What do you fear most when lying in your bed at night, just before sleep takes you away from your worldly worries? What secrets have you hidden deep inside your heart, hoping against hope that no one ever discovers that which you have hidden from plain view, but that which causes you so much anguish in the still, black, hours of the night. What demons torment the furthest recesses of your soul, your mind, and your heart, and make you long for some way to unburden yourself without risking your standing in the community, your reputation amongst colleagues, your self-inflated sense of importance in the eyes of friends and family, and without having to face the cold, hard, painful truth that all of us, you and me included, are flawed, fallible, and imperfect and because of this our lives are filled with many little and not-so-little fears.
Most of us go through life in abject fear, whether we choose to admit it or not- fear of not being good enough, fear of not being smart enough, fear of not being successful enough, fear of rejection, fear that others will be able to see through the façade we put around our hearts, so they can’t really see who we are, fear that others may see our fear while we can’t see theirs, and fear of so many other trivial things in life that simply don’t really matter. Many of us rue the day may come when we look in the mirror, heads full of gray and deep lines in our faces, wondering where the time went and how instead of living our lives in joy, love and happiness, we’d squandered what little time we have in this world being afraid of just about everything.
God knows that I don’t have any answers for anyone else. Everyone has to find his or her own path away from the fear that paralyzes our lives, our hearts and our souls. I am simply trying for the sake of my wife and me to honor the memory of our beloved boy by thinking of all the lessons we could have learned from his good, kind and sweet heart while he was with us, but did not, and what we still have time learn if we have the wisdom to reflect on the meaning of his short life and the reason God gave him to us in the first place. Surely, it would be easier to wallow in our misery, but my heart tells me that we must find the courage to turn away from our fears if we are to have the slimmest chance of grasping onto once again and maintaining in our lives the goodness and happiness our boy once brought to us. I don’t think we can live our lives anymore the way we have been. The status quo is no longer desirable for, or sustainable by us. We must try to fill this gaping hole in our lives and in our hearts with something else if our lives are to take on a meaning other than that of “victim.”
Until recently, I kept my fears, my hurts, my insecurities and my secrets tucked deep inside my heart, just as most men do, thinking that if they were ever exposed to the revealing light of day, I would lose that which I foolishly and vainly thought was the most important thing to me- how I imagined others thought of me. That secret, and many others, which I spent a lifetime concealing in the most hidden corners of my heart just haven’t seemed to matter ever since my wife and I lost our beautiful teenage boy in a traffic accident two months ago. I have had quite a bit of time over the course of the past two months thinking about aspects of my individual life and our life as a couple that I had never given a second’s thought to when our son was still with us. Some of you may think that I am rambling aimlessly, or that I’ve gone off the deep end, or that I’ve been stricken with a case of sentimentality, but none of these are true. It’s just that my wife and I finally understand that we don’t want to continue living our lives the way we have for the past thirty years. We want to find a different way-one that perpetually honors the memory of our child. We are thinking it will be a sort of internal revolution-a revolution of the heart, if you will.
Before, I venture any further, my dear wife and I want to send a sincere and loving thank you to all those beautiful people, Iranian and not, from across North America and around the world who sent us such wonderfully supportive messages of sympathy and condolence. Our hearts are still broken, as I’m sure they always will be, but the tremendous out-pouring of love we received was completely unexpected, and unbeknownst to us beforehand, was a soothing and much needed medicinal tonic for our hurting hearts.
Within a day a two of, ‘My real Iranian,’ appearing on iranian.com, we were engulfed by a tsunami of love that swept us away. As the touching and heartfelt messages of condolence poured in, we found ourselves on afternoon, sitting in front of our computer screen, holding hands (with a tenderness and affection that was unequalled with even when we were young and in love, thirty years ago) with tears streaming down our faces as we read and re-read each message of love and support sent to us. So many people willingly shared the intensity of our sense of loss that it seemed to lighten the crushing burden our hearts had been laboring under. But, there was something else, as well.
We received so many profound messages of support that we were reminded that we had no right to get so lost in our grief lest we forget to thank God for giving our child to us, even for a short while, and lest we remember the bright and shining beauty his life brought to us. It was as if our aching hearts were drenched in a warm and powerful downpour of love-filled messages. For the first time in weeks we weren’t weeping for our dear boy, but rather because we were truly overcome by the love and compassion sent to us from so many beautiful Iranians-from so many faraway places. We both felt badly for not being able to respond individually to each beautiful message sent to us, but there were simply too many. Please forgive us, and know that we read each precious message of love that was sent to us and we thank each of you from the bottom of our hearts.
Before I return to the matter of our revolution of the heart, I feel compelled to share a few thoughts I have regarding the subject of forgiveness. I share my thoughts knowing full well that some of you may leave comments and I hope you will because my wife is struggling right now with this very issue and perhaps all of you can help me to help her. My wife has been heartsick since our son’s passing because she is the one who gave him permission to go out with his friends the night he died. She blames herself for what happened as if she had been there one behind the wheel that night. The truth is that she is no more to blame for the accident than the boy who was driving the car that night. She did not force our son to go out with his friends; he wanted to go. Moreover, she did not force our son to neglect his own safety by failing to buckle up when his other three friends survived because they had their seatbelts on.
The accident was preventable, but neither by the boys or by my wife. The boys were hit head-on by an impaired driver as they went round a curve and sadly for us, our son failed himself and us in neglecting his own safety by not buckling-up. Unfortunately, the man who caused the accident also died. It would be so convenient for us to hate him if he survived. Being the fallible creatures we are, it seems to be a fundamental part of our nature to want to pin the blame for all the bad which befalls us in life on someone. It is both hard to hate and hard to blame a dead man.
My wife’s instincts have compelled her to look for someone else to blame, and when she couldn’t find another person to point a finger at, she quite unjustifiably and with much harshness, pointed it at herself. (Shirin azizam, you are no more at fault for giving him permission than I am for making love with you 16 years ago resulting in your pregnancy. You are right, but not logical, when you repeatedly say that he would have never been in that car if you had kept him home that night, but likewise, he would have never been in that car if I had not impregnated you. It is no more your fault than it is mine that he is no longer with us. He was a big boy and he wanted to go out with his friends that night just like he’d done a hundred times before. You have got to stop insisting that you have done something wrong because first, it’s a lie, and second, it will not bring him back, and third, it will eat you up on the inside if you begin to believe this lie that your grief had fabricated in your head. Perhaps, seeing in print what I tell you every day and night will make you realize you are worthy of no blame whatsoever.)
Closely related to the ability to forgive is the ability to love and have compassion for others. Ultimately, any act of forgiveness boils down to one having the capacity to love a person more than to hate him (her). Many of us don’t really think much about love and forgiveness because we spend so much of our lives hating and blaming others. Our species is probably cranially hotwired at a very basic level to hate. I guess that’s why so many of us go through life looking for someone to kick around, or look down on.
Just think about it, hate is everywhere; the redneck’s got to have the nigger to hate, the nigger’s got to have the wetback to hate and the wetback’s got to hate either the gook or the camel jockey, or perhaps both. The camel jockey’s got to have the dirty filthy kaffir to kick around, look down on, or simply talk bad about. Jews, Christians and Muslims each believe that they are the only ones going to Heaven, so why love the others when it’s so much easier to either blow them up or lock them up. Shias hate Sunnis, Catholics and Protestants hate each other and, Sunnis just hate everybody. Really, it’s enough to boggle the mind. I wonder why is it that we, as a species, don’t expend a fraction of our energies trying to love one another as we do trying to tear each other apart.
I don’t know the answer to this anymore than anyone else does, but I do know two things. We humans have an infinite capacity to love as was demonstrated recently by the many loving messages my wife and I received from Iranians around the world. This capacity to love, however, is in constant conflict with our primal and irresistible impulse to hate. Instead of loving others, it is so much easier to destroy them, insult them, look down on them, and make always feel ‘less-than.’ Instead of looking out for others, we instinctively look out for number one. Humans are without doubt a conundrum of complexity and confusion. We want others to love us, but most of us are unwilling or incapable of giving that same love to them, except in extremely rare instances, like the warm letters sent to us from Iranians all over the world.
My son was full of love. Even now, his friends still come by and see us from time to time. They are all young teenage boys who try to act like hard-hearted men, but they can’t hide their sense of loss, especially when their eyes get watery, their voices shaky and their tears begin to flow. I know the day is coming when they won’t shed tears anymore for their lost pal and our lost baby, but I also know that a few o our son’s closest friends will always continue to love and miss him, no matter how many years roll by.
Wherever my son is now, I know he is fine because he has all the love he is ever going to need. He has the love of his friends, his mother and me to sustain him until the eventual happy day when we will be reunited. Perhaps, it’s like Paul McCartney said, “….and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” My son filled everyone’s heart with love during his fifteen years on earth and that’s why we will never stop loving him.
It’s too bad that more of us don’t try spending more of our lives building others up with our love instead of tearing them down with our hate. I am resolved, along with my wife, to follow our son’s example of bringing what joy we can into the lives of others instead of unhappiness, or indifference for all the remaining days that God gives the two of us. Our hearts will never stop hurting completely, but instead of wallowing in pity, we can try to pick ourselves up and bring as much happiness as we can to the lives of others just as he brought love into the lives of everyone he touched.
Thanks again to all the iranian.com readers who sent us messages of love during our bereavement. Just as we will never stop loving our son, we will never stop loving any of you!�