The Gasp

It was 1:00am…….She was worried because her son had not come home on time. He was supposed to be home by 10:00pm. He did not answer his phone. His father was out driving around, looking for him. What could have happened? He went to play basketball. Did he get in a fight? Was he laying hurt in the bushes? Had he been drinking? Had he done some stupid 14 year old thing that would get him in trouble? Was he hit by a car and no one could get into his phone to see his identity? Was he crying for his mother somewhere?

She heard the familiar ring of the “security bells”. The Christmas bells kept on the back door, which ring every time it opens. Whew. She called his name…..with relief and anger in her voice because he was safe at home, yet his absence had put her through hell for three hours of worrying.

No answer. Then she heard her husband crying, running from the back door to the front door. His voice muffled and hysterical saying, “There has been a shooting. Patrick isn’t coming home!”

What? What was he talking about? Did she hear him correctly? He could not possibly have said what she thought he said. A shooting? Not possible…not in her neighborhood.

She quickly headed to the living room where she heard her husband opening the front door. What in the world was going on? As she entered the living room. She saw someone passing the picture window…walking outside, left to right toward her front door.

Her priest…the man she usually only saw in one place. The man who was tender and patient when Patrick was a very young alter boy. That man….was coming to her house in the middle of the night. Her priest was walking outside to her front door. In slow motion. Slow, slow, dream-like motion. Like a movie. But it wasn’t a movie. It was real life.


In that moment, she did not know that she would not fully inhale or exhale for a long time. The intense trauma of losing her beloved son would literally stop her breath.

She would live. She would work. She would drive and eat and exercise and visit family and live through holidays and continue with life while feeling as if her heart had been cut out of her.

But unbeknownst to her…she was only breathing enough to stay alive. Panicked breaths. Shallow breaths. Breaths to protect her heart.

She eventually met the man. The man who explained why she was always getting sick with chest colds. The grief. The grief was stuck in her chest and would not allow her to breathe properly.

He said, “You need to breathe. Deeply.”

She said, “ I can’t. My lungs do not work anymore. They are stuck. They only work halfway.” He said, “ When was the last time you took a deep breath?”  She said, “The last time I let myself feel something.”

He helped her realize that in order to breath again, she needed to “work through” the grief. She needed to release the gasp and feel the pain.

She was terrified of feeling, but even more tired of always being sick. She learned to feel again….to cry and scream and moan and “work through” the trauma.

She learned that to really live in the present, she had to breath deeply and take in all of the feelings, even the ones that are heart breaking. To consciously and calmly breath deeply and allow all of life to fill her lungs. Fill her up with the joy, and happiness, the pain and sorrow.

To pull it all into her heart. To breath into her heart….to open up her heart…to not allow her heart to get numb and hard. To feel again.

She read something somewhere. It said, “There are two basic steps for creativity to find its way: quiet and an uninterrupted stretch of time for the mind to dwell on, and bend to its own variations, any event, catastrophe, or idea presented to it.”

She got quiet, the released the gasp, she learned to take uninterrupted stretches of time for her mind to dwell on and bend the catastrophe to her own variation. A livable/breathable variation. A life giving variation. A variation that allowed her to breathe deeply again.