Saturday, July 9, 2011

Living no regrets

Closure is a funny thing. We seek it, thinking 'closure' will give us peace of mind. But how can you put 'closure' on a life? How does closure fix a broken heart, or mind? What is closure anyway?

This week MacLean's Magazine published an obit on Terry Pettigrew. Terry was the client at the homeless shelter where I work whose voice created awareness across the country around the issues of life and death and cancer and being homeless, and most importantly (to me) being human.

And in the closure that article brought was the seed of rewriting the past that left me wishing I could ask Terry to speak up, speak out, against what happened long ago to drive him so far from home it took 33 years for him to reconnect with a brother he loves and who loves him. In that article Terry's father tells the story of 'why we kicked our 7 year old son out of the home' and I wonder if anyone will ask -- what could make a little boy so angry he would pick up an axe? And how could a little boy (because no one denies that Terry was always small for his age) pick up an axe and be dangerous. And why would the parents never see their son until he was 18? And ...

And I breathe.

If I were a parent who mistreated my child and had the chance to rewrite the past to my credit -- would I take it?

At the shelter there was a young man whose stories of his past are so horrific it is hard to believe he escaped it to arrive at the shelter door. Yet, after a journey through the back alleys of several cities, a lot of trusting of the untrustworthy, a lot of wrong turns and deadend lanes, he did. When he arrived at the shelter he was broken, very, very broken. And now, he is thriving. Working. Going to school. He's got his own apartment and is taking a course on how to manage his financial, social and independent living. A parent in his case has come forward to say -- not true. not true.

They want closure. To have his mouth closed to 'untruth' so that only their truth will be heard.

But what is truth in a situation like this?

When Stephanie Findlay, the reporter who wrote the article on Terry, asked me, 'Do you believe all of Terry's stories?" I told her that it wasn't about believing in his stories. It was about believing in the man. Accepting him as he was at the shelter -- and caring for him as he was -- not because he was a cowboy who had fallen off his horse, or an addict who had gotten clean, or an angry child who had become an angry man and never healed. It was about caring for him exactly as he was and honouring the truth of who he was -- a human being. A funny, witty, sometimes moody, sometimes open, sometimes secretive, sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes scared, always loving human being. Just like you and me.

Our job isn't to know the past of the people we serve, I told her. It is to honour the present and their presence here, at the shelter.

For the young man whose parent is angry he has said 'untruths' about the past, it isn't the truth of the past that matters or makes a difference in his life today. It is the truth of the present. He is thriving. He is growing, learning, becoming who he wants to believe he is -- a magnificent human being.

This past week someone asked me, "Do you regret what happened with the man who abused you?"

No, I replied. In having had that experience I get the experience today of loving myself exactly the way I am. Of knowing I have worth, I am worthy. Of knowing my value is not in what I did, it is what I am doing right now to create a world of beauty all around me. To regret what happened then would be to undermine what is happening now -- and I love my life too much to spend time regretting what I cannot change.

"But how do you get closure?" they asked.

I laughed. It was never about closure for me. The past isn't a door to be closed. It is an opening to be explored.

It was never about closure. It was and is always about healing, growing, expanding, breathing into all that I am when I live fearlessly in the now of celebrating my most magnificent self exactly the way I am today. Living life for all I'm worth. Embracing love for all there is for it is In Love that I become free.


PS -- Thanks to my brother-in-law AJT for sending along the correct spelling of Namaste. In his input my output was made better. And what could be better than that!

PPS -- this is the second version of this post because as I went to publish the first version, Blogger crashed and the saved version was only half of what I'd written! LOL -- maybe even blogger was working to make my output better!


Fi said...

Bravo - what a wonderfully written post. I've never thought about it this way before but I can see the truth in what you write.

It's about living in the moment now - it's about who we are right now. We all make mistakes, we also live with and love others who make mistakes but it's about the here and now and who we are today and what we become tomorrow.
You stretch my thinking and I love that about your posts.
Cheers to you

Louise Gallagher said...

Thank you Fi!

May your moments today be filled with Love -- and the joy of your new grandson! :)

Maureen said...

When my brother died, I heard that word "closure" over and over and finally closed my ears to it. Writing about a loved one while he is dying or after he's died is never about "closure"; it's about holding on, about keeping him present. Patrick's no longer physically here but he still is my brother and he is still part of my life. I would never want my memory to be closed to him.

What you speak of when you speak of the past is a message more people need to hear. What's happened is done but what you can do it presents infinite possibilities and opportunities.

Have a marvelous weekend.

Anonymous said...


great piece .... look for it tomorrow on



Josie said...

This post spoke strongly to me on so many levels. I loved the concept of "closure" sometimes being to close the mouth. I found myself wondering if the past isn't always so much about the actual events that took place... or didn't, depending on a point of view, but rather the effect that situation had on the person. What may have felt devastating to me, might have seemed very trivial to other observers. I try to remember that when someone is telling me a story and inward I'm thinking "that's not so bad"... but maybe to them it really was. Ideally, we would all come to your place of living in the today, and loving ourselves and others as they are today. The past is what made us who we are, and I couldn't feel more blessed than I am with my life now, so it was worth it in the end. As for parents who try to vindicate themselves from any responsibility for what happened to their children, I can only shake my head in puzzlement and wonder if it is possible to deceive onself to feel more comfortable. I think it is.

Jennifer Richardson said...

(oh the brilliantly
helpful spirit that led me here today, massive thanks!)
And a HUGE THANKS to YOU, Louise,
for these life-giving words
...for sharing the aliveness
in your beautiful heart!
I SO needed this just this very
moment in time. And here it is!
I thank you for doing the work
to deliver the package:)
Bravo to your brave heart.
Summergrace to you,

Renee said...

"The past isn't a door to be closed. It is an opening to be explored."

There is such liberation in that statement.

Claudia said...

...I told her that it wasn't about believing in his stories. It was about believing in the man...this is so typically you Louise and there should be much more people who believe in the people around matter if they have a tough background or are just average everyday people we meet on the way

S. Etole said...

There is much freedom in what you have shared ... and in some situations ... forgiveness.

Louise Gallagher said...

So true, Maureen -- the past is gone but is ever present in the present through its ability to colour our outlook -- positive or negative -- it's ours to turn into a gift, or not.

Louise Gallagher said...

Thanks Mark! I am honoured.

Louise Gallagher said...

Unfortunately, it is Josie. It is human nature to paint ourselves in positive light -- despite our shortcomings. It takes a deep, deep commitment to truth and integrity and the belief that the shame is not in what we did, it is in not facing it and loving ourselves anyway and every way we can.

Louise Gallagher said...

Jennifer -- so nice to meet you here. I dropped over to your blog, and was enchanted! Thanks.

Louise Gallagher said...

Hello Renee, I applaud you for the work you do at your site, it is very important and you do it with such grace.

Thanks for the inspiration.

Louise Gallagher said...

Thank you Claudia. You bring such a beautiful light into the world!

Louise Gallagher said...

Yes Susan -- much forgiveness. It is the path to healing.

Jingle Poetry said...

what an inspiring post, something good always comes out of loses/sadness.

Jingle Poetry said...

Good Evening:

How divine when you come to poetry potluck,

Week 43 is free verse week, submit 1 to 3 random poems, enjoy the fun!

Hope to see you tonight.


we are to open within an hour.