I turn to see another stout, round tree. This tree is not large, like the Grandfather before it. It is young and small and vulnerable, like the child I mourn. I think of how weak this tree looks when compared to the others, and I almost forget it is a Grandfather. It seems so alone.
I see the tree as I have seen my son, abandoned and alone. I mourn for how I left him, and I let loose the tears until I exhaust them again. As the tears dry on my cheeks, silence settles over my heart. I agonize still, but I know there is no action now to repair the loss. I become resigned to the situation as it currently exists.
Then, I hear the calm, soothing voice speak again, “Look again, Linda. See who is alone and abandoned.”
I look at the tree with new eyes and see myself standing there, alone and vulnerable in the night. I see how I have stood alone my whole life, tall and proud against a world where I really feel so weak and terrified. I watch myself standing there for a while, and I find some understanding of my limitations. I don’t find forgiveness for my failings, not yet, but I do see how I came by them, and I feel compassion for the abandoned child I have been. I feel sympathy and pride for the person I was and for the person I became. As I begin to sit a little taller in my circle, I look up, and I see the giant Grandfather standing guard over the small and seemingly helpless object of my initial focus. I see how it appears to wrap itself around the sapling, guarding it against threats, and I wonder why I could not see it sooner.
I gaze in awe at the beauty of the scene before me, noticing how tragically different the truth of the situation is from my initial interpretation of it. New understanding penetrates my life, and I even give myself a little credit to myself for the steps I have taken to protect and nurture my son.
I am far from being a perfect mother, but I am definitely far from abusive as well. I have failings. I have significant weaknesses, but I have strived to give him more than I had, and I recognize these efforts in the man he has become. He is brilliant and beautiful and compassionate, and I dare to believe I have had some influence on these characteristics.
I feel the pain of my failings, but I also feel the pride of knowing; while I have failed him in many ways, in the pains he will never know, I have protected him as well. I cry again. Days of water lost in just a few hours. I work to feel proud of my success despite the failure that would be my typical focus. I try instead to see the protector I have been.
I accept the idea of who I could be. Then, I hear the voice, “It is not your son, you see, look again.”
Not my son? I wonder who else I could possibly be protecting. I know I have protected my daughter. I have no doubt about my success there. I am a more mature, more traveled parent with her. I know I have kept her safe. What would they have to say about protecting her?
“It is not your daughter.” The voice is clear and determined.
Who else would I be protecting? I run each of my friends through my mind, and I look at my family. Relationships begin to overwhelm my senses. I can’t imagine who it would be. There are too many choices.
“Look again, Linda. Look again and this time, ‘see.'” The voice is strong like an explosion of glass in the night sky, shattering all of the thoughts in my mind. It leaves behind only nothingness.
I look again toward the trees—this time, I see. How could I have possibly imagined myself the protector? They are showing me that someone always stands over me. I scoff at the idea. I have been alone my entire life. No one has protected me.
I glance toward the tree where Two Feathers has appeared. I fear he might return to berate me for the thought, but he does not. I have to be honest here, though. I can’t lie and say I have felt the protection of Spirit in my life. I think back to all of the times I have prayed for escape and how it never came. I think of all of the times I had to save myself and the conversations with people I told to stop. I saved myself. I did not see protection then.
Even as I doggedly cling to this idea of being alone, images begin to fill my mind. I see picture after picture of moments where I should not have survived. I see kidnappings and accidents and negotiation after negotiation against a psychotic sibling. I see conversations with terrorists and drug overdoses and fatal illnesses overcome by moments of chance.
Does the Creator have an awareness of me? Does He see me? Has He sent protection to watch over me? This idea moves me beyond the place words can explain. Never in my life have I felt this aware of the presence presiding over me. I sense the greatness of the Grandfather who stands before me, and I feel myself in the sight of God. It must be so. How could it be any other way? How else could I have survived?
Gratitude and pride fill my heart, but they do not hold there for long. The Spirits show me how they saved me from both myself and from others, but I cannot commit to this place of gratitude. I can accept that God has kept me alive, but He keeps alive in a prison of torture. He keeps me alive for his own selfish purposes and goals for His bigger plan, regardless of what that plan has done to me. For a long time, He kept me alive when I would rather have died.
He kept me alive, but He left me alone and abandoned. I can’t just come to this place of gratitude so easily. I’ve lived my life with guardians who fed and clothed me. I always had a roof over my head, but I was not protected. I am here again, facing the same decision I have met before. I can say they have provided for me, but they have not protected me. There is so much more to protection than the physical aspect of it. I spent my life being ripped to shreds by the people around me, and I can’t imagine God watching. I can’t forgive Him for standing by, and yet. I know I must.
I sit for a long time, trying to calm the boiling in my heart. I do not attempt to resolve my emotions, just quiet them. I don’t want to forgive Him. I just want to breathe for a moment. It’s been too much tonight. This is too much. Breathing deeply, I speak softly to myself. Slowly I begin to relax. I know the rage lies just beyond my thoughts, so I am careful to keep myself silent. I have nothing more to say. It is time to turn to the next Grandfather and learn of forgiveness.