A Letter to My Son

A Letter to My Son

Whenever I awaken from my dreams of you, a deep sadness overcomes me. I don’t know how I am pulled into these dreams, those dreams that bring me peace, but I do know that those comfortless moments that linger at the edge of my dream, that come just before the full realization that I’m somewhere else now, no longer inside my dream with you, bring me only feelings of regret and sorrow. In my dreams, I am always holding your hand, and the promise that I’d made to you 24 years ago is alive and real. And then I awaken to realize that you have slipped away from me.

When you were a newborn, it was easy, wrapped in your warm blanket, to protect you from the cold, dark night. And when you were six years old, we would often walk, hand in hand, along the banks of the Los Pinos River. It was easy then, too, to protect you from the icy waters of the river. And you continued to grow, and I had to let go of your hand more and more because you needed to find your own way. But you always knew that I was by your side, if only in spirit. You always knew that I’d never let anything pull you away from my steadfast grasp. And then you went away to college. I helped you move into your dormitory room. We said goodbye and hugged, but I knew that I’d see you again. Your spirit was indomitable. And I told you how much I loved you. And you said, “I love you, too, Dad.”

And then one day you didn’t come home. I promised myself that I’d find you. I searched everywhere, but there was so much empty space in the universe. I drove up to the mountain and looked across miles and miles of trees and canyons and mountain tops, and dejection overcame me. But I would never give up, I’d never let go of your hand. But then, six days later, the coroner came to the house with the news that your body had been found. I collapsed onto the floor, and I remember, through my tears, staring in disbelief at my empty hand.

It has been four years now, and there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t look at my empty hand. And there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t hope with all my heart that I’ll still find you, one day, just as I’d promised I would. You are constantly in my thoughts and in my heart. And I’m forced to wonder about those last minutes you spent here on this earth. What were your final thoughts? What music played in your heart? And I know that you said goodbye, in your own way, and you told yourself that I’d understand, that I’d know in my heart that you’d be all right, that we’d hug again one day. You wouldn’t have left without saying goodbye. I told your mother this, over and over again, but she told me that, no, you weren’t coming back.

In my dreams, you are alive and happy and filled with the same energy and spirit and joy that filled you while you were alive. During the countless minutes during each day when I think about you, I wonder how you decided that now was the time? How did you pull up the courage to pull the trigger that would forever black out your world? And, as hard as I try, I can’t keep the image of you sprawled on that ledge overlooking the Sweetwater Canyon from entering my mind, blood slowly soaking the beautiful hair and head that I’d so often stroked when you were a newborn wrapped in a warm blanket against the cold, dark night. And I look down on that ledge from somewhere far away, in my dreams, and I reach out to grab your hand, the hand that holds the gun that ended such a brilliant life. And then I awake, and look down at my empty hand, and cry.

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