Sunday, April 6, 2008

Write to Heal

Have you seen the movie, Freedom Writers? It spoke to my heart big time. Within 2 weeks, I had seen the movie 6 times, read The Freedom Writers Diary, saw Erin Gruwell in person, and read her memoir, Teach With Your Heart. I cannot remember when someone's life work had such an impact on me.

I have been doing a lot of "work" to get back in touch, sensitive touch, with my heart. My passions were driven from me at a young age. Instead, I pursued what others thought was right for me. "You know? You're really good at blank. You should be a blankety-blank." Thanks!

You can probably guess I've never really been satisfied with my career choices. I thought work was something I did so I could enjoy life with the rest of my time. I'm tired of waiting for the balance that never comes because I'm not that easily satisfied. Rather, I'm going to pursue the passions of my heart and have faith that doors previously unseen will fly open to beautiful skies. I will exercise my write to heal.

The first step in that process, though I've written bits before, is to thank Ms. Gruwell for the tremendous encouragement she has unwittingly given me to chase my dreams. Below is the letter I wrote her just today.

Please let me know your thoughts on this letter, Erin Gruwell, the Freedom Writers, or your own personal story of suffering and/or triumph. Also, please share this blog with others, too. We all have the write to heal and here's an opportunity.

Dear Ms. Gruwell,

I had purchased your memoir, Teach With Your Heart, when you came to speak and sign books in Vineland, NJ on March 26th. I just finished reading it yesterday. I think I cried at least once in almost every chapter. It was a very touching and beautiful story! Thank you for sharing such a personal and significant part of your life.

In the book, I learned of the loss of your father. I'm so sorry. I lost my father as well, and he died very suddenly, too, from a heart attack. It started with a phone call from my stepmother, Christina, only this call was at 3:15am, and she wasn't calling to inform me about his death, she didn't know.

I could make out what she was saying although she was crying over the phone. She’d been crying for a while. While visiting her parents in Pennsylvania, she was not having any luck trying to reach him since the time of his last appointment. She asked if I could go over and check on my dad. I said, “Of course,” trying to remain calm, especially for her. I wanted to convince us both that there was no need to worry. We simply didn't know anything for certain, yet. Maybe he just accidentally left the phone off the hook.

On the twenty minute drive over there, I had to fight back the tears so I could see the quiet, dark road. I had a horrible vision of finding his body floating in the pool. "No!" I scolded myself. "Don't imagine the worst! I don't know yet what I'll find."

His house was tucked back in the woods about a hundred yards. Driving up the packed gravel driveway, I could see that the house was eerily black. There were no lights on: no porch lights, no night lights, nothing. I don’t recall if the moon was out. I could hear Rusty barking from upstairs as I walked up to the side door like I had done so many times before. I had an extra key and let myself in. I knew something was wrong. At first, I thought he didn't make it home. Maybe he slept somewhere else. But why would Rusty be trapped upstairs? I was more puzzled than worried at this moment, but only slightly.

My confusion disappeared in a flash, however, as I entered his bedroom and turned on the light. From a distance he looked like he was sleeping, flat on his back. I quietly called out, "Dad!" a few times. No movement. I thought, “Why is he sleeping so heavily?” Perhaps he drank too much on his golf outing that day. As I crept forward, I saw that his eyes were slightly open and that he was not breathing. Panic set in. I started crying hard as I ran to his side of the bed, blubbering, "no, No, NO!" I grabbed his wrist to feel for a pulse, sobbing. His wrist was cold, but that didn't deter me from firmly holding on to it, unintelligibly praying that even a faint pulse would be felt. Nothing.

We had become best friends within the last year. Prior to that, it was a struggle, to say the least. My parents divorced when I was less than 5 years old. I grew up with my mom. At first, visits with my dad were usually about doing something fun, like water skiing in the summer or cuddling together with him, my brother, and my sister to watch Frank Capra’s "It's a Wonderful Life" while sipping hot chocolate on Christmas Eve.

In high school, however, that dramatically changed. My mom was "cool" and my dad was not. More accurately, my mom represented home and let me do whatever I wanted. My dad extended an invitation to live with him and my stepmother and was the disciplinarian. I chose the comfortable, easy way. That decision became the foundation for my rebellion.

After high school, I realized I needed him and his lessons, but my rebel ways were deeply entrenched. My real wake up call was not his environment or lectures. It was an auto accident that nearly killed me. I was not at fault, merely in the wrong place at the wrong time when a drunk driver fell asleep at the wheel. Seconds earlier or later this would not have happened to me. My father was reassuringly by my side during my recovery. Since then, my appreciation for him grew significantly.

I fought the tears as best I could. I had to call Christina back to let her know. Even though there was a phone next to the bed, I ran downstairs to call from the kitchen. I don't know why. Maybe I just didn't want to be in the same room with his lifeless body when I talked to a live person. Maybe I just didn't want to see my father, dead, so I could instead focus on what I had to do. Maybe I just didn’t want to believe that my father had died.

I dialed the phone through heavy tears, pausing to make sure I was pressing the right buttons. When Christina picked up, I was already pacing, impatient after just one ring. I began sobbing again and blurted, "I think he's dead," intelligibly as I could, wondering why I said, "think." She became hysterical. So did I.

Next, I managed to focus enough to call the police and my uncle, my dad's older brother. While waiting for them to arrive, I avoided the bedroom and wandered around the rest of the house. Looking out back, I noticed the pool was close to overflowing and that the water from the hose was still running. He was filling the pool for the summer. He didn't plan to die, but he did. I didn't plan to begin crying again at that moment, but I did.

Erin, I don't know how you made it through your speech the next day. The grieving process had just started. Perhaps the only thing that enabled you to stand and talk was what you expressed in one small statement of your memoir, "I went to another place."

I know of such a place. For me, it's in my head, deep in my thoughts, and tucked away from my heart. It’s logical and feels safe, but it's not genuine and I've been there too long. What I've learned of your life, your passion, and of the Freedom Writers has brought me back home, where my heart has been waiting patiently. Thank you for showing me your heart so I could recognize mine.

I’m humbly grateful for your continued dedication and wish you all the best for the Freedom Writers Foundation. It all started for me with a movie I rented (and since purchased) called, Freedom Writers, and my journey is far from over. Seeing you in person at Cumberland County College was a cherished moment and almost surreal.

I’ve made several starts in the recent past to write meaningfully, but then other things became more important. You’ve taught me by example that giving from the heart is important. Now, I'm encouraged to prepare for endurance and truly share the depths of my creativity and passion through writing; something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. In turn, I hope others will find the courage to be honest with themselves, grow from the experience, and share the amazing discovery. Your enthusiasm is contagious!

Sincerely Yours,

Dwight Hurych

14 comments:

Amel's Realm said...

I have a mixture of emotions when reading this post. It's very touching and personal. I'm at a loss on what to say, actually.

You see, my uncle died in the same manner a few months ago in Indonesia. He never married, so he lived alone and my parents couldn't get in touch with him for days. Since my parents no longer has a car, they asked another relative who lived near his house to check up on him. He was already dead for a few days.

Of course I wasn't there to witness the whole thing, but my parents told me everything and reading your story made me relive that story of my uncle.

I can't imagine how much more heart-wrenching it must've been for you since it was your own Dad that you found. I hope you don't miss him too much...

As to Freedom Writers, I've watched the movie and it's AWESOME!!! Very inspirational. Haven't read the memoir yet, though. Maybe someday I will.

And KUDOS on your effort to pursue the passion of your heart. I wish you THE BEST of everything. I know you'll make it since you DO write VERY well and you've got so many things to say. :-))))

Amel's Realm said...

Whoops, typo: I mean the BEST IN everything you do. :-)))

Milli Thornton said...

I loved this article from top to bottom, beginning with your title, "Write to Heal."

Although you said many honest and penetrating things, I was especially struck by this from your closing paragraph:

"I'm encouraged to . . . truly share the depths of my creativity and passion through writing; something I’ve wanted to do for a long time."

Although I only found your blog last week, and have only read three blog entries so far, for me this is already true about you. With the powers of your writing, you've already moved me to put Freedom Writers at the top of my Netflix queue and to bookmark the Freedom Writers Foundation to visit after the movie (and probably find some way to help or donate). And these are only two of the things you've moved me to think about or do.

You're already sharing the depths of your creativity and passion through your writing (and depth was the perfect choice of word, in my opinion) even if you feel you haven't been doing it "enough" or for "long enough." We tend to measure ourselves against the achievements of others, or in terms of how long we've been doing something (if it has been a long time, that makes us more "legitimate") but what about measuring expression by how much we move or inspire someone else?

Naturally, measuring ourselves against anything is not the ultimate goal. I just wanted to let you know you have memorable powers to inspire and heal others, through your efforts to get more in touch with your own heart.

That's what I get from your blog: inspiration and healing. As well as humor, helpful insights, and having my brain and heart muscles stretched. And your genuineness is contagious. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

What you wrote was amazing, both from a point that provides a strong emotional and graphic picture and also opening up your life to share that. Really very good. Thank you for sharing that.

Dwight said...

Amel,

I'm sorry to hear about your loss. Thanks for sharing that. And thanks for the expression of your sympathy. That means a lot to me.

Thank you for the KUDOS and wishing me THE BEST in everything I do! I hope that includes giving you a reason to come back! I'm sure we'll be seeing much of each other (each other's blog, that is).

Dwight

Dwight said...

Milli,

Your words are music to my ears. Yuchh! Too cliché. How about this? Your written expression is as sweet and playful as Mozart's Flute & Harp Concerto in C Major. (I love that piece.) Ah! That's more like it.

It's readers like you who make writing, and all the drafts, such a pleasure. What a fantastic journey from my heart onto the page!

If what you get from this post is inspiration and healing, then I've exceeded my goals. I'm humbled and utterly grateful for your feedback. It shows that my heart has touched yours, and that's why we're here.

Dwight

Cynthia Yoder said...

Thanks, Dwight, for sharing that. Your openness about such powerful experiences is healing for yourself and others! Keep on!
Cynthia
www.magicdreamhouse.com

Anonymous said...

Hi Dwight, Thank you so much for sharing your writing filled with a heart so true. You have an amazing ability to write and inspire. I believe that with faith and dedication God will see you thru the path to your dreams. Can't wait to read more from you..Keep up the excellant work...
Marysol ;)

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

Dwight, all I can say is, "Keep Writing!" Glad you didn't dump you blog.

Sheryl said...

After reading your blog all I could think was "wow". Your writing skills are fantastic! However, I was more moved by your story then your actual writing skills. Your story stayed with me all day. Haunting, not in a bad way, but I can think of no other word that fits.

I tried all day to wrap my mind around what you went through when your father passed away. In some aspects I can understand where you were coming from when things between you and your father were strained, I had similar experience with my own father. My father however hasn't passed away, so I have no idea what that experience is like. I tried to put myself in your shoes, trying to determine how I would feel or react had that happened to me. Truth is I have no idea how I would act or feel.

I did have a strong desire to hug you as I read about your life experience. Was a weird feeling for me to want to comfort you in your time of need even though that need was in your past and never touched my own life in reality.

Rebecca said...

Hi, Dwight. It has been quite some time!!

You are right in that writing does help one heal, in my opinion. Purges demons and orders thoughts. I sometimes write just to share something interesting or fun. Sometimes to grieve. Sometimes to rail.

I, too, have experienced my parents divorce, teenage rebellion, consequences, and the death of my father. These things shape us, inform our decisions, limit us in some ways, liberate us in others.

I am truly sorry for your loss, and hope you continue to find a way to heal.

Caryn Webb said...

Dwight:

I was very moved by your writing and very glad you have decided to put your heart into it. You are indeed a wonderful and inspiring writer. Please keep at it.

Caryn

Anonymous said...

Dwight.... It's Ann. don't know if you remember me, but we met last year, just before Christmas. Anyway, I was thinking about your blog and looked it up... Saw this recent writing and wanted to tell you a couple of things:
1. I'm so sorry for you loss
2. Your writing is captivating. I found myself glued to the page. You have a talent. Pursue it.

Anonymous said...

hello uncle dwight. it's me, Alya. (your niece, no duh) =)

Admittedly, I unintentionally found this blog. (Having had internet access and an intense amount of boredom I had been in the process of googling my own name and the names of my family members to see if it turned anything up). [Me and my very useful pasttimes]... However, I guess the particularly embarrassing reason for HOW I found your blog is worth having read it.

your entry was beautiful.

Reading about your experience with my grandfather touched me and (quite honestly) gave me the chills. It scares me how connected your story is to my father's and to my own. I wish I had known my grandpa.

Love my family in New Jersey. Say "hi" to everybody.

...And come visit us in the Valley sometime. The summer high is about 120 now and we are loving it! (Not kidding about the temperature, although I did exaggerate some about our enthusiasm about this weather.)

Lots of love-- A.H. =)