A Letter to a Survivor.
You have endured so much. You have seen and felt so much of what most of us have not seen or felt. I know you still have memories from what you went through. I can see them in your eyes sometimes when you go quiet, or change the subject, or get irritable. I know you don’t mean to get irritable. I know you remember what you saw, what you felt, what you heard. Every detail is still imprinted on your mind that you hardly show anyone or talk about. It’s a private piece of you that I know you keep hidden well. So well, in fact, that you’d never even know you went through anything.
I know that, for me, it’s hard to say things to you about it. Or even relate. I struggle with how I would say anything to make it better or what I can do to steer your attention from it. Sometimes I go quiet. I change the subject. I get irritable. I don’t mean to get that way. I just wish I could have saved you from what you experienced. I wish I could have been there for you more, and is now even enough? I can’t handle you with kid gloves but sometimes I think your heart needs that. And I want to hold the part of you that still hurts, and still goes there.
I am certain that your survival mode is definitely like an armor you have now. It’s like a shiny shell of strength to protect the person inside. I wish I had that armor sometimes. I wish I had your strength. Your “self-made, protective shield of bravery” is a one of a kind!
You are much different now. You are more careful, more aware. You have felt the delicacy and fragility of the human experience, understood the human capacity for pain, and the amount of strength we all need to preserve and salvage what we can of it. You have seen people love you and people leave you for various reasons over how you’ve had to live, in order to survive. You know who your real friends are…and who you should keep at a safe distance.
There are many of you survivors all around me. Older ones, young ones…very little ones. Just when I think I am a strong person, I see you and I am immediately humbled. Humbled by your happiness; your smile through the pain; your laughter to feel fun again. I am, and forever will be, impressed by your resilience and valor.
And I know you. You will roll your eyes at my words. “Hero?” you think and laugh. “I am not a hero. I didn’t save anyone.” But you did, I argue. You saved yourself and continue to do so – every day. You saved yourself, so you could be there for your loved ones, for your students, for your parents, for your pets…for me to write about your experience here.
I don’t think you know how astonishing you are. How fantastically valiant you have become. How important you are to me and to others. Please believe my words when I write that each day you face is a victory because you are my favorite success story.