I knew it would be difficult to sort through those boxes of papers. I just wasn't prepared for the searing, crushing, and soul shredding process it turned into.
I am not sure what was worse: the letters from my mother over the course of about three years in the early '90s, stunning in their terseness and acerbic lack of any mercy or tenderness for her oldest living daughter. Or the letters from my bio-dad while he was in prison for child molestation, not signed "Dad" but with "Prisoner #" with the return address of "The Cell of....". Or the pictures of my precious Boo Bear tucked in among the other things. Or the faded letter from the Bishop requesting my presence before a disciplinary court for possible excommunication. Or my first marriage license and pictures from the day I married M.
I think it was the letters from my mom. After reading about 15 of them, I finally stopped opening them to pour over the pages of her hastily scrawled words. I kept hoping that one of them would simply say, "I love you. That is all. Love, Mom" without any theological grandstanding or belittling or moral lecturing but...
I finally gave up.
Blessedly, throughout the process, I would find card after card from you tucked among the deleterious content in those boxes. Thank God for you. Like a bas relief, you became very apparent. Over the past 16 years, you have been the golden, shining thread that weaves through my life. Your love for me is my rock and my refuge. As I sorted through the other items, my soul became hungry to find that next card, that next letter, that next note from you. I knew when I slipped it from the envelope and opened it up, I would be greeted by nothing but love for me and belief in my abilities to overcome the struggles in my life. Your letters and cards were the Balm of Gilead to my wounded heart yesterday afternoon.
You have never flinched as I have slowly unwound the knotted life I have lived. You have always believed that the wounds and scars I bear make me more beautiful, more human, more humane. You have never doubted my ability to overcome all of this. You see in me what even my own mother cannot or did not see.
I can see my reflection in the computer monitor... my forehead drawn together, my lips pulled tight, tears brimming over already puffy eyes. And the headache - the headache that only comes from crying oneself to sleep and waking to tears again in the morning.
This morning, I threw out the letters from my mom, mainly because neither of us need to be reminded of how awful that time period was between us. I think she would find it embarrassing to read how hurtful she was in those letters because she is not that same woman. And for me...well, it still hurts nearly 20 years later to re-read them.
I threw out the letters from my bio-dad.
I threw out the letter from the Bishop.
I threw out the license and pictures from my first marriage. I used to think that Captain Knuckle would want them but he has enough of his father, me, and him together that he doesn't need to see the ones from that overcast day in April 1995.
The pictures, letters, license, and summons now sit on the curb, waiting for the garbage man to pick them up in a half of an hour.
But I kept the pictures of Boo. And needless to say, I kept the cards from you.
I love you. Thank you for loving me all of these years.
Much love -
Your adoring wife, M.