Issue #51 / July 2019

[ ] Part of the Pinocchio story is about this:

Geppetto (Pinocchio’s father) is swallowed by a giant whale while searching for Pinocchio. When Pinocchio hears of this news, he travels deep into the ocean to find the whale that swallowed up Geppetto. Pinocchio makes his way inside the whale and reunites with his father. They build a huge fire causing the whale to sneeze. They are then blasted ashore and left to start their lives over together.

If this is a truism that, in essence, the son saved his father from the abyss. Then now what of people like us? What happens if the son dies? Do we lose the ability to be saved and evolve? [ ]


Dear K,

I read about the death of your son in the paper. I am so very sorry. Thank you for your letter – it was honest, searching and beautifully articulated. I think that it is better not to publish it in full though, so as not to rekindle any attention that could cause unnecessary suffering for you and your family. I hope you don’t mind.

You talked about the story of Pinocchio, a story I love very much. I included it as one of my favourite books in a recent Red Hand File. Geppetto, the maker and father of the puppet-boy Pinocchio, trapped in the darkened belly of the beast, is a very powerful metaphor for the father who has been separated from his child – the grieving father. The epic story of the incorrigible Pinocchio’s attempt at reuniting with his father and becoming a real boy is one of the most moving in all literature.

We grieving fathers, all of us, begin our time in the vast and darkened belly of the beast. We also have become the child, as you said in your letter – and perhaps some dark force had always destined that to be. For a while we become the one that died, as we are plunged into a darkness from which there seems no escape. But you also mentioned the inability of the child to save the father from ‘the abyss’ if the child has died. Eventually, I found this not to be true. I found the spirit of my son was ultimately able to release me from this terrible place.

The spirits of our children can become the guides that eventually lead us out of the dark. After a while, I found the spirit of my son braved the sea and found and entered the whale, and lighting the fire, convulsed the whale and released me from its unlit interior, ‘blasting me ashore’.

Most of the time, these days, I feel on solid ground and in the air and the light. But the process has been slow. You are in your very early days. It is four years to the day for me, yet still my son comes to the rescue – parenting me, fathering me, as the darkness reasserts itself. Yet I see a day when my son can let go of my hand and return to his spirit-form – the child – and be free. I can become his father again. That day is coming, but is not here yet, for you or for me. We are still, as you said, on some level, ‘living in another world’ with the departed.

I read Pinocchio again this week, after you wrote to me – I hadn’t read it since the death of my son – and I found it very helpful. What a deep little book it is. These stories talk to us, down the ages, and give us powerful images that can articulate our deepest feelings and help make some sense of things. Thank you for reminding me of it and, again, I am so sorry to hear about your little boy.

Love, Nick


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