It was first coined around the Holocaust and has become an observed reality for military who suffer with PTSD.
It encapsulates a range of emotions stemming in the guilt of being alive when others near oneself did not survive the same environment. Be it a catastrophe, a tragedy, a battle, or a great social injustice.
People are often thrust into circumstances beyond their control and when death plays into it all, to come out the other side with life when others are stripped is an intense grip.
Survivors can gain a renewed sense of gratefulness, but can also be burdened, even debilitated at the life in front of them.
The one who gasped for air with me.
She told me to come soon to the convent. She has also told me not to go to Bangladesh. She doesn’t want me plagued with Survivor’s Guilt.
She has spoken of the good life here in the United States. Of the relative wealth of the American families that adopted little ones from a 3rd world country.
She has spoken of her home, a land I do not know, that is filled with a people who share my skin tone, my deep brown eyes, my ethnic traits and culture that could have been mine.
Her recollection was painting pictures in her own mind of that which I was rescued from.
I still see her eyes light with a fervent fire when she said that if we babies went looking for ourselves, we would surely be disappointed.
She begged that the present life would be the only reality our hearts would know.
So I resigned myself to only visit Bangladesh if there was a greater purpose than myself.
I often thought as a child that I should have just died, left to the jungle or the road side and never scooped up by nuns and an adoption agency.
I have apologized in the dark corners of my childhood bedroom for being alive.
I have come a long way from agony of surviving when others did not, from believing the world would be better off without me. I have laid claim to the fact that I was adopted for reason.
This confidence does not undo the stark truth that I am likely not strong enough to see death and poverty in Bangladesh on my own. To visit a country that did not hold my years without people who will catch my falling heart, without an organization, or without a purpose that keeps my eyes peeled–peeled to a bigger world than solely my story of grace and grit, abandonment and rescue, love and hate–going there without perspective would surely wreck me.
The Sister’s words.
Some opened fragile wounds.
But this I know, she could not trumpet loud enough her conviction that my life has purpose.
I did not speak of my fears and guilt that had riddled my mind for years. I took her love, soaked it up, and stay in the air of life.
Will you too? Will you soak up life?
Not a one of us can say the world would be better off without us. Not even myself.
We are precious.
We survived, all of us, and in this our call to life abundant. The demand on our spirits to chase hope.
We all have stories.
For those gone too soon and the years and places of the past, our hearts slow to cherish and process, celebrate and grieve.
My energy low for the ugliness a post like this can dance in my mind. I will continue the chronicles here again next Friday.
These are more than blog posts or details about a country, these are fragments of my exploded heart. Hold it gently, please.
I didn’t die.
I am alive.
And for all that you enjoy and for that which you endure, I am convinced you belong and have purpose too.