What does one do when one is too old, too weak, and feels powerless and regretful? What does one do when one looks back at his life and sees nothing that was worth living for? What does one do when one sees the future coming to an end – the end of a journey? “The journey was not mine, " said the old man. “What was that about? Why was I here? What was I suppose to do? Where am I going and will I ever come back? Come back to what, to whom and for what purpose?"
“What if I would come back, what choices would I have? What roads would I take? What would all this mean to who I will become once again? Would I live a life in fear, in a cage with limits, expectations and demands imposed upon me? Would I blindly follow instructions that would once again lead to destruction? Would I allow my soul to guide me? Would I let it grow, be nourished, and be what it needs to be? Or would I again stifle my inner core to waste, and to be lost as I had allowed it to be lost in this lifetime?"
The old man sat under a large apple tree, leaned against its trunk with his legs extended in front of him. The old man was sad. His unshaven wrinkled face drooped, and his eyes stood still. He wore baggy grey pants, an old pair of brown shoes and a dark green oversized jacket. His silver long hair touched his shoulders. He held a small notebook in his left hand and a pen in his right, and began to write: “ God tell me, tell me now, tell me the truth, spare me no pain, for the pain is all I really know. Tell me, did it have to be the way it was?"
The old man stopped writing now. He looked straight ahead and saw nothing. He saw nothing, heard nothing, felt nothing. He just stared. The stare was not aimed at anything or anybody. He heard nothing and saw nothing, not because there was nothing to see or hear. On the contrary, there were birds chirping on the apple tree just above his head and two boys in nearby running in the field. The boys were playing as the herds of cows they cared for were grazing on the thick green pasture.
The two boys were brothers - one was eleven and the other six. Their little four-year old sister was there too. She did not seem to care about the game her brothers played, nor did she care about the butterflies that were swirling around her hair; for she was in a world of her own.
The little girl with long blond, shiny hair looked like an angel that had fallen from the sky. The white silky dress surrounded her small body as she sat on a soft red blanket. She arranged her dolls, tea cups and doll furniture in a perfect position right in front of her. She served tea first to each of her dolls, and then she poured a cup to herself. Then she gently added milk and sugar to each of their cups. Of course the tea, sugar and milk was make-believe.
The old man was oblivious to the world around him. He did not see the boys, the herds of cows, nor did he see this angelic child in his direction of stare. The old man did not see the boys, the cows, the girl, nor did he hear the birds sing or the river flow. The old man did not see or hear, not because he was deaf or blind but because he was in a mental state of paralysis.
As the old man took a deep breath, he sighed and then said: “I will do it. I must do it. I will tell it all. I will tell it as is or as it was. I will do it in my own truthful way. "
The old man, once again picked up his notebook and pen, and began to write: “My dear Lord, this story is for you. I know that you know the story of my life, for I believe you were there. I know that. But you see God, it is you who is willing to hear and receive my story with love and compassion. You see God, I am an old man now, a weak man and a sad man. The life I was given to live, the life I made for myself, was a life of agony, pain and disappointment. I am not a smart man. I am not a literate man, nor do I think I am a wise man. I am a simple man – a man of great human weakness. " The old man stopped writing again.
He placed the notebook on his scrawny left leg and the pen behind his floppy right ear. He raised his hand and began to wipe his tears from his face. The old man began to cry, but the cry was silent so no one could hear. The tears were gushing down his grey bushy facial hair. His blue lips moved gently as he whispered: “Oh God, how I wish I could have one more chance. If I could do it over, I know I would do it differently. "
Now the old man took his hat off and placed it on his lap and sighed once again. He appeared to have stopped crying, and once again went into a blank stare. The old man had a desire to share his pain, tragedies and disappointments of his life. His urge to share was so powerful, but something was holding him back. He was not sure what that something was. He knew that that something was fear, yet not sure what he was afraid of. Was the fear of acknowledging his failures, his weaknesses, his sadness, or the greatest fear of all – the fear of unleashing something – something huge, powerful and very violent that he may not be able to tame?
“What if I unleash this beast – the beast that has been caged and guarded for years? What if this beast is ME now?"
The last thought scared the old man. The old man did not make a sound, he did not make a move but continued to stare. This time the stare was short and the old man regrouped. He was ready now to open the cage and release the beast. He picked up the notebook, took the pen from behind his ear and began to write once again.
“Who am I? What have I become? What have I done? What choices did I have? Hundreds of innocent lives were taken. Hundreds of young boys and girls died as they sang the national anthem. These lives were in my hands. Oh God, I did have a choice, it is so clear to me now that the choice was mine. The choice I made was a selfish and cruel one, and now I am faced with the truth that I am unable to bear. " As the old man dropped the notebook and the pen, he grabbed his chest and began to grasp for air. He did not make a sound nor did he call for help, but gently fell on his right side.
The little girl saw the old man fall to the ground. She ran to see the old man. The little girl was not sure if the old man was resting or sleeping. She sat beside him. She picked up the old man’s hand, held it tightly against her soft rosy cheek and said: “Grandpa, grandpa, wake up grandpa. Let’s go home grandpa. You are cold, let’s go home grandpaaaa, grandpaaaaaaaa, please grandpa let’s go home!" The little girl began to cry for she knew something was not the way it was supposed to be.
The old man did not move. The old man did not breathe. The old man was dead. The old man was killed – killed by the beast, killed by the knowledge that he was the beast.