Romance Non-Fiction posted February 10, 2020 Chapters: 1 2 -3- 4... 

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Her story of grief unleashes my story of grief

A chapter in the book MY ANGEL OF GOD

Dark Hole Left by my Lost Mother

by Aaron Milavec

At our second meeting, my Angel was able to join her dead father for a sad farewell hug. She called this the most important experience in her life. Inspired by her vulnerability, it was then my turn

MY ANGEL OF GOD: Chronicles of her fierce compassion and grace-filled healing love -- This is an unusual and dangerous love story that I have tried to relate with honesty and insight. I have relied upon my journal entries and upon our love letters that I carefully preserved for thirty years.  Now that I am facing my own death, I want to share with family, friends, and writers those personal experiences that have shaped my life most profoundly.  Hence, I ask you, as my reader, to prepare yourself for a mind-bending and heart-rending experience. This is also a story of my faith and hope in the face of small "miracles" and enormous tragedies; hence, those who share my faith and hope are in for a special treat. Please advise me (a) by identifying [using "copy and paste"] those lines in my story that most moved you and (b) by offering your ideas on how I might improve my telling of the "chronicles of her fierce compassion and grace-filled healing love." 


Our second meeting was devoted to my Angel narrating and reliving what life was like before her father died.  Unexpectedly, her father appeared and embraced her and gave her his parting word.  A few days later, my Angel penned the first lines that she ever wrote to me. The opening lines confirmed everything I had done and assured me that it was indeed her father who had met her in the dark passageways of her imagination. Here are her words:

For the last two days, I have wanted to tell you how much our [second] meeting meant to me. I also have been struggling to understand its depth of meaning for it was the most powerful and the most satisfying moment of my life thus far.

We agreed to meet at my home on Wednesday. This would be our third meeting. My anticipation was running high. Accordingly, I penned a poem to my Angel and gave it to her after class on Tuesday evening in a sealed envelope marked on the outside: "for reading when alone." Here is my poem:

Waiting for my Friend

It's only Monday
And the gray mourning dove softly coos.
He knows. She is coming!
Tuesday has arrived
And the pink-buds of my dogwood begin to open.
They know. She is coming!
On Wednesday I'm distracted
And the red blood in my veins dances wildly.
It knows. She is coming!

Some twenty years ago, I saw a haunting film entitled David and Lisa. This film dramatizes the story of how two teenagers confined to a mental hospital progressively healed each other in a way that the certified psychotherapists could not effect. It's not that I am against a studied analysis of deep human problems. Quite the contrary, I myself am trained in technical analysis. Yet, there is such a wide existential gap between a competent analysis of a human problem and the graced solution that brings permanent healing to a broken life.

One Loss Evokes Another

Already, at our last meeting, my Angel noticed my tears when I spoke briefly of my mother's death.  I told my Angel that I was a vulnerable boy of eight when this tragic loss took place. I had convinced myself that my grieving process was finished a long time ago. But here I was sitting on the couch facing my Angel and talking about my mother while quiet tears traced down my cheeks.

Often the heart reveals what the mind so easily denies. Seeing my silent tears, my Angel said, "How would your mother have held you at eight? Hold me that way now!"  This bold suggestion came as a complete surprise.  Had my Angel been trained in psychodrama as I had, she might have made such a suggestion on the basis of her clinical practice.  In her case, however, she had a graced intuition and felt the liberty to follow up on it.

In response to her request, I asked my Angel to stand up. I knelt before her so as to approximate the height of an eight-year-old boy. From that position, I wrapped my arms around her waist and buried my head in her chest. And the magic of that movement was that the eight-year-old boy long-forgotten deep inside me came to live and blurted out, "I miss you, mom." And, with that, a flood of convulsive tears followed. . . .

For a few days after this "therapeutic session," my chest was physically sore. It was as though my Angel had gone inside me and pulled out an aching blackness that she saw buried in my chest.  As she did this, my chest muscles and internal organs had been disturbed from their usual place.  Thus, I could feel the post-operative upheaval of her healing intervention. Painful as it was, however, I wanted and needed more.  Hence, I wrote this to my Angel:

  A Plea to my Dearest Friend
Melt me down;
Tear me apart;
Smash into my secret canyon walls with your love.
To hear you say,
"Now I want to get inside you. . . ,"
I soften like wax
At these words. 
Oh, do love me recklessly     
    seductively. . . . 
For even now I long to have you share  
This aching blackness within my chest,
But I need you to help me to find 
The lost door to let you in.


The Angel Sent to Open my Tomb

It was the Easter season. The church invited me again to celebrate what our heavenly Father had done in sending down one (Matt 28:1-8) or two (Luke 24:1-10) angels to force open the sealed tomb and to mend the battered corpse of his Son. How could anyone celebrate Easter and doubt that these angels had healing powers? God is invested in healing the living (e.g., John 5:3-5, Tobit 12:1-6) and resurrecting the dead. The case of Jesus in the tomb, therefore, offers the paradigm of how God works though his angels. Abraham (Gen 18:1-33) and Tobit (12:7-21) meanwhile, make it clear that God's angels visit us appearing as ordinary "wingless" humans—only by observing them very carefully can one discover that they are angels sent from God.  And so it was only after Easter that I first recognized that my Angel had been sent by God to open my tomb and to mend my battered heart.

The Boy with a Battered Heart

My dear Angel had shared with me her tragic story of loss. Now it was my turn to reveal to her that I, too, had suffered a great loss. Right after Easter, therefore, I told my Angel the story of the eight-year-old boy and his mother, who was named Emma.  I deliberately crafted this story to take on the form of a "fairy tale" that I learned from my mother.  My story, consequently, has some fanciful and magical elements that serve to highlight how I, as a young boy, experienced the events surrounding the death of my mother. The story I shared with my Angel was this:

Once upon a time, there lived a simple tailor [my father] who was a midget. He had the good fortune to marry a noble and gifted lady named Emma. In due time, Emma bore the tailor his first-born son. But this was no ordinary mother, and this was destined to be no ordinary son.

As an infant, feeding upon the milk from his mother's breasts, this male child grew exceedingly strong and large. At two months, he weighed what most infants weigh at four. At six months, he could already pull himself to his feet hanging on to his mother's dress and could babble a few indistinct words—feats normally associated with children at twelve months. And so this marvelous progress continued for years. Everyone marveled at the strength and vitality of Emma's son.

Left by himself, this child would have been quite ordinary. Emma made the difference. She had the gift of taking what was small and insecure and kneading into it her own goodness and power. As a wife, she had considerably enlarged the size and stature of her husband, the tailor. In fact, while she lived, anyone who had not known him earlier would never have imagined that he had once been a midget. Thus, the marvelous effect Emma was having upon her first-born son could be seen as a continuation of the marvelous transformation that had earlier graced the boy's father.

But the gremlins grew jealous. They plotted in secret how to bring this extraordinary family to naught. After much planning, they brewed a strong poison called "cancer" into which they dipped a fine-looking apple. This poisoned apple was slyly placed in the fruit bowl of Emma's cheerful kitchen.

The next day Emma ate this apple, but she was too much in possession of life to die. Others would have died after just one bite, but not her. She became ill, all right, but just as quickly recovered. The infuriated gremlins set their efforts to concentrating the poisonous "cancer" and contaminating more of her food. Thus, she took ill with increasing regularity, but she always appeared to recover. Yet, over a period of three years, the poisons had gradually weakened her system so massively as to bring about a prolonged sickness that ate away at every part of her soul and her body.

The tailor gradually showed signs of deterioration as well. With no one to hold him, to rub his hairy chest at night, and to blow life-giving breath between his lips, the poor man gradually lost both his strength and his stature. Within a few months after his wife's death, he had become a midget again, just a little larger than he had been before he first met Emma.

In parallel fashion, after Emma's death, there was no one to kiss her first-born son each morning and tuck him in bed and read to him fairy tales at night.  Now he came home from school each day and entered a house where no one greeted him with hugs and no one made him hot chocolate and cookies.  No one asked him what he had learned at school, what games he played at recess, and what was the condition of his heart. 

So, with his mother absent and no one prepared to take her place, it is no mystery that the eight-year-old boy ceased to grow as he had done before.  If one could peer inside this little boy, one would notice that portions of his heart had slowed down and other parts had stopped functioning entirely. Decay set in. Like dead leaves, some portions of his heart actually rotted and left behind a gaping black hole.


Grief Releases Grief

As soon as my Angel understood the brokenness of my heart, she quickly invented a plan of action. She prompted me to see my affliction as concealing a hidden blessing.  My Angel then encouraged me to become very small and to enter the dark hole and to explore its interior.  Inside, to my surprise, was not just the stench of death and loss, but a prisoner. This prisoner I came to recognize as Wild Man.  He who emaciated and chained in my broken heart by his bully of a brother, Dutiful Man. This "voice within the darkness" was a surprise that only my Angel could bring me to face and to hear. Thus my story continued:
When my mother died, I had no choice but to model myself more and more after my dad. Duty, obligation, and will-power were the character traits that mattered most in his life.  Under the rubric of "being strong," he never allowed himself to shed a single tear in the presence of his children. He told us in a calm voice, "There was nothing that could be done to save your mother.  We have no choice but to go forward as though nothing had happened." In so doing, my dad attempted to hide from us and maybe from himself as well the post-traumatic effects of my mother's death. According to my dad, the grief, anger, and fear occasioned by our mother's death were of no account.  We must "go forward as though nothing had happened."

My mother was only twenty-eight when she died.  I had just turned eight.  I remember vividly kissing her cold, pale-pink cheek as she lay motionless and dead in the casket placed in the living room of our home.  One of my beloved aunts noticed my kiss. She rushed to my side and took me in her arms and confided to me, "God must have loved your mother very much to have taken her to himself so early."

I had every reason to accept her well-meaning advice.  After all, I firmly believed that God loved my mother very much. Yet, in the years that followed, when I began to suffer daily the full measure of my mother's absence, I began to ask myself how God could be so good to my mother at the same time that he was so immeasurably cruel to me and my family.  As I saw it God already had his own mother, Mary, with him in heaven.  He didn't need another mother.  I, on the other hand, was desperately in need of my mother. God may have loved my mother very much as my aunt suggested, but he was surely "a stinking monster" when it came to leaving me and my siblings to suffer the rest of our lives without her.


[Note: It was at this point that my sympathy for Dracula's anger against God was born (although I did not know it yet).  This will be taken up later.]

In contrast to my dad and my aunt, my Angel never made the mistake of sugar-coating any of my suffering.  In fact, she was able to validate all my anger, all my disappointments, and all my suffering.  She could even marvelously reach deep into the black hole in my heart and nurture with her boundless love that emaciated Wild Man that had been chained in the darkness and neglected for so many years.

Was it my Angel's inventive imagination or her improvisational dancing or her powerful love that enabled the Wild Man to regain his strength and vitality? All three, in just the right measure, no doubt. In any case, my Angel artfully brought a sorely battered and neglected part of me back to health. What the angels did for Jesus, my Angel did for me.   [The next chapter is filled with love letters that continued the healing that was begun here.  Please go there now.]


Here are my words that set the pace for what is to come:

Oh, do love me recklessly
seductively. . . .
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