The Afterlife: Coping With the Loss of a Son Through Giving
Sally Goodrich isn't an optimistic person, or at least not conventionally optimistic. Given all that she's lost, it would be hard for her to be otherwise. "I don't believe in happiness," she once told an interviewer. "I believe in hope." The hope she has for Afghanistan is tempered by what she has learned of its history and by the warning she once got from an Afghan expert: Anyone who has a relationship with the country, he said, will sooner or later be heartbroken. On hearing this, she thought, "This is interesting: I went into Afghanistan because I'm brokenhearted, and I'm going to come out brokenhearted." Still, she hopes that if Afghanistan succumbs once more to its darker forces, the people she loves "can do what the terrorists do and hide in good countries until such time as the terrorists fail." She believes that eventually they will.
When you ask Sally how she survived those first bleak years after her son's death, she says, "I borrowed other people's emotions. I'd lost everything. My family, my faith, my hope. And when that happens, you have to borrow from people who have intact emotions till yours begin to return. My life was a void, so I moved into the void and acted the way Peter would have wanted. Afghanistan is as close as I can get to Peter. It's this beautiful ancient culture with these long-lasting tribal customs. And my being there comes as close to answering 'Why?' as I can get. But it's answering that 'Why?' in a very Peter way."
We think of a legacy as something that passes from parents to children. It's what we leave them, by design or unavoidably. But sometimes a legacy may operate the other way, and a lost child may pass something to his parents. Such a legacy is exceedingly precious. A while ago, Don Goodrich sent me a poem by Rumi:
Who gets up early to discover the moment light begins?No explanation was necessary.
Who finds us here circling, bewildered, like atoms?
Who comes to a spring thirsty
and sees the moon reflected in it?
Who, like Jacob blind with grief and age, / smells the shirt of his lost son
and can see again?