A story grew in my mind while walking last night. I wondered what would happen to a man, were he shown all the hurt he has done to his loved ones, whether or not it was intended, in his lifetime. Could one read the book of his life, knowing the depth of the tragedies that hide in the shadowy depths of that most personal prose, the revealing memoir of a father, husband, and sometime friend, who traveled his life's path, blind to the terrible price of his passage? Will we all be forced to read that terrible tome as we pass that tearful veil? What if my father, seeking only to reduce my pain in the afterlife, revealed to me the awful truth tomorrow?
Would it be the near path to peace, or beyond bittersweet?
When I thought I was talking to myself -
An ancient novel, alone on a shelf -
Full of regrets for mistakes and choices,
Written in many conflicting voices,
A sudden, cold draft blew across my spine -
Chilling each page, ev'ry chapter and line.
Then a specter, near silent, deeply sad,
With the low sepulchral voice of my Dad -
Cavernous, distant and unhappily
Spoke as the shade of my father to me.
His words brought no comfort, memories mild,
Or pleasant reflections to his grown child.
Instead he recounted in great detail,
Every time I endeavored to fail
At being a Dad, a husband, a son -
Recounting the battles I should have won,
And then counted up the tremendous cost
Of the useless fights that I fought, and lost.
The ceaseless onslaught drove me nearly wild,
Till he stopped and the spectral visage smiled...
"I've shown you the worst of yourself," he said,
"An accounting any sane man would dread;
Yet, every father since time began,
Whether or not he's a very good man,
Despite his intent and the care he takes,
Will make many thousand little mistakes -
For which, by his cosmic roll of the dice,
His loved ones ultimately pay the price.
A debt to his friends, descendents and wife,
That will haunt his soul in the afterlife."
"I've shown you the worst now," he spoke again,
"To spare you eternal and ceaseless pain;
To open your heart to the damage done -
A bittersweet gift for my eldest son."
Now satisfied with the message he gave,
My spectral scion, silent as the grave,
Like the barest wisp of smoky mist hies -
Except for his penetrating blue eyes
Which bore into mine, with a message clear:
"Feel sorrow for hurting those you hold dear,
Fix what you can, and then hope for the best -
And with forgiveness, you'll find peaceful rest."
In deafening silence, I saw myself -
An old, lonely book, weeping on the shelf...