We may delude ourselves with visions of our lives as impregnable fortresses, as untouchable citadels, yet all it can take is the soft shadow of another life falling upon ours to be force sufficient to change us forever. That life may be that of a complete stranger, yet its shadow may still be felt to penetrate even the mightiest of defenses and weigh upon our lives.
In my heart I always feel when we are approaching that date on the calendar, where the shadow of a new life first touched mine, and touches me still. You know who you are, out there in the great beyond, but for me, and my wife, you remain...
Do you remember, stranger, the summer day that brought the discovery of your expected arrival, how it promised the fulfillment of a long-cherished hope? After all, what other earthly adventure could possibly bring more excitement to the soul than to become a parent… What greater glory can there be for a man, than to become a father?
As the wonderful day of your joyous arrival grew ever nearer, stranger, our whole world took on a new glow, and especially a new scope; suddenly there were uncountable facts to acquire, unacceptable habits to abandon, so much of our world undergoing so much change that each day seemed a lifetime in itself. Fear was constantly at my elbow, in the form of an electrifying clarity shining a light into any and all dark corners of my life, for no excuse would be good enough anymore to avoid Changing For The Better, no argument could reason away the need to Grow Up and become the Man I suddenly knew I must become, for your sake. Fear there was, yet courage as well, in equal measure, courage in the form of necessity. Stranger, you needed me to change in these ways, if I were to be of true service to you, as I needed you if I were to succeed in those changes. And so an unseen and unheard stranger became my greatest teacher, pushing me to progress and find things within myself that would have remained unknown, were it not for that stranger’s shadow falling upon me.
What else were you to be, stranger? Day following day we delighted in sharing thoughts about your future potential, forming plans around your possible needs, searching our dreams to discover your true name, and through that, your destiny. We looked deep into ourselves in the hope of finding a glimpse of who you might become, so that we could best welcome you into our lives, and get to know you in a way similar to how you were assisting us in getting to know ourselves.
And then thoughts and plans and dreams came crashing down around us, on that awful day, through that unexpected nightmare which took you away from us, keeping you forevermore a stranger. Never will I forget the sense of awareness that came upon us, as that awareness brought horror, knowing as we did that the end to the pains suddenly upon my wife surely meant your end as well.
You are gone, yet you remain everywhere, looking out at me from behind every child’s curious smile, holding my hand through every infant’s tentative touch, each time announcing quietly, but clearly, that your shadow is upon me still.
It’s taken many years, stranger, but this year, thank God, your shadow feels different. I feel a shifting, a closing of a deep wound. Your shadow seems no longer to be the fallen curtain hiding our future, freezing me with a gaping hole in my heart, the space I opened up in anticipation of needing it for you. Instead, at long last, I see beyond all that, the length of your shadow inviting me to cast my eyes over and above the present, towards a far-off tapestry suggesting a possible second act. For too long your shadow has been a shroud, holding me in place. Now I feel your shadow granting me the faith to dream of being of service to other strangers besides yourself.
I must live with the understanding that I will never really know you, that you will forever remain a stranger to me. It hurts to live with such mystery; yet, as it did before, your shadow teaches me still, that, while life contains shadows like yours, there is also a great light that shines so much brighter, if only we may summon enough strength to see it.
It has taken a long while for me to grow strong enough to carry your weight, but for once the shadows of summer fill me with the inspiration to dare to imagine another stranger, casting another shadow, upon the lives of two hopeful people.
I write this in the wish that the inner peace that may come from even a stranger’s shadow, some day be felt by all.