I made this graphic for Ben a few years ago for his birthday. Gibran is a fave, but this quote especially poignant since my two oldest “arrows” were born with the last name “Archer” — one I shared for many years. I found this again today while looking for a photo of Ben when he was about two-years old. It was Easter, 1986 and we were at a family reunion at Whitehawk in Bedford, NY. In the photo, Ben was sound asleep. On his head was a pair of bunny ears, and on his nose was a tiny bandaid from a tumble he had taken earlier in the day. Ben was born with a huge head and, because he was so active, he was constantly falling when he didn’t compensate for the momentum. That day he had taken another tumble on the gravel in the driveway and fell face-first before I could catch him. He hit his nose on a small white stone and split the skin open just enough to bleed like crazy. It was only a little cut, and soon it was closed and healing.
The Price We Pay for Loving
I didn’t find the photo yet, but I remember it vividly. In the photo, Ben is sleeping in his car seat near one of the covered festive tables under the huge party tent. Around him are beautiful Easter decorations and balloons. The Guthrie’s parties were always beautifully decorated. I remember taking that photo that day because I could hardly focus to see through the lens. My eyes were tearing from both laughter and a familiar strong emotion – overwhelming love. This little boy, sound asleep, was so adorable. Someone, probably his dad, had plopped the bunny ears on him after he fell asleep — he would have torn them off otherwise. I loved watching Ben sleep. It was the only time he was ever truly still. As I looked at him through the camera lens that day, I felt so much love and tenderness. It was the kind of strong emotion that feels like a crashing wave. Your feet are knocked out from under you, your throat closes, you can’t breathe, your heart stops and even time feels like it stops. I’ve felt those crashing moments often throughout my life from the first time I felt love, but I never felt them more powerfully as I did when I became a mom. It’s Love all intertwined with Pain mixed in with wisps of Terror. Love and pain are just two sides of the same coin, C.S. Lewis wrote in his wonderful book The Problem of Pain. “It’s the price we pay” for loving, he wrote. “Joy…for pain. That’s the deal.”
One Month, One Day
Ben has been missing for one month and one day. For the past week we’ve been on vacation, and I have done my best to forget, for a little while, this hollow not-knowing zone where I have lived since he disappeared. We’ve all lived here, all those who love him. My husband suggested that Ben might truly feel that worrying about him is wrong and pointless. Therefore, Ben may reason, he doesn’t feel the need to call since he truly believes that if we are suffering because of worry, that that’s our own fault. If that’s true –if that’s his reason for not calling… Well, I can’t fault the logic. There is that. Still, it’s also a very cold and unkind sort of belief, and Ben is neither cold nor unkind. Actually, saying it’s cold and unkind may be how I view it through my (very subjective) lens of the world. I asked Ben’s brother Joe if he felt that this might be why Ben hasn’t called. Joe he said he thinks it’s possible. He said he remembers Ben saying recently that worrying about him is pointless. If this is why we haven’t heard from him, it has made me feel somewhat more hopeful and less hollow.
Every day since Ben left, I’ve wanted only one thing: One call and just a few words from, “I’m okay Mom.” After another day passes with no news, I find it difficult to sleep. In order to turn off my brain long enough to shut down, I have had to rely on faith, and I was never very good at that. So every night until I finally fall asleep, I lie in bed and pray. I pray and vividly visualize that Ben is doing really well: He’s safe, healthy, happy, clothed, fed, warm and surrounded by love. The entire time I’m doing this, another part of my mind is reminding God that HE got Ben into this (this new walk of faith) in the first place and so he better damn well be okay. It’s a weird sort of begging-threat prayer that doesn’t even make sense to me.
The only thing I know right now is that I’m getting better at being okay with not knowing.