Thoughts about God led Ryan in new directions; he lost interest in his old books about adventure and intrigue, and sought out more philosophical and theologically themed works. He and Josh both worked together early in the morning, before Ryan went to school, and he looked forward to these times to talk about what he had read, to get Josh’s opinion about these matters. And while Josh had done some reading himself, his feeling was that it was more important to seek God directly in life and living, rather than through a book. Ryan jotted down some notes about one of their conversations in a journal found at his home, from which I’ve tried to reconstruct the basics of, and share with you here:
“I’ve always felt as though you know God personally,” Ryan commented to Josh early one morning. “How do you know him?”
“If I know him at all…I’m not always sure that I do…I think it is by using my body, or everything that I am, to search for him,” Josh replied. “I watch for him, I listen, I think always about God, if I can…and I stop my thoughts as much as possible, so that I can experience him through my living.”
“But I don’t experience him, it doesn’t seem to me that he is near. I like to read about him though, a lot of what’s written makes sense to me, though a lot of it also doesn’t make sense,” Ryan countered.
“God is much closer than we realize, I think,” Josh continued. “I think we just don’t know how to understand his presence. That’s what we need to learn…is how to train our senses to experience him. It’s like we can see, but our eyes don’t understand what they’re seeing.”
“How do you do that!?” Ryan exclaimed.
“I don’t think books can teach us that; maybe they can point the way, or inspire us a little. I’m not sure how we learn it actually,” Josh shrugged innocently. “Or…we learn by doing, and by asking. I ask God to teach me how to find him. I pray, I guess you’d call it. I talk to God—whether I think he’s there or not—and to my surprise…eventually he appears to me, somehow.”
Conversations such as this one gave Ryan hope. Josh had made the prospect of knowing God seem possible, and this hope became a new powerful and important ally in his battle against his sadness and despair. He also hoped that his mom would discover this herself someday, and find a way out of her own darkness. In fact, one morning he even asked Josh directly for his help with this. He was almost pleading that Josh would teach his mom how to know God, so that she could be happy; and Josh promised Ryan that he would try.
However, several months later the café burned down, and Ryan died in the fire, and Josh confessed to starting the fire. This horrible and tragic event greatly complicated his relationship with Ryan’s mother, and prevented her from allowing Josh to fulfill his promise to his friend.
Deirdre already knew Josh, from an event that had occurred a few years earlier, and this event left her with very strong, and very mixed feelings about the young man. So that now, as he was apparently the cause of her own son’s death, she understandably didn’t want to have anything to do with him; the anger that so often had derailed her in the past, now seethed within her towards him, and yet she was confused and unsure about this anger. She felt ashamed of her anger, in this particular case…at one moment chastising herself because she owed her own life to the boy…and the next moment wishing she and Ryan had never met him, wishing that Josh had died, instead of her son.
Deirdre hadn’t wished someone else were dead, since Ryan’s father had left them; he was the last person—other than herself—that she seriously had these thoughts and feelings towards. But as she devoted herself to raising Ryan, eventually her anger towards her ex-husband faded, replaced by new causes and objects of her rage. But the one person who always made her feel better was her son; though she regrettably and incomprehensibly often directed her anger towards him. How could she do it?! She often asked herself this question, while locked behind her bedroom door—as much to protect her little boy from herself, as to protect herself from the world.
Rage turned to sadness turned to despair; but drinking set her free. A gin and tonic, or a vodka and coke always helped her breathe again, when life seemed to want to suck the oxygen right out of her lungs. And with a smile, she’d pour a second drink, and gaze out the bedroom window, and secretly watch her beautiful baby boy as he was playing with the dog. Her heart always softened—and she entirely forgot the issues she had against life—as she watched him play: picking flowers, climbing trees, and dancing like a silly marionette across the top of the stone wall, at the far end of the yard. Whatever he did out there always made her smile, and chuckle to herself; and after a third or fourth drink, she was often in hysterics—a happiness due to her son, mixing with a desperation at her sinking life—until she collapsed and fell asleep on the floor.
Sometimes she felt very ashamed that she drank so much, with her innocent son in the house. So she started to leave the house to go drinking. And this made her feel better, at least until she had to return home again. By the time Ryan was in high school she had made a habit of leaving the house to visit several local bars; and sometimes she checked in on him before leaving, to make sure he was okay and had food available, in case she didn’t make it back for a few days. Little acts of kindness like that, convinced her that she was doing a pretty good job as a mother, so that she could leave and go to the bar with a clear conscience.
One winter, in the early morning, Deirdre left the bar and attempted to find her way back home. She had a bottle hidden in a bush outside the bar, available in case she hadn’t had enough inside before the bar closed, in case she was still thirsty. She grabbed this vodka on her way out, and took it with her for the long walk home. But she never made it home.
Somewhere along the way, she got confused; she saw the lights across the bay and they looked like streetlights, so she followed them. After that she must have fallen into the water, and sometime after that she must have lost consciousness. Fortunately for her, not too long after that, she was pulled from the water and taken to safety by the Davidson kids, who heroically managed to get her up out of the water, and tie her off to the tiller of their little sailboat, and sail her back to the dock at the nearby marina. Along the way, Josh Davidson kept her alive—filling her shrunken lungs with his own breath—while Amelia piloted them back to safety.
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