Sometimes it feels like it unfolded like a slow motion segment in a film, every body movement evident: the turning of the head, the final smile, a hand waving goodbye. And other times, it feels like it was quick and decisive like a lightning storm, cracking thunder, haphazard bolts streaking the sky, the eerie white light illuminating everything. An aftermath of wet, cool silence. Four siblings taking their leave of our childhood home, and because I was the youngest, of me as well.
My sisters and brother were not launched into college or supported gently into adulthood. They fled a home that was volatile and abusive. They left with a few belongings and barely a farewell from their only surviving parent, our mother. In actuality, I don’t remember our good-byes. Given the duress in these abrupt transitions, maybe there weren’t any. What I really remember was that my siblings thinned out slowly. My family became smaller, small, and then only a parent and one violent partner. The buffer or rare comfort my siblings had provided eroded away with each defection. Then it was just me against them. Which at age 12, meant me morphing into whatever version of a person they required in order to survive.
What amazes me is that 33 years later, my siblings are still lost to me. Not geographically anymore, but relationally. It is as if we have never been able to bridge the ravine of abandonment or imposed estrangement, to recover from the fall-out of domestic violence. We rarely gather as a whole group and when we do, it is for a Purpose, the requisite weddings or funerals, the defining rituals that still fragilely link us as a family. While there have been alliances and disconnections between various siblings over time, we lost our innate sense of family long ago. And the silence surrounding our childhood experiences has been held so long, it is as if our lips have been invisibly sewn shut.
So I meditate and pray. I send cards, sometimes letters, or make phone calls that I know will mostly not be returned. I remind myself of this before reaching out, to quell the wellspring of hope, having met the black void of silence too often. And when my anger and resentment begins to outstrip my compassion, I try to remember each of us is on a unique spiritual path. In the darkest moments, I try to wrest comfort from the mystery in this. Finally, amidst all the loss, I try to remain openhearted, to not wear these lost connections like a cloak or a veil in a feeble attempt to prevent further injury, but instead to embrace love in the present. It is a daily meditation. It is the only way of life I know.