“Everything which is done in the present, affects the future by consequence, and the past by redemption.”
Consequences and redemption. I guess you could say those were the two defining themes of his life, and, by association, now they are mine, as well.
Like many people who grew up in a deeply dysfunctional divided home, he went astray. Add the mental illness to that, and he never really stood a chance.
He did a lot of things he wasn’t proud of to survive, and as a result, he carried a lifetime’s worth of guilt and remorse. By the time he found me, he had almost given up on finding love, of deserving it, and he had good reason.
I knew it, and I didn’t care. I understood how easily a person would compromise who they were to avoid violence, and how easily a person can be driven to do things they would have never imagined doing. Among other soul bruises, I had spent too long in a toxic relationship to ever pass judgement on someone pushed to the edge of human endurance. When I say we understood each other, I mean the most profound kind of understanding–that of survivors.
So I forgave him. For everything he’d done, for all the mistakes he’d made. I loved him unconditionally, and that meant I loved him all the way to the wall. And I can only hope that in the end, it was enough.
One of my most salient personality traits is my skepticism. Show me, give it to me, prove it to me. My family doesn’t value emotions or compassion or anything that looks like human weakness, and I grew up dismissive. Even now, when I know full well their worth, I still have trouble having faith in things I can’t touch. So when he spoke to me of redemption, of atonement, the very concept was foreign to me, and the idea that love could be redemptive, even more so.
When faced with his death and all the regrets and missed opportunities that came with it, his missed chance at atonement loomed large. Now I was not only carrying my own regrets and sadness, but his, too.
Yes, I understand that is unreasonable. Is there anything about grief that’s reasonable?
As I sat up at night, waiting as if the hounds of hell were coming with answers instead of a score to settle, it slowly dawned on me that I may have inadvertently given him the one thing he had wanted so badly-redemption. I loved him, I forgave him, I understood him, I accepted him.
The ancient Egyptians believed when a person died, his heart was weighed against an ostrich feather. If his heart was heavy, his heart was devoured and his soul denied immortality, destined to wander as a restless spirit.
I don’t know if he considered my love enough. I am not sure how much choice he had in the matter after he left this world. But I think, in the end, it was my heart they weighed, and not his.