. My father wailed, wrung his hands and slowly staggered drunkenly back and forth across the room, his body wracked with anguish as he sobbed “David, my beautiful David” over and over again. I sat on the edge of the bed, in the eye of this maelstrom of grief, dumbstruck, silent…my mind a wall, desperately trying to comprehend what I had just been told…and failing miserably.

All that took place seemed to be surreal, everything around me moved in slow motion as if I were the one who was dead…a detached observer of events. Suddenly it seemed that reality rushed back in and overwhelmed me. I felt like a bomb had been detonated next to me and the concussion had temporarily robbed me of sight and sound only to have them both return to me like a thunder clap. And in that thunder was one thought and only one thought…I had to get back home….now!!

I rose slowly from the bed and looked around the room taking stock of what belongings I had with me, gathered them up and then quietly began to turn what little control I had, into action. The thought occurred to me that I had to get to the airport and catch the first flight back home I could…so I headed to the lobby. When I reached the concierge desk and said who I was and what I needed it was clear that the word of the tragedy had already spread throughout the entire hotel staff. Instead of a taxi they had ordered a limo which was on its way. I didn’t understand or care what the concierge told me at the time but she said, “we have requested a special driver for you who is on his way.” I frankly didn’t care who the driver was or what arrangements had been made and even acquiesced to the concierge’s request to allow another hotel guest to ride to the airport with me in the same vehicle. As I waited in the lobby the dimension of time took on a dreamlike quality that defied natural law. Minutes did seem like hours as friends and colleagues who had heard the news of the tragedy drifted past me like phantoms in a nightmare.

Finally a dark Lincoln Towne Car slid slowly under the portico of the hotel, and a tall thin elderly black man emerged from the driver’s side. He motioned me into the front passenger seat and conducted the young woman to the vehicles backseat. My father and brother mumbled unintelligible good-byes…there were really no words for us…and the Towne Car pulled away. The driver pulled onto the interstate, eased into traffic and the scenery raced by as my own mind raced with random thoughts that had no focus or direction. I was feeling sorry for the other passenger who sat mute in the back seat. The thought crossed my mind how unlucky she was to be riding to the airport with this me on this sorrowful journey when the old man reached across the console and took my hand. “I am sorry son,” he began, “I know your grief is profound and that light has gone out of your life this day.” I had not shed a tear until he spoke and his words finally unleashed the torrent of tears I had kept at bay until then. My body now was wracked with the pain of grief and I began to gasp for air between sobs. “Cry” he said, “Cry my son, it is good for your soul and for the soul of your boy.” He said no more for a long time and just held my hand as he effortlessly guided the Limo through heavy traffic, onward to the airport. After a while the tears subsided, he squeezed my hand and ask our other companion to put her hands on my shoulder and on his as well, to forming what he called a “circle of hope.” And then something extraordinary happened, something I never expected a Limo driver to do, he began a prayer.

“Lord,” he said, “look kindly on this young man, his family and his boy who is with you now in your grace. Help them through the coming days to know your presence as pain rules their lives, Help them in the days and weeks to come as they learn to live with the memory of their son who will be with them always. And help them in the years to come to find the strength I know they will find to take up the cause and do battle with the scourge that has taken their son from them…..so that other families will not suffer as they have.”

The Limo Preacher finished his prayer as we pulled into the Phoenix Airport and we broke our “circle of hope”. I climbed out and we embraced, two strangers brought together by tragedy. I had started a journey two hours before, a journey no parent ever wants, yet along the way there have been many miracles and this kind old man with his soft words of wisdom had been only the first of those miracles.

February 10, 2006 at 10:37 AM in The Unspeakable | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 04, 2006

Part One ..... The Call

The call came to my hotel room that Saturday but I wasn't’t there.  I had been in the room moments before putting the finishing touches on a speech I was to give later in the day with my older brother and my father. We had just left the room to get some lunch and picked a secluded spot in the back of the restaurant that overlooked the golf course whose lushness was in stark contrast to the Arizona desert that surrounded it.  We had a wonderful lunch we laughed, joked and made fun of one another the way only fathers and son’s can.  It was the last occasion I would laugh for a very long time.

I returned to the room with the intention of preparing for the presentation when I noticed the red message light flashing on the phone.   At first I thought it was a mistake…no one knew we were in this room, we were only using it temporarily.  I accessed the messages and was surprised that there were 5!!!!  How could there be 5 I thought, we were only gone for a short while?  I played the first message and it was the voice of a young lady from the front desk asking to speak with Mr. Manlove.  There were three Mr. Manloves in the room at that moment, my father, my older brother and me, so I was sure that the call could not be for me.  “Mr. Manlove” she began…haltingly at first her voice struggling to maintain composure, “I am sorry so sorry but you must call home right away, please…please let us help,” she pleaded, “We’re so sorry.”  Confused I deleted the message and went on to the next convinced that the calls were for my father… that something had happened to my step-mother.  But the next message was from my step- mother which perplexed me even more until I heard her say.  “Kim, you have to call Marissa on her cell, something has happened I am sooo sorry.”

I never listened to the rest of the messages, I dialed my wife’s cell phone as the fear rose in my chest and gripped my throat.  It was my older son that answered the phone, “Josh, its Dad, what’s going on, what’s happened.”   “It’s Dave” he sobbed into the phone his voice coming in waves at me, his words assaulting every fiber of my being, “It’s Dave Dad…Dave's dead.”

February 4, 2006 at 02:24 PM in The Unspeakable | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 03, 2006

The Unspeakable

To my everlasting regret I was 1500 miles away from home the day that David died. 

Powerless, hopeless, impotent, helpless, and forsaken are words that just begin to lift the fabric of despair that blanketed me when I first got the call that he was dead. I am grateful, however, that my son Josh was at his mother’s side on that tragic day.  Together they faced the first unspeakable moments of a mother and a brother’s worst nightmare.  It took me almost nine hours to fly back from Phoenix to Indianapolis.  Nine hours of desolation, the longest and loneliest trip of my life.

For the first few days we had no words for each other, the unspeakable had rendered us mute in the midst of our tears.  Slowly and painfully we regained our voice yet the unspeakable only allowed us to murmur pat and empty phrases that were more for the comfort of others than ourselves…since there was no comforting us. 

Several months passed before Marissa first broached the unspeakable with me.  “When you are ready,” she said, “I will tell you what happened that day.”  But the unspeakable still possessed me, still gripped my heart…and I declined.  “Thank you but no,” I whispered quietly, “but soon…I will let you know when.” 

In the end it was more than a year before I was able to hear the story of the unspeakable and when she was finished, we cried together as we have countless times in the years since…and will in the years to come.

You see the unspeakable and the grief are like addiction…you never get over it…it simply becomes a part of who you are. 

February 3, 2006 at 10:53 PM in The Unspeakable | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack