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a broken instrument still plays sweet music
On the other side of the world - I learned how to become a song
I wrote the following as an apology to my parents who had died long before I could harvest the words out of my garden heart.
I choose to believe there is magic in writing. I believe that even though my parents have returned to source here are still able to receive little postcards from me from time to time. Writing helps me to find peace amid the storm.
Life is a symphony - and even though we can all get a bit broken, we can still turn our lives into instruments - we can still compose the most beautiful songs. My love, what the song you need to write?
The following is the song I wrote from my parents:
I was born with a hole in my heart that kept my parents from having a decent night of sleep for the first year of my life they would take turns sitting next to my crib every evening watching me sleep to ensure that my heart would remember to keep beating my dad would steady one hand softly on my chest and the other on one of his cheap world war 2 spy novel he’d likely be reading and waiting for my mom to relieve him for her shift at around 3 a.m. every time I sneezed they thought my fragile body would turn into a firecracker every time I cried they waited for death to slip in under the door to collect their little boy they were waiting for the other shoe to drop I was real-life version of Russian roulette it was only a matter of time before the hole in my heart would break theirs into pieces my parents weren't walking on eggshells they were line dancing on them after I survived the first year my parents started to relax a bit around their son with a holey heart maybe I wasn't just an undetonated bomb of grief waiting to detonate ~ maybe my story wouldn’t just be all prologue ~ maybe I would make it still, my incomplete heart was never far from their full attention I remember on my first day of elementary school when my mom showed up at lunch to tell my teacher that I had to sit on the bench at recess because of you know...my heart hole so I sat and watched everybody chase each other Isabella came over to ask me to join in the great run with them I can't remember her last name but I remember her long jet black hair "I can't," I said "Why?" Isabella asked "I have a hole in my heart," I said "Oh, sorry." That was the response I get whenever I tell people that I'm unwell. “Oh, sorry.” What else is somebody supposed to say when I turn our small talk into a confessional? “Hello John.” "I'm broken." "Oh, sorry." The older I got the less my parents began to outwardly fret about the gap in my ticker they relaxed ~ but not really they kept waiting for the heartbreak to show up they kept waiting for the other shoe to drop My heart with a hole in it would only get brought up when I let them down which turned out to be a lot it became a point of leverage for them _________________________________________ I was 22 when they showed up at the door of my college apartment speaking in lines that it felt like we had been rehearsing for years: "We saw your midterms,"my parents said in tandem "Uh huh," I mumbled in reply. "Why did you drop out of that class?" the excuses spilled out of my mouth like spoiled milk "Because it was stupid ~ and the professor didn't like me ~ and it was too hard ~ and I don't understand why I need to take it ~ and I just needed a break from studying ~ and I will take it later and it's not a big deal." "You are failing half of your classes." "I like to look at it like I'm passing half of them." "Don't be smart with us." they said unironically "Right." "Are you going to be able to graduate from college next semester?” "Probably not." "Do you know how much we took care of you when you were a baby?" "Yes, of course." "Do you know how many nights we prayed for your heart to not stop?" "Yes, of course." “Do you know how much stress you have caused us?” “Yes, of-“ "Do you know that your brother is getting his masters next week and you can't be even bothered to finish your undergraduate classes." "I know..." "You are really letting us down." "I know - but -" "Why are you doing this to us?" "I think there is something wrong with me. That’s why." long pause "Oh, sorry," they didn't say and said at the same time then the three of us said the worst thing we could have in that moment in the doorway of my college apartment: nothing we stood there in silence I had finally broken their heart their fretting and worrying became fully realized shoe met floor what I couldn't explain to them at the time was that I had a second hole in me forming that scared me a lot more than my first one this time the hole was in my brain the hole in my mind was less of a murmur and more like a monster it was a hole that wanted to consume me whole it was a hole that had several rows of crooked teeth that left bite marks on my stomach whenever I tried to get out of bed I never told either of them about it because they had already worried their lives away on me I just closed the door and they went back home and I went back inside to lay down in a dry bathtub listening to the holes in my head and heart write love letters to each other _____________________________ two years later I was in Taize, France on a pilgrimage I traveled there with a church group but in reality I was there on my own I had come around the world to talk to God who had apparently started wearing camouflage I had recently started to experience a new hole forming inside of me this time it was in an unseeable place inside of me my soul this hole hurt the most all the magic and miracle and joy of living and faith that I used to feel were leaking out of me and into the sky above I had come around the world to tell God to patch me up but I was met with the exact same absence I had back home God never showed up with a first aid kit My dad had died a month before the experiences I had surrounding his death were still laying heavy on me I had so many regrets that they had to take turns tying themselves to my back so many unspoken words which truth be told was the genesis of my trip to Taize I had come around the world to tell God to tell him I'm sorry I wasn't a better son but God wasn't accepting my phone call I could feel the hole in my heart widening and the one in my head and the one in my soul I was nothing but holes now they would soon merge and I would be gone sitting there among truly holy people I was the holeyest of them all there were people from all walks of life and all faiths sitting in the beautiful candle lit temple it looked the part of where mystical experiences take place on a routine basis during the day we would labor around the ecumenical camp site hundreds of us would be cooking cleaning rooms building structures scrubbing bathrooms and then four times a day the bell would ring to call is to temple where we would sit there long periods of either silence or simple song the songs were usually just a line or two of lyrics that would be repeated over and over for 10-20 minutes I sang the words hoping I could at the very least brainwash myself into believing things would be okay I didn't need God to be real I just needed to go back believing that God was real I decided there was a difference between the two I spent every session for five days singing for my life hoping that the words would make a garden inside of me but I had too many holes for rosebushes to grow on my last night there something happened I remember the song we were singing when the old man next grabbed my hand and held it tightly in his "Bless the Lord, my soul And bless God's holy name Bless the Lord, my soul Who leads me into life" He was crying; actually sobbing is a better description of what he was doing it wasn't sorrowful weeping he was crying with a wide smile revealing his toothless mouth I could feel the calluses in his palm rub against my smooth skin I felt ashamed the contrast between the condition of our hands felt like an indictment of my life it didn't seem to phase the old man one bit as his hand kept squeezing mine in rhythm to the song "Bless the Lord (squeeze), my soul (squeeze) And Bless God's (squeeze) holy name (squeeze) Bless the Lord (squeeze), my soul (squeeze) Who (squeeze) leads me (squeeze) me back into (long squeeze) life. The song went on for about ten minutes or so I would like to say that I squeezed his hand back but I didn't I was uncomfortable and distracted his hands were very dirty his robes were covered in mud his body didn't smell very good he was obviously extremely poor He kept crying he kept squeezing and I just wanted it to end eventually it did we all got up to leave the old man was still holding my hand and gave it one last super squeeze I gave him the fakest smile I could produce It was Oscar worthy I then offered him a bow like he was some sort of enlightened master he shook his head and poked me in the chest hard ow and despite my trying to back out of it the man lurched forward and hugged me the only way to describe the way this man held me was to say it felt like I was being swaddled by a hundred million fireflies there was an energy in his unwashed arms the base of my spine was like a rocket that wanted to take off my skin tingled like every particle inside of me was getting a kiss from heaven I know that sounds ridiculous when we stopped hugging I suddenly became concerned that I was going to pass out I was going to be one of those people who hit the ground after a faith healer slaps them in a white suit slaps them upside the face with some southern spirit my body was shaking the man poked my chest again harder (ow) and said something to me in a language I could not understand a lady about half his age who had been sitting on the other side of him the entire time waved at me she said in jumbled English "Do you want to know what he said?" "Yes," I mustered the energy to say "He said let all of the incomplete things is you and let them become an instrument. Tie all your broken pieces together and become a wind chime." I smiled this time it was real. With that the lady took the old man by the hand and they disappeared in the crowd. My spine spoke up again: Be an ocarina. An instrument whose many holes in turn the wind into music. Be a wind chime. Bless the world with the gently clanging sound of grace passing through you. You are not a decoration. You are a wounded apparatus of melody and song. Your gaps will hum with spirit. I was ready to levitate straight up through the roof of the chapel. I was a kite begging to kiss a star field. My spine went back to sleep - but the fire remained. I asked the wind to turn the holes in me into music. I begged grace to turn me into sound. I sat back down to sing on my own and that's when the visions came Bless the Lord (I could see my parents sitting by my crib) my soul (I could feel my dads hand on my newborn chest) And Bless Gods holy name (I could rushing over to me whenever I cried) Bless the Lord (I could see my mom wring her hands on my first day of school) who leads us back to life (I could see my parents wiping the tears from their face as I shut my college apartment door on them) Forgiveness washed over me My parents loved me They did there absolute best to protect me They didn't know what to do with the holes forming in me That's okay - because neither did I I was never a very good son to either of my parents I asked God to tell my dad that I was sorry oh (so) sorry oh (so) sorry oh (so) sorry I was assured that my dad would get the message It was in that moment as I sat in a near empty temple on the other side of the world that the gaping holes in my heart and my mind and in my soul all became an ocarina and my wounds became wind chimes and for one night I became the most beautiful song that I’ve ever heard and from that moment on the conversation goes like this: “Hello John.” “I’m broken.” “Oh, sorry.” “I’m not. It makes me an instrument.” ~ john roedel
I love you.