What should I do with them? Tuck them in my purse? Put them back in the book and leave it on the shelf? It was not a current title and might never be purchased. What was the next stop on the journey for unwanted books?
I bought the book and the pages along with it and became their steward and a witness to the pain of one hopeless morning in the first week of 1996. The thoughts and feelings of a man who felt disconnected from family. Marginalized at work and in community. Who craved recognition and acknowledgment, but got neither. Who wanted to be valued and to make someone proud. Who recognized his deepening depression but wanted to try to tough it out without medicine. Who understood how some people, including the protagonist in the book I now held, would turn, on their darkest day, to suicide. He wrote of his one great love, a woman whom he had cast aside "like garbage" and the one he was now with, even while knowing there could be no future together.
I think back to my own life in the early days of 1996. It was a time of personal and professional promise. In a few weeks would come a rare Virginia blizzard, and Tim would purposely get snowed in with my roommates and me. There would be parties, card games, a snowy trudge to the local movie theater, and cooking together in the big, drafty kitchen. We were so young. A few months later he would propose, and the promise of a future together as a family became real. In the waning hours of that year, on a strangely warm December day, we would marry.
In the almost 18 years since, it's clear my life has not turned out the way I would have imagined or planned. Not that I did that much planning anyway. We had two kids not because that was the magic number, but because that was how many we had before the thought of having more frightened us. I stepped off the career path because I was able to stay at home with Jack and Margaret, but I had no real picture of what my second or third acts would be. And my own family relationships chugged along with varying levels of beauty, pain and sometimes dysfunction. We stayed in my home town because it was all I knew, and the years kept moving past and we grew settled. Life happened.
And then the creek happened. And we were dragged to the depths of a despair and pain too deep for us to have ever imagined. And now, almost 2 1/2 years later, we stand again on dry land. Not because we are healed. Not because it's all okay, but because we have hope. It could be that our survival is just one more form of settling, more trudging forward without a plan, because that's all we've ever known how to do. But maybe it's more. Maybe it's a peace that doesn't come from us and our plodding, or from our strong wills, but from God and our love for Jack.
I wonder about the man who wrote those pages. His mind and heart felt no peace that day. No shelter in the storm. Has he kept going for all these years? Did he find help in the way of needed medical attention, acknowledgment, and healed relationships?
I don't know.
But I am hoping he found some release and relief in the writing itself. In turning his thoughts over in his mind. Of getting them down on paper. On seeing what parts of life he could change, and what parts he couldn't.
I don't think writing is THE answer, but it is AN answer. I know it has been for me.