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Posted By Opening the Heart

"We all have two lives. The second one starts when we realize the first one ends"- A patient of mine

I used to see Sam in my therapy practice once a week for a long time. Now he calls me once every year or two, leaving me a message that he just wants to "check in and shoot the shit". Sam came in with his 5 year old granddaughter, Louisa. He introduced me as a friend and he led her into my office with a loving, reassuring presence. He asked her to tell me what they were going to do that day. Louisa, cute as a precious button, put her finger to her mouth, looked up at the ceiling and said slowly "Mu-se-um" and the ocean and go for a hike". Sam smiled again and said to me "Not only pretty, but very smart!" He spoke to her in an adult voice and treated her with constant love and respect. He reassured her that he wanted to talk with me for a while and that they would go whenever she wanted. She smiled and said "Thank you Banpop". Sam explained that when Louisa was born, his son asked Sam what he wanted to be called when this new Being of Light was old enough to talk. He told his son "Let her chose my name". So when she was about 2, she started calling him "Banpop", and it stuck.

Sam brought me up to date on his life. His son, once in big trouble with drugs, was now clean for 4 years, was working, and was in a solid relationship. Sam's own relationship of 12 years was a hard one and he said, "It may be that we go our own ways..... I've learned, from you, that I can only do what I can do. I can only save myself".

Sam is about my age, in his late 60's. He grew up in a very physically abusive home, beaten frequently by a father who was alcoholic and had never had a chance to learn how to be a loving father. Sam became a marine at 18 and went to Vietnam for 3 tours where he saw very bad things that, still, at times, haunt him. He is in great shape, handsome, active and he has bright eyes and a warm smile.

He looked at Louisa, then back at me and said "You know, Jon, the worst thing that can happen to a person is for them to lose their childhood". I said "Sam, I am so proud of you for being able to give something you never got". I asked if I could read him a poem by Mary Oliver called The Journey. He smiled.

"One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices kept shouting their bad advice...  'Mend my life!' But you didn't stop... though it was a wild night and the road full of fallen branches, you left the voices behind... determined to do the only thing you could do- determined to save the only life you could save".

Tears were  falling down Sam's face. Louisa looked at him and said "Why are you crying Banpop?" "Sometimes people cry because they're happy, Honey".

I have come to understand that Sam's "check-ins" are about telling me that he has left those voices behind and now lives in a more loving and kinder way that has changed family tradition. He can leave a different legacy than the one he received. Oh, and I do believe he also comes for the hug before he goes back out into the world.

With Love and Respect, Jon



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