July 23, 2024

Column: “That Got Me to Thinkin’…? “Greatest Heartache”


“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” “Greatest Heartache” Chapter 85
By Bruce Williams

Bruce Williams

I was driving with my son when he poignantly and misty-eyedly told me that a particular song reminds him of our dog that was struck and killed by a car, myself discovering her with her intestines oozing out onto the pavement.  The ensuing ride in silence as we listened together launched me into a litany of visual images of other moments of heartbreak throughout my life…the phone call from the coroner after my dad’s sudden heart attack; my brother-in-law’s shocking suicide.  The picture of my wife at the pulpit of his funeral, bravely eulogizing her brother between gasps, radiant in her sorrow—shakingly delivering the pain we all felt to a room of moistened eyes and buried faces.  I’ve never been prouder of her.

Then I got the idea to reach out to my friends and ask them about their individual anguishes.  The things that left deep gouges in their psyches.  I was humbled by their replies.  Where I was expecting maybe a couple of responses, the dike broke wide open.  The simple question, “What’s been your greatest heartache?” led so many to bare their souls—I’ll list some of their answers, but I’m leaving them anonymous this time around.  They’re too personal—too intimate.  Just a few:

“I think you know mine. Losing my 21-year-old son and knowing that he was sad/depressed enough to take his own life. It’s an unimaginable pain.”

“Becoming completely estranged with one of my sons. To me it was unfathomable and the pain is unbearable.”

“In the ICU telling my baby brother that he had fought the good fight and that he was free to go.”

“At age 7 watching my supposed father gun down my mom in front of me.”

“Strangely seeing the Ukraine situation and remembering and being a 7-year-old kid again in Kabul when the bastard Russians invaded my country and slaughtered my people.”

“Getting the phone call in the middle of the night telling me my daughter was gone. It was, and still is, an  unimaginable shock. I would never have, in a million years, guessed that my baby would leave.”

“Shedding a tear just typing this. Losing my mom was by far the worst heartache and pain I have ever felt! Not being able to say goodbye and still living with some guilt. Every time someone would tell me the pain would get easier I wanted to throat punch them…the pain does get easier, but the emptiness never goes away.”

“…seeing my father hold a gun to my real mother’s head when I was 7 & seeing him arrested after.”

“Losing my Mama and sister-in-law two weeks apart to COVID after I stayed away for so long…”

What had started as a simple social experiment morphed into something quite different.  There was an outpouring of empathy to and from all those that shared.  There was thankfulness and gratitude.  There were tears.  I think that it proved that there’s something missing in our adult lives…an outlet; a missing interconnectedness.  Most people with an ounce of decency don’t want to draw barriers down political lines anymore.  It’s cathartic to commiserate together.  We are conflict-weary.   I was riveted by the candidness and the cross-over comments from people that do not even know each other.  The inherent kindness.  The filling in of missing pieces.  In many ways, it was beautiful.

My friend Brian had this to say about it, “It’s fascinating to me that people opened up like they did.  (It) Would definitely have been different Pre-COVID. The isolation has changed people.  I think people want someone to talk to…”

I spent a couple of days thinking about the angle I would take on this subject for this week’s submission, and I still don’t think that I’ve gotten it wholly right.  I’m just going to end it here with this: the older I get, the less embarrassed I am about talking about the things that really matter.  Let’s all talk about the things that really matter—more.