By Mark James Gaylard
A Short Story for My Son, Jack
Have you ever had one of those moments where you walk into a room for a reason, and then when you get there you’ve forgotten why?
Today I was out with my 12 year old diagnosed autistic son Jackson (or just ‘Jack’ as he prefers). I take exception to that ‘diagnosis’, but then that’s another story. We had just enjoyed a glorious Spring day in the sun riding our bikes by the river. I had been away for some weeks and only been back in town a week or so. We had some serious father-son catch up time to do – and this was a very special day for us both (in more ways than one).
As often happens, he asked me something profound, apropos to life and death, quite out of the deep blue sky. If ever there was a ‘Jack’, he sure is one -straight down the line like an arrow and tall and slim. He will be a heart-breaker that boy, and hopefully a good basket-baller.
Now this particular topic is big and important to Jack these past few months: death and going to heaven, or, plainly: mortality.
Actually, it’s just a big topic right there – for us all.
“I’ll be sad when you die Dad.“ he says out of nowhere, as we’re driving home.
I paused and re-focussed my thoughts from whatever was in my head, at that moment. I decided to tell him the following little story I invented as I drove the car.
It’s a “forgotten room” story.
Here is that story, with some slight detail added in the writing of it.
“Imagine a room” – I begin.
okay Dad, I’m imagining.
Now imagine you have just come through a doorway into that room.
The room is full of mystery and wonder. There are many things to play with and many things to learn, and so very much to do.
Sounds like fun Dad!
It’s a very, very BIG room – as you soon discover. As you move forward on into the room you make your way around many strange and unfamiliar obstacles. You meet some people as you walk on. Some are your family, some are strangers, some become your friends, and some you may even fall in love with!
Before you know it you are doing everything that the others seem to be doing in the room. Some will tell you things and some will be good and some will be bad. You need to be careful in this room, you soon learn.
Yep, I will be – I’m always a good boy Dad!
Anyhow…listen up boy…
The room seems endless! You realise you’ve been in it for what seems to be a great big long time and you might even think that all that is, and all there ever was, is in this room. But you know there are little twinkling lights up above in that far away darkness, and sometimes you see – the man in the Moon!
Yep, I’ve seen him Dad! Is the moon made of cheese?
Some people in the room even taught you songs and rhymes about these things. You look up at this thing everyone in the room calls “The Sky” – and you wonder endlessly about that.
Yeah I LOVE looking at the sky with you Dad!
You spend sunny days with someone special gazing up watching clouds pass in front of it and you day-dream of far away wonders which fire your imagination. Your heart may suddenly pound faster. You might even want to hold her hand, and find yourself telling her you love her! She will also say with a smile, “I love you too – with all my heart Jack – to the moon and back!”
Yuck! Hey! Mum says that to me! I like that when Mum says it.
But what you don’t realise is that the room isn’t really that big after all – it’s really just a bit of a fancy trick. The room is actually very, very tiny but cram packed with all these wonders and mysteries! Some you will discover and understand. Others will always be hidden. For that is the way of this room.
That’s a bit weird, Dad.
One day, after a while, and as you wander around the room (sometimes aimlessly and a bit lost), you begin to sense with your eyes… something in the far distance. But it seems very dark down that end of the room, a little bit scary even! At first you are very frightened. But you realise by now that it’s the way you have to go. There is no way to go back. From what you can work out, you realise that maybe, just maybe, there is…A DOOR down there!
Wow! Another door! Cool!
But this door is a little different. Though you can’t really even rememberer the door you came in through now anyhow. It’s a distant memory.
Yeah I forgot about that door already, Dad.
This door has a small ‘exit’ sign above (just like the ones at school) and you know that this is the way you need to go.
Yep, my teacher told me about that!
The room has been very interesting and you have learned so much in this room.
Faces have come and gone, you’ve been in love and you’ve had your heart broken. At times you got lost and had no idea where in the room you were and you felt very alone and frightened. Quite an experience you could say!
Now, you never knew it, but someone has been watching you very closely as you worked your way through this little room. They hoped with all their might that you may make it to the other side of the room and find that other doorway. You have actually been helped a little along the way by this secret one who watches you, and who always cared deeply about you, and who has always loved you unconditionally. You know in your heart that this has been the case. Suddenly everything starts to make sense and you feel drawn to this dark mysterious door that you now do not fear.
Okay Dad if you say so. What’s ‘uncondishilly’?
Tell you after this. Listen up.
You walk on, slower now, you’re a little tired by this time, and you feel that the room has given you all it has to offer. You feel at peace and all your fear is gone completely.
You approach this new door.
You turn and see friends and family and familiar faces back in the darkness. As now you realise that, what at first seemed dark, is now light and the other end from where you came seems dim and dark and far away. You cannot see that door.
You stand now before this new door. Still a little hesitant. But that soon fades and it’s as if someone is lifting your hand to turn the handle – and you are happy to do so. You feel in your heart, want to go through this door.
The door opens!
“WHAT HAPPENS NEXT DAD?!”
MAGIC appears! Now you see it! Your eyes are wide and you cannot quite yet understand what you are seeing and for a moment you feel very, very frightened. But soon you feel no fear at all. You begin to shine brightly from inside you.
Light brighter than you have ever experienced in the old room comes washing over you also, and you feel it’s goodness. It’s warm and glowing and you feel your heart fill with the brightest light, love, and happiness.
You feel it deeply within you to your core – deeply in your soul.
You notice that you feel lighter. You go to take a step through the door and you don’t feel your feet but still you move forward. It’s like being in space! Floating now through the door as if some wondrous magic has taken you over. You ARE light.
Wow! Just like an astronaut, Dad!
Yep, just like an astronaut.
As you float now, you feel yourself being almost pulled through the new door, as if into the arms of a loving parent. There is a warmth. It feels safe and you feel no fear. In fact you feel love.- and a little dizzy!
You realise, with a big smile, and to your utter astonishment, that – it IS your parent!
It’s YOU, Dad!
Yep. It is me. I say softly.
I tell you it’s good to see you Jack and how I’ve been waiting for you and how I’ve been watching you in that old room. I tell you it was me guiding you and helping you up when you fell or lost your way. It was me who helped you mend that broken heart – oh but how I wept sometimes as I helped you from here, beyond that old room. Sometimes I laughed too! As I watched you rise and fall and live your life. I watched you dream, and I knew those dreams.
I cried for you when you were frightened and worried, but still I whispered to you and gave you little signs that I was there. My gaze never left you Jack. I tell you that I know how you often wondered at times but were never certain. You smile with a twinkle as you now recognise those moments were just me – your old Dad!
I never left your side my boy – I just got to that other new door a bit sooner than you, and so I had to move on. I am sorry, I tell you, but that is the way.
You hold out your hand to shake mine and I pull you into me, as I always did, to give you a great big Dad Hug, and rough up your hair – and we each feel a wondrous glow inside and such a feeling of pure love surrounds us. It is a truly wonderful moment of essential joy. Everything now is clear. Everything now is pure light.
I tell you that now we will be together forever, and you smile and a I see a tear of happiness. I also shed a momentary tear – of utter joy.
We each turn, and stand side by side, shoulder to shoulder. Father beside son.
I cannot help but notice how your shoulder is a little higher than mine. I smile to myself. The old room now just a faded dream, as we walk on together.
You trust me, as I am your father. We step forward. My hand upon your shoulder.
I tell you that it’s all ok and now you are safe and never ever have to worry about those things you experienced in that old room. We will meet up with old friends here in this new place, and even Nan and Pop are here! We shall meet them soon and they are doing so well, I tell you.
What about Mum’s friend Bob? He was nice Dad!
Yep he’s here and happy.
What about your friend Cheryl, Dad? I liked her too.
Yep she’s here too my boy, you will meet them all very, very soon. I watch closely over all my friends and guide them also.
From this moment on we will be together forever and throughout eternity. So now you don’t need to worry about losing me ever again. That was just a test you only have to do once.
Awesome! I hate tests Dad!
We now have all eternity to explore the wonders of the whole universe! I tell you of some of the amazing things that I have seen, and you look at me with eyes wide in awe. I tell you that this is just the beginning.
Come now Jack, walk with me, Take my hand, I’ll show you.
Our adventure has only just begun.
Forever lays ahead. Together once more. For all eternity!
There are stars all around us and more colours than the rainbow we once knew. Magic and mystery to dazzle us in every direction. This is our destiny Jack. We are filled with light.
We turn to each other and smile, and you shake my hand and say,
Lets go Dad! I love you!
And I too,
Love You My Son.
The End…and…The Beginning…