I found the following on The Gift of Keith.

In idle conversation you ask me about my children.
You are an acquaintance.
I do not know you well and so I don a masque.
I speak happily of mischief, but I do not speak of death.

I do not want to see the shadow of uncertainty pass your face.
And feel the awkward silence that falls like a curtain between us.

I do not want to say, “It’s okay, that was a long time ago.”
It will never be quite “okay” and sometimes it seems like yesterday.

And so I take my masque along with me through life
like a perpetual Halloween night,
to hide just a bit from people and to preserve my strength.
For mourning is tiring and each time I recount that day of death,
I am a little wearied.

I would much rather speak of the joys of his life
than the sorrows of his death,
to strangers who absently ask of children.

Yet tragedy is more universal than ever I had known before it touched my life.
And so at times I wonder
who else looks out from behind a masque.

Karen Nelson
TCF, Box Elder County chapter

When Barry died by suicide I was given a mask to wear. I use it on a daily basis, even though the majority of the people who speak to me and/or know me would never know it. The mask is the only way I can get through this terrible time. It’s the only way I know I’ll survive.

Fortunately, I haven’t been asked that dreaded question yet – “how many children do you have?” – but I know it will happen one day. I fear that day. In some ways, I’ve planned what I’ll say, but in that split second that I’ll have to answer will those rehearsed words come to mind?

I often hear myself say Barry’s name in idle conversation. I never plan to stop doing that. I know it makes the people who know what has happened nervous, but that’s their problem, not mine. Saying his name is as close as I’ll ever get to being with Barry again. I won’t give that up. I’ve noticed that I sometimes talk about Barry as if he’s still here. I don’t know when or if that will change, but no one has ever tried to correct me at these times. I’m happy to talk about the mischief Barry got into, to share the little memories that are dear to me, but, I admit, that I don’t want to hear bad things about my son. No one has been insensitive enough to actually try to put Barry down. To me, he was perfect, yet deep in my heart I know that isn’t true. No one is perfect!

Sometimes, that mask is the only thing keeping me sane. I live in a world of “make believe” but eventually that will catch up with me. I no longer wait for his footsteps, but I do look for him in the street. Sometimes I think I see him too. At those times, my heart skips a beat then does a somersault, but I quickly realise that the boy is nothing like my Barry. I dread to think what would happen if I saw a look alike. I don’t think I’d cope very well with that, and I don’t think the person would know what was happening to him.

Acceptance of the act itself doesn’t mean I have fully accepted that Barry is no longer here. Sometimes I think I have accepted this fact and then I find myself looking at his photo with disbelief. It’s an emotional roller coaster I’m travelling. The ride goes on and on, I can’t get off. I think I’m doing okay, and then the bottom falls out from under me and I plummet to the bottom again. I expect this to continue for a long time to come, until one day the ride becomes smoother and I won’t notice the ups and down so much. I just have to hold on until that time.


2 thoughts on “Masques

  1. Karen Nelson

    Iwrote the poem you cite here. It was good to see that you related to it. When I write it is not to resolve grief but to hit a resonate chord. Grieving is lonely but sometimes when we can relate to a poem it makes us know we are not alone. My heart goes out to you. Karen Nelson

  2. The first time I read your words, they spoke to me. Today, I read it again and they still speak to me. Nothing much has changed since I wrote that post; I could have written it this morning instead of three years ago.

    Thank you for writing a poem that gives others a glimpse of what I feel.

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