Saturday, April 24, 2010


After my son died, almost ten years ago, at the tender age of 17, I poured out my grief in writing. Actually, in writings, emphasis on the plural. I wrote in a journal, almost daily, for a long, long time. I wrote down my dreams, of which there were many, often guilt-plagued, for years. And I wrote "letters" of my thoughts and many questions, which I gave to the one person other than Sean's father who knew my son well as a young man. I left hard copies of these usually long, and often rambling, letters in the high school mailbox of Sean's drama teacher, mentor and role model, Tim Shannon.

There was another reason Tim was the lucky recipient of my writings. Unlike my many well-meaning friends, he didn't give me advice or make judgment of any kind. And yet, I always knew that he read everything that I wrote, as I often asked him questions about things I had referenced in my letters. I felt totally comfortable revealing my anguish and grief and guilt-ridden feelings to him.

A few years later, Tim was forced to adapt to the realities of the modern world and actually check his email on a regular basis (ie, daily), which made it even easier for me to write to him, although by then my writings had shrunk in length, frequency, and depth of emotion.

Shortly after my son died, I found in his belongings, in his backpack, in his wallet, a sheet of paper with his friends-and-fellow-theatre-students' names, phone numbers and email addresses. The sheet of paper was actually a half sheet of plain white paper which had been folded up small enough to fit in his wallet. I recognized most of the names. And among the names was the only adult on the list, that of his drama teacher, Tim Shannon, and his school office phone number and his email adddress. The email address read "tjshannon@....."

I still remember the first email I sent to Tim. It was one line which read "So, what does the "J" stand for?" The reply I received was typical "Tim", short and to the point. It simply said "Joseph".

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