Via Basel: My Son, My Voice

Dancing With Myself, Melissa D Johnston

My Son, My Voice: A Letter on the 10th Anniversary of Your Death

In nations, peoples, or even family histories, 10 years may not be enough time to look back and reflect, but considering that I had your company for only 31 years before you escaped to the other side I am entitled on this occasion to an honest and updated picture of where we are in our dance together. Instead of focusing on you, this message will be about me, so please forgive my self absorption. On the other hand nearly all that I have to say is about you, since your life and death have transformed me deeply in so many ways.

To be true, I always enjoyed reading and wished to write. I started my self discovery 40 years ago, my meditation 20 years ago. I was concerned about others outside my close circle of family and friends and was generally aware of all the major issues of our time. I did my job to the best of my ability and dealt with my failures without succumbing to them. Did I write at all? If so, only in my diaries. I was evolving but in fits and starts.

Still, that inflection point, your passing away has changed my life in ways I could not have imagined. To be sure, I would have preferred to have you around and deal with life as always with minor adjustments here and there. But, the choice was not mine, and I had to live with the aftermath. I did, however, have a choice in how to respond to it. Slowly and gradually I realized that your voice was not completely silenced but has evolved. In your compact life I witnessed artistic creativity, bursts of insights, and fatal flaws. After the escape, I read and listened to all you had written, in and outside of Escape Into Life, your poems, essays, recordings, daily diaries (all 70 books of them). That, in addition to my recollection of the myriad of conversations we had over the years, secured my confidence to add your voice to mine, amplifying it, modifying it, and giving it a youthful exuberance and more platforms to express itself. 

I started writing a memoir, a column on the Escape Into Life blog, and reading more literature and poetry in addition to in-depth history. I spent more time reflecting and meditating. I decided I had contributed enough to orthopedics and that other areas of my life demanded more time and energy. I became more attuned to family and friends, adding new ones to my circle. All of that helped me realize that while my time on this earth is diminishing, I can always try to improve its quality. Finally, it dawned on me that it’s not about me but us, all of us.

Good things started to happen, your sister Mandy’s glorious wedding, followed by Sophie and Ava, your two beautiful nieces. That heightened my interest in environmental and social issues that probably did not impact me directly at this late stage in my life. Yet, they would have enormous ramifications on my granddaughters’ future, their generation, in addition to my step-daughter Sue’s children, Haley, Sean, Matty, and their generation. I added their voices to ours (yours and mine) in a powerful and integral way, encompassing past, present, and future perspectives, and by witnessing and telling our story.

Chris, I may not be able to see and touch you, but I hear you as I listen in the silence and the void of your physical absence. May your voice be a constant reminder to get me back on a search for the naked truth in a time of deceit and darkness. You are the guiding light in the re-examination of my life. Through the transformative power of loss and suffering we can all transcend the challenges of the present and move forward to a more just, peaceful, and kinder future.  

Basel Al-Aswad, father of EIL founder Christopher Al-Aswad, is a yogi trapped in an Orthopedic Surgeon’s body. His loves in life include reading, writing, hiking, enjoying nature, meditation, and spending time with his large Iraqi family, and now, semi-retired, he is exploring new avenues in medicine, education, and social engagement.

Via Basel: A Birthday Celebration in the Wilderness

Via Basel: Just Received

Via Basel: Five Years

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