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April 30, 2006

An Open Letter to Families Everywhere please click on the letter to open it up full sized


April 30, 2006 at 02:02 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 23, 2006

Lost Treasure

The video camera bag had sat undisturbed in the corner of our bedroom closet for longer than either of us could remember. The dust had collected in such a thick layer that it seemed to permanently discolor the top of the black canvas bag turning it into a dirty gray. The camera had once belonged to Marissa’s father who had passed away about eighteen months before Dave’s untimely death from substance abuse, and since that time the bag had been shuffled from room to room until it was pushed to the back of our closet. I had some vague notion that the camera no longer worked properly which was the primary reason it had lain untouched and unopened for so long.

But fate intervened tonight when Marissa decided to move the bag so she could clean and I decided it was time to remove it from our closet and dispose of it once and for all. Before doing so I opened it up to remove anything that might be useful, but instead of useful I found a treasure tucked under the worn and battered camera. There in the bottom of the bag lay a video cassette that said “Dave, Lawrence Central High School Baseball.”

I picked it up gently, almost gingerly at first; afraid it might disintegrate at the touch of my fingers. I turned it slowly in my hand knowing I was holding a gift from the past. I called for Marissa to join me; put the cassette into the player and suddenly we were transported back in time. There was David standing at the plate in a game from some six years ago at a ball park we’d long forgotten, swinging his bat to loosen up as only he could, tapping the corners of home plate for luck like he always did and settling into his “perfect” stance to await the pitchers next fast ball. Marissa and I watched transfixed as one “at bat” blended into another until after twenty minutes or so he disappeared from our view as the screen turned to black and white snow.

Shortly after Dave died we gathered our family movies together and had them all transferred to DVD to protect and preserve them. We had been exhaustive in our search and Marissa had spent hour upon hour watching them and putting them in chronological order. Something I was incapable of at the time and still would not be able to do today. And so it was particularly powerful for us to discover a memory we had missed, a treasure in time that had been lost for a while…

and for just a little while we saw our son again for the first time in many years doing the thing that he loved and the two of us loving him the way we did and still do without pain; only joy.

April 23, 2006 at 10:49 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 22, 2006


Dave loved fireworks.  The fascination began early with sparklers and smoke bombs and grew steadily as he grew.  The last few years of his life his love for fireworks bordered on an obsession and reminded me of my own “compulsion” to use them when I was his age. So like any “good” father (a part of which remains a boy all his life) I eagerly bought them for him and we used them together.  The fourth of July those last two years I really went overboard and between my boys and me we staged an aerial display that was the envy of the neighborhood, the dismay of local law enforcement and the extreme irritation of every dog in the neighborhood. 

After Dave died from huffing computer duster the leftover fireworks from our last celebration were set in a box, put away in his closet, placed on the highest shelf and remained there for many months with other objects of memory that were simply too painful for me.  They stayed there until one day, on a whim; I got the box down to take with us on our weekly visit to the cemetery.  As I mentioned in an earlier, post the cemetery where David is buried, posed a number of difficult and painful conundrums for me, the earliest being a compelling need to be there every week and yet once there, being overcome again with that visceral feeling of grief and despair, which stayed with me long after I left.

But on this day I took down the box from its hiding place away from my view and put it into the back seat of the car.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the fireworks but at least I knew they would be with me when I decided.  It was a beautiful fall day, there was crispness in the air and the leaves in the trees had turned golden and red. 

After kneeing for a while next to his marker I went back to the car and brought the box to the graveside.  I took out a pack of Black Cat firecrackers, lit them and carelessly tossed them away from me.  Their loud sharp staccato bursts echoed across the empty expanse of the graveyard.  Surprisingly with each explosion my spirits raised a little bit until when the last firecracker had cracked I felt as if I had my Dave at my side whispering in my ear “Yeah Dad, do some more please”.  I returned to the box and this time took out of packet of bottle rockets and one by one sent them soaring above us their journey ending at its peak with a load retort!  And as I turned to walk back to the car my heart was lifted as it had never been since that June day when we had to leave his body there and begin our life without him.

Today I never visit the cemetery without our bottle rockets and my spirits never fail to soar as one by one they rush from the ground into the sky above his resting place.

April 22, 2006 at 05:02 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 15, 2006

Jails, Institutions and Death

Like most adolescents David was seduced by the false promises of substance abuse.  In the beginning he thought that drinking and using drugs would make him more popular and that they were key to unlock success in any social situation.  The seduction continued with the thrill of risk taking behavior that accompanies drug use…the feeling that he was living on the edge and in doing so was somehow more attractive to others.  And, as his use escalated, drugs promised him that they would help him cope better with life, that they would provide him a sense of security, empowerment and control he could not get anywhere else.

But of course the real promises of substance abuse where always there, patiently waiting for David,  just as they wait for all who continue down the path of addiction.  The promise that if left untreated substance abuse leads inevitably to three things, jails, institutions and death.  David’s journey was just shorter than most.

David experienced all three in just eleven months.

April 15, 2006 at 11:01 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 06, 2006


When I was young I only made occasional visits to cemeteries.  My parents were both the youngest children in their families which meant that by the time I was five years old all my grandparents had passed on.  My mother was estranged from her siblings and my fathers three brothers were dead before I turned eleven so most of the "family" funerals were out of the way before I hit puberty.  In fact by the time I went away to college the majority of my "pilgrimages" to various final resting places were more of the tourist variety during family vacations. 

But since David's death from "huffing" almost 5 years ago hardly a week goes by that we don't visit his grave at the cemetery.  It was impossible at first...but getting up every morning the first year was impossible.  But gradually, over time, doing impossible things became a daily occurrence. 

I found myself hating my familiarity with the cemetery.  I knew all the names on the graves that surround David's, I notice when new flowers or personal mementos appear on the markers from those that have been left behind.  And most of all I notice the new arrivals.  The disturbed earth which seems rudely thrust up and turned over.  The floral arrangement from the graveside service casually heaped upon the turned earth, their blossoms and petals in various stages of decay. 

And if the wind is right I can still hear the sighs and feel the tears on my face and in an instant the impossible returns.

April 6, 2006 at 11:21 PM in The Journey | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack