Receive the Breath
It came to her one day that it wasn’t really necessary to take another breath. Without breathing there would be no pain. And her pain was an unceasing misery that encased her heart, searing her with each and every pulse.
For years her anguish had been safely hidden, dulled to a mere irritation, a discomfort she noticed as one would notice sand in their bathing suit on the way home from the beach. She never identified the source, choosing to ignore the tender spots.
“Remembering is necessary,” insisted her therapist. So she had worked to bring back her memories, and they almost drowned her in their rush out the open gate.
Every moment of her childhood shame played in her head in full living color, scene after scene, dissected into its suffering parts. If the memories had stayed deep, she probably could have continued breathing through her life. People survive hard times with deep breaths, like the yogi’s Pranayama style of breathing. But with such sins facing her, living seemed as unbearable as forgiving. At least she understood why she could shed no tears at her father’s funeral.
Now hate was her constant, replacing years of confusion and tiny trillions of torment, pangs of guilt, and sins she wasn’t able to name. Her father, her protector, her destroyer, thankfully dead and regrettably gone, left her without the chance to accuse and persecute. And without this chance, she lost the desire to breathe another breath.
The silver electric tape had lodged itself in the back of the catch all drawer under the microwave. She had to use a butter knife to dislodge it. She found the plastic dry cleaner bag in her parent’s closet, covering her mother’s pink church dress that was hanging next to her father’s gray Sunday suit. Her mother had labeled his suit with a sticky note “Humane Society Thrift Store”, but had yet to deliver it. The plastic bag over her mother’s dress was labeled “White’s Dry Cleaners” and had warnings about suffocation and danger to children.
She had all afternoon. Her mother had gone to play bridge at a friend’s house and would be gone for several hours, so she took her time and dressed in her favorite dress. It was at least ten years old and the white had yellowed slightly at the arm holes and around the neck area, but it still fit, and was forever appropriate, for a first communion, church luncheons, a father-daughter banquet, and apparently suicide.
She went to her bedroom, now a guest room since she no longer lived at home, but still the room she had occupied for over half her life. She knelt beside her twin bed, her knees comforted by the oval, shag throw rug she had chosen herself. Her hands were in prayer form at her heart center, like the Namaste gesture in Yoga class, only there was no light inside of her.
Her father used to kneel alongside her when she said her bedtime prayers. They had prayed together in the early years, her saying words to a Father she trusted, him mouthing lies without remorse, until all prayers were left unsaid.
She spoke again to this Father who had forsaken her, asking Him where He had gone and if the light inside of Him no longer could guide. No answer came, and she covered her head and taped the bag securely around her neck.
She slowed her gasps with the hope that the agony would soon be gone forever. Without breath, she would not be expected to forgive. It was then, when she was still, she saw His light and heard Him speak.
“Breathe! “ He told her, and she felt His breath on her throat. Then, loosening her grasp on the bedspread, she clawed at the plastic until an opening was made and beautiful air filled her lungs, allowing her to pray once more.
John 20: 22-23 When he (Jesus) had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” NRSV
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