A few years back one of my oldest and best of pals from the Chicago burbs wrote me about one of our posts of inexplicable synchronicities. “I have no doubt that the laws of probability will continue to be irrelevant as you continue to encounter people who are desperately in need of hope and reasons to believe. Perhaps it is the literary Field of Dreams: If you write it, they will come. Maybe your reward is a catch with Jimmy and your Dad.”
George Blystone has been sucked into our—his words—Bermuda Triangle as reflected in the post WANT TO GO FOR A RIDE? He is also a fraternity brother-in-loss. They lost their beloved daughter, Remy, four years ago.
Of course, George could not know his mention of the 1989 movie Field of Dreams would bring me to my knees and baby dinosaur tears. It’s impossible for me to count the hours our son, Jimmy, and I spent in our yard throwing the ball, playing catch, through the joyful and stressful years of T-Ball, Little League, Pop Warner and high school football. He threw righty, although he was a natural lefty—he worked it out.
Blystone didn’t know our family was bewitched by Kevin Costner’s film and Jimmy’s and my “thing” about the signature scene. When Jimmy got older and came home for visits from college, we had a standing joke. When discussing plans, rather than using the direct approach, “Hey, what do you want to do?” Jimmy or I would say “Wanna have a catch?” We’d have a good laugh and then go boogie board, play tennis, golf or something. That was our thing. [click on link to this 2:40 min clip]
Although he didn’t—couldn’t— know the background of all this, instinctively, intuitively, George had tapped into something truly profound. That is the essence of my friendship with this guy—he gets me.
If you write it, they will come.
I wrote a post A PLACE I GO-MY SANCTUARY. I included a short impromptu piece I did for a writing class I took from Judy Reeves at UCSD, and thinking at the time I must have been a little crazy to write about—and share with my classmates— falling into wormholes, travelling with spirit guides, walking through walls of water and meeting up and talking with Jimmy and my Dad.
They thought I made it all up. If only they knew.
Writing is my conduit, my wormhole that connects me with my son—and my father.
Writing is my sanctuary. Dr. Alan Wolfelt, the author of Companioning the Bereaved, has a wonderful definition of “sanctuary” that deeply resonates with me.
A place of refuge from external demands. A space where the mourner is free to disengage from the outside world. A place where the need to turn inward and suspend will not be hurried or ridiculed.
As I wrote—yes, George with the raised eyebrows, I’m quoting myself again–
Writing is how I access the spiritual dimension of my grief and, somehow, “it” can access me. Writing is how I probe my deepest feelings, thoughts and questions—my deeper self. It’s how I stick my head into the rabbit hole. When I go into my sanctuary and write it’s like getting on a plane—more aptly a space ship—that takes me to places I never before imagined. Even more than the words—it is the act of writing that helps me clarify my thoughts, project them out into the universe and occasionally tap into the mysteries and wonders all around us. We’ve been extraordinarily rewarded with the many ping backs we’ve received. Think Jody Foster and the film Contact.
Because of writing, I’ve made deep, profound, connections with many, many wonderful people I otherwise never would have met. Together, we’ve plumbed the depths of sorrow, pain and suffering, and the soaring heights and infinite power of love everlasting.
In my sanctuary I’ve repaired and forged stronger, more loving relationships with my family and friends. My sanctuary is the antithesis of lonely.
I recently came upon this wise article in the San Diego Union Tribune, by Mary Wisniewski. [Note: Mary wrote the article for the Chicago Tribune in January, and the Union-Tribune re-ran it with the following heading] Click on the link below.
I commend the entire article for your reading, but here are some nuggets that jumped out for me:
- Artists who keep journals and psychologists who recommend it to patients say writing can be a way of relieving stress, moving past trauma, firing creativity and giving life meaning.
- Journaling gives people perspective. It does that by tapping into the unconscious. Once you put a pen between your fingers…it opens this free associative process of unconscious which opens the door to creativity.
- During tumultuous personal times when things can seem out of control, journaling can be a way to strengthen one’s inner voice…It provides a quiet time to reflect, and that reflection creates an opportunity to create time and quiet and this meaningful solitude which is so important during times of chaos.
- Keeping journals frees you from being bound to what you’re already paying attention to, and lets you meander, where you may encounter things in a new way.
- Journaling is different from putting thoughts on Facebook or Twitter, because social media is not designed for authenticity and vulnerability. People on social media tend to put on a happy face. In journal writing people have an opportunity to face their vulnerability and whatever imperfections that they may be struggling with and be real with that.
Susan Hannifin-MacNab in her wonderful book, A to Z Healing Toolbox, devotes an entire chapter “J” to the Healing Power of Journaling. She emphasizes there are different ways to journal and recommends finding the one most comfortable for you.
The act of transferring conscious or subconscious words, feelings, and images from mind to paper may help to release internal feelings of despair, promote a sense of self-compassion, and provide a stepping stone to realize future hopes, goals, and dreams.
And this is from one of the Healing Stories at the end of the chapter:
I believe the calming internalization of journaling can lead us to our own inner-knowing, which is wiser and purer than what our churning minds and emotions tend to spit out without reflection.
I began to journal a couple of weeks after Jimmy died. I still do, and particularly my vivid dreams-the ones that seem to come in the early morning before I fully wake up. I handwrite my dream recollections. I do this because it’s more personal, and it enables me to dig deeper into the nuances of the dream. Weird alert—and sometimes when I do that, I can climb back into the dream and more spills out.
I also journal my vivid dreams because they are so elusive. If I don’t write then down right away, I forget them. They’re gone. 2nd weird alert—and when I go back and re-read what I wrote about those dreams, I have no recollection of ever having that dream. It’s like I’m experiencing it for the first time. That’s why I refer to my journal as my “dream catcher.” And I have an actual dream catcher hanging from my bed. Better to be safe…..
One of those dreams I journaled was about my father. We were in Cuba and he was telling me about a book he and his friend, Graham, were working on. He showed me his written notes in the margins and explained that “someone had miscalculated the weight of a load on a small plane and the plane had crashed.”
That didn’t make much sense. No matter. The thing that was particularly remarkable about this dream is that my father was talking with me. In all the previous dreams I had of him after his death, he never spoke. He would wordlessly drop in and then silently disappear.
One week later, Emily Sue Buckberry of West Virginia called and let me know about the letter my father wrote to me in June of 1968. He wrote that letter to me from Itasca Illinois while I was working on a construction job for our family’s company in Coalwood, West Virginia. For those of you familiar with our story THE LETTER, a film by Steve Date, my dad’s letter did not reach my hands until 40 years later—three months after the death of our son Jimmy—at precisely the moment I needed it—and my father—the most.
Towards the end of Steve’s wonderful film, and from the several reels of old Super 8 film I sent him, he selected a clip shot in the summer of 1969 of my Dad and me throwing a tennis ball to one another. Before his letter arrived, I couldn’t have watched that clip without a shadow of gloom enveloping me. Now, there he is, vibrant, barefoot, shorts, fit, huge grin on his face, winging the ball to me finished off with a high kick of his leg. That is how I choose to now remember my dad-having a catch-in our back yard with big smiles on our faces.
My Dad took his life 18 months later.
That’s why George brought me to tears.
Because he is absolutely right.
If you write it, they will come.
If they write it, they will come.
[click on this clip of the catch between Casey and his Dad]
Oh, and one more thing. George Blystone didn’t know about this— the father’s day card Jimmy sent to me in 2006.
Of course, I do.
That’s our thing…..