Sam landed back in our lives on Christmas Day. We were pretty nervous about it – not knowing how he would be feeling after the overnight flight – how his health is, how he would react to us… Amazingly he rushed to hug us, excited, fuelled by adrenaline, having spent 9 hours watching movies! He was so pleased to be home and full of news, talking non-stop all the way home about his stay in Canada – his adventures and misadventures, the people he liked and those he didn’t… Despite having encountered some relational and financial difficulties he seemed really upbeat, summarising the mixed experience by saying: “It put a lot of pieces in place for me – socially, mentally and emotionally.” We can’t know about ‘physically’ though… we’ll have to wait on that one: he still gets throbbing headaches. Overall the assessment seems to be that 2 months away from home in another country was just what the young man needed – any positive affects of cannabis oil aside!
What a blessed Christmas Day – the returning son, the beautiful, competent daughter cooking dinner – so happy with her lovely, gentle boyfriend – some perfect presents and a delicious meal: it could not have gone better. Sam had been up for about 30 hours by the time he went home to his kittens – we thought we had better leave him alone to sleep it off! I am so aware that I must not go backwards – be the fussy mother or cross the boundaries we both need. I didn’t really expect the good mood to last once reality hit home… there is a lot of jet lag to get over after 2 whole months in a different time zone! Sam has been used to being independent – and so have I! – so beyond reasonable care I must let him find his own way here: that is what having his own house is about.
Well, we have to take each day as it comes and find the grace and peace to keep going – it’s all any of us can do. Boxing Day was a chance for rest and recovery from the 4 hours driving to Heathrow and the excess of celebratory champagne! Sam didn’t appear at our door, so we left him to sleep: it’s always hard to know whether to go round and check on him – it’s always a battle not to worry. Despite sending texts I went to bed without hearing from him, just hoping he had eaten something…
But then at 10pm he was at the door in tears, having lost his temper with one of the cats and horrified at the damage he might have done by lashing out in sudden violent rage! He was angry – furious – with his whole situation, with every day not knowing if he will live or die, with trying to work out how to beat the immovable tumour, all his options closed down, pouring out bitterness and expletives. Overtired, readjusting to life in England with no more adventures to look forward to and debts to pay with barely any income – tortured by constant fears and with a huge mass in his head that is undoubtedly affecting his brain function – it is not surprising that strong feelings well up and overflow. It is amazing he has been so controlled until now – down to his focussed personality and deliberate self-control, due to his particular approach to life and other people, an accentuation of who Sam has always been. But disintegration and the fight against it is now threatening greatly erratic mood swings, from sweetness to bile… and how to deal with that is going to be a major part of the scenery for all of us in the coming months.
And I say all that simply to set the scene – to form the introduction for my heart’s response; for this is the poem that marks the moment and the words that rise to express my horror and grief on his behalf and my own…
Here is the deep pain of my son, the loss and mourning,
Such madness and grief in the hopeless fight,
The endless inner stand-off, stubborn courage,
His treacherous emotions, quicksand feet.
The plunge from joy to violent fury
A bitter battle raging in his mind –
Acceptance avoided, mood swings magnified.
Sam-son has long since lost his hair, his foreign wife,
Taken a journey to earth’s end, chasing the west wind;
Good and bad experiences all forming grist
To the mill that churns and grinds within,
The soul that’s searching for the path of life.
Yet up against threatened disintegration,
The sheer impossibility of execution,
An inability to change despite determination,
Even short-term goals are hampered,
Obstacles impassable and plans unworkable;
The far horizons blurred by clouds,
With mountain heights unscalable:
The object is immovable.
Still hanging on to shards of hope –
Companion cats, a distant friend, the trans-Atlantic call –
He’s facing his end at 24 – too near the start.
Imagine the sharp agony each morning,
Setting his attitude to face the day…
To live or die, which will it be?
Betraying brain refusing to be healed
“This thing inside my head”
Quicksilver mind cannot control.
Bring order to the chaos of this life
While sitting under heaven’s umbrella
Waiting for the peace to come
And raging at the walls.
Cold isolation, lonely in his agony –
Yet hitting out at those who faithfully approach
By letting rip the venom
At the family in whose bosom lies his comfort…
Because there is nobody else to hear.
But always loved as much as son or brother could be