Being alone in the car is a perfect place to let the tears roll down without disturbing anyone or requiring concerned others to offer help or comfort. I never get to the point of actually crying—only a healthy, manageable flow of cleansing relief that tears can often bring.
Being alone in the car, with favorite music blasting, is also a perfect place to sing out loud without disturbing anyone or requiring others to offer help or comfort (as my singing would likely prompt those nearby to do!). I like such a variety of music that it is possible for me to find common ground with almost anyone through music. I can even bear a few select rap songs, but never have I warmed up to hard rock.
I was surprised after Alex died to learn that he and I had very similar tastes in music. The cassette tape that was in his car on the day he died (and I imagine that he was listening to as he died) was a compilation that his friend Brett had made and sent to him when Alex was in the Navy. Most of the tunes were by the Eagles, with a couple of rock and roll oldies . So when I listen to those songs, which I do enjoy, I can feel a connection to him.
On this most recent road trip to Charleston, I spent some time fantasizing about “what might have been.” As I mentioned in my previous post, I was going to help my younger son and his wife get settled into their new home. It is at the transformative events that I often reflect on what Alex might have done. At my other children’s graduations, weddings, births, new jobs, and the like, I imagine a life for Alex—if he had been able to survive the winter of ’94 and been treated for his depression.
Of course, my fantasies are always ones of happy times for Alex: graduation from community college with a degree and certification for EMT, getting a job that he loved. (He did love working at the volunteer fire department in Lewisville and really wanted to study to be a medic in the Navy.) I imagine him meeting someone who adored him; perhaps she would be a nurse or other health care worker. Maybe they would marry and have a few children.
But, that can be a bottomless pit of “what ifs” and leaves out the possibilities that he might have died of cancer or some other long, painful illness, or in a car accident, or been shot in a domestic violence situation he responded to as an EMT. Every time one of my children has had an unhappy relationship, I have hurt right along with them. It would have been the same for Alex. And what if he never found that “right one” he wanted? That list of “what ifs” could be excruciatingly painful to imagine.
So thankfully I have not spent a lot of time in those exercises. Rather, shortly after Alex died I made a commitment to live my own life more authentically, truthfully, and with more hope. One of the songs I listened to on this recent road trip had words that reflected my mindset as I tried to live up to my own promises to myself. Change is scary. Taking the risk to live differently, especially to live more truthfully, is intense and awkward. There is no safety net. This quote from another of Josh Groban’s tunes (“Let Me Fall”) says it so well:
“Let me fall Let me climb There’s a moment When fear and dreams Must collide.
Someone I am Is waiting for courage The one I want The one I will become Will catch me.”
Being alone in the car is a great time for reflection and evaluation. It is a private time for deciding if one’s life is on track with one’s dreams. And this reflection can enable us to realize that one can, indeed, make drastic changes or even slow deliberate adjustments to live more authentically. I look forward to the next ride!