Go On, Open It


When I feel the darkness closing in, it’s hard to breathe; the crushing pain and tears threatening to break me into tiny little pieces.

Yet this rawness, this fear inexplicably opens me up, exposing my heart. I start to reach out again. I grab onto the positive, the light and hold it close. With patience and tenderness, I let it grow enough to warm my thoughts and soothe my worries. I choose to yield to its power.

I choose yes.

Will it be okay?


Will the light always be there?


Will love heal all?


Yesterday, amidst a torrent of tears and sorrow, of endless doubts and fears, something told me to open the small gift under my Christmas tree. It was from my older brother, Daniel. I almost heard a voice whispering in my ear.

Go on, open it.

I raced downstairs and ripped at the silver paper.

“Oh!” I gushed, clutching the gift close to my heart.

Inside was my late father’s 1956 report card from Thomas A. Edison High School in New York.  As I unfolded the yellowed paper, I giggled in spite of my tears. He had received mostly Ds and Cs. The only classes he had high marks in? Math and photography.

Of course, these grades from so long ago mean nothing now. Mere lines on a piece of paper. They don’t begin to measure how he lived his life or the things he taught me about trusting in the goodness and kindness of helping others. These marks don’t even hint at the incredible man he was or the love he brought so many people while he was alive.

And the love he brings me even today in the face of stark fear.

I traced his name on the tattered slip of paper with my finger over and over, as if I could somehow summon his presence. I needed my dad. I needed to feel safe. I needed his love and his reassurance. I needed him to show me things would be all right again.

I flipped the report card over and underneath nestled in the wrapping paper was a DVD. It was old movie reel footage my brother had unearthed from 45 years ago, things I had never seen before. I popped it into the player and suddenly my dad was there in my living room with me again.

Within moments the grainy and silent images flickered and filled my TV screen: my dad and mom getting married,  grinning as they playfully shared their wedding cake; my dad, a young man in his late 20s,  laughing as he twirled his own mother, my late grandmother, across the dance floor; my dad, puttering around the yard on a sunny Saturday morning, joking and playing with my older brothers.

And through it all, there was my dad’s face, his blue eyes lit from within. Shining.  I remembered his laugh.  I remembered how safe I felt around him.

As I sat there on the couch, I felt his love speaking to me.

It’s going to be all right. Do not worry. Do not fear. I am here for you. I will always be here for you.

I love you.

And that’s all that matters.

97 thoughts on “Go On, Open It

  1. Not that I haven’t been spontaneously crying for the last 3 days anyway, but this totally got me. What beautiful, haunting and evocative writing, Darla. So glad your brother was able to unearth those much needed fatherly “memories.” What a good big brother!

  2. A beautiful story. And oddly similar to one I read earlier today, which I answered with the same bit I’ll share here. I have a number of old tools in my grip, none of them particularly special, most without any padding on the handles. But they all have two small words on them: “Illinois Bell”. Those words remind me of working with my father, a 39-year veteran of Illinois Bell, and they give me that same feeling I had as a boy, working side-by-side on home-repair with my father.
    The power of words can be truly amazing. Thank you for sharing yours.

  3. Thank you, really your words saved me. I am bipolar, drama queen, adhd and a recovering addict . The struggle of addiction is extra hard because of the terrible mood swings , oh yeah I am having a midlife crisis. I really have been bouncing off the walls and vodka is the only thing that I can think of. I was just about to say F*ck it , at least have a beer and then I ran across these lovely words . I did not feel alone with my mixed up emotions. Thank you .
    here is my blog : Misscrabbyass- wordpress

    1. Thank you for reading my words, it’s hard to get my thoughts out because my emotions have been so jumbled and all over the place lately. I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety in my life, so it does help for me to take a moment to write down my feelings, take some of the weight off. Other times, I do say fuck it and have a beer. And no you are definitely not alone with your feelings.

      1. Yes, that they do!

        I don’t know why, but I found this to be the hardest thing to write in a LONG time. I can’t help but sound sappy with this stuff, but I fully believe in every word I’ve written.

  4. yes, love is all that matters… and gun control. well, i’ve had a good 5 minutes not thinking about it, now i need to quiet the heaving deep in my heart. beautiful words, if only all the daddy’s could make the world safe.

    1. Oh, I hear you loud and clear. I’ve gone from rage to sadness to numbness like everyone else. They are complex emotions like the issues we face. I don’t think the world will ever be safe. But I do fully believe if we can do simple things like show love and compassion for each other, and not alienate and destroy with negativity, we might actually get closer.

  5. Tar-Buns

    Sparsely written, every word does it’s part, that makes this powerful.

    The result is evocative, touching, and a glimpse into your heart. Love lives on. How wonderful that you can see your Dad, see that love, with this gift.

    Thank you for your prose. Merry Christmas!!! 🙂

    1. Oh, thanks, Tar, that means a lot to me. I actually cut out about two-thirds of this and edited it down to the quick, just for that purpose. To be simple and direct. It is hard to convey my feelings lately. I bawled through this entire post and have been an absolute wreck this weekend. Just trying to get out of this depression and see the light again. I think I can feel it again, just reading these comments.
      Merry Christmas to you, too!

  6. Just beautiful, Darla and Darla’s brother. Like others I’ve felt very emotional for the last few days for obvious reasons, wanting comfort. Wanting love. Wanting everything to be alright. So thank you for your beautiful writing and your brother for his beautiful gift. You each helped me take a step towards healing.

    1. Elyse, I feel like that’s all any of us ever want in life– love, protection, comfort, security. I feel so lost, like everyone else lately, and seeing my dad up there on the screen, smiling and dancing, it was almost like he was saying to me, it’s going to be all right.

  7. Lovely. Thank you! I am finding it hard to keep the smile on my face for my students, when I just want to hold onto them and cry all day. It helps to remember that love is stronger, that love is eternal, that the love of our parents and the love that we give to our kids, will endure.

  8. OneHotMess

    Lovely—truly lovely. Right now, with the crushing weight of tragedy everywhere, I think, “Go ahead. Just open it,” should be everyone’s motto. Open yourself to whatever gifts of love that surround you. Do it now. Don’t wait.

  9. Running from Hell with El

    Oh my gosh, this was so incredibly, utterly beautiful. Thank you for this! And I gotta admit I chuckled about the report card!

    1. I know, I really had a good laugh at his grades! Most of his grades were barely passing. But he went on to work as a stock broker on Wall Street, then as an office manager for American Express. So I guess the math class prepared him well..

  10. Oh, Darla
    I shut off the Internet because I couldn’t take any more stories. I cry for seemingly no reason. How?Why? Today, I made myself go to the mall. All I could do was sit in the food court and cry where 2 were shot. It’s still such a fragile place; however everyone seems to be kinder, moving, slower, taking time to really look each other in their eyes. On the heels of the mall tragedy we’re reeling with the travesty in Connecticut. As you say, we’re desperately looking for assurance that the world will tip rightside up again.
    Thank you for sharing your pain and comfort. I’m glad I tiptoed into your blog this eve. You’ve helped.
    Thanks for your words.

    1. Barb, I can’t tell you how much your words are helping me. Thank you.

      I know all of us feel the same and there really are no words that can express it, just raw emotions.

      Personally, I had to turn off the TV finally and not watch the news anymore. Mainly, because I don’t want my kids to even know about it. But also, because I was actually becoming traumatized myself by imagining the events over and over again. I will never forget it of course, but I desperately need to cling to the good and let that grow and take over my mind again. I want to honor those kids and teachers by being kind and loving and positive. My daughter is the same age as the victims and it was incredibly hard for me to drop her off at school today. Your heart takes over your mind and it just hurts. Plain and simple.

    1. Oh, thank you so much, Joe. I was very scared to write this, truth be told. I wrote it in the middle of a very sad desperate state of mind yesterday. But now I am very happy I did get it out. Almost immediately afterward I felt a bit of the weight lift off my mind. It’s readers and bloggers like you that really help me get through.

      1. It may be a cliche but through any bad event you have to look at the positives. When the London riots happened we focused on the people clearing up and grouping together as a community. And when atrocities happened we have to reinforce solidarity, the minority cannot win. And when we lose a loved one we need to celebrate their life.

  11. I think I want to hug your brother for such a wonderful gift. Then I want to hug you for the gift of sharing. Thank you.

    Yes, there is light and yes it will be okay. You brought tears to my eyes and a sob, maybe that was a hiccup, no it it was a sob. But you also made me smile. This was wonderful and I am so glad you tore into that gift.

  12. A dad has such a way of making us feel safe. Funny how just thinking of them although they have passed brings back those feelings. Thank you for sharing your beautiful gift from your brother–your dad lives on through him, too. Love the thought of a big brother taking care of lil sis. Oh for a world where we all take care of each other. Opening up and sharing is part of that.

    1. I knew you’d know how I feel about missing having my daddy around. There is just something extra-special about that father-daughter bond. He was my rock and always there for me. I always felt completely safe and secure when he was around. If only we could all have that in this world.

  13. Snoring Dog Studio

    Darla! Lovely, so heartwrenchingly lovely. You are so lucky to have these wonderful memories that keep coming back to you, and giving you comfort, even amid the tears. That is one of the best gifts anyone could receive.

  14. It really is going to be all right, Darla. Just keep choosing yes, and keep feeling the love of your family — those who are gone and those who are with you now. The light will return soon; it always does.

  15. Darla, you couldn’t have written a more beautiful personal reflection about the tragedy. I know your children are young like mine, and to go on, to continue as we were is now, well, impossible. But to remember to see the light, to see the goodness and hope and to cherish the love in our lives is the best thing you, me, we all can do for our families.

    I have been without words since I heard the news. But overflowing with sadness and fear. It paralyzed me for a while. Then I spoke to some of my mom friends and the general consensus was echoed there in your post. We must remember to love, to see the good and to hold onto the hope.

    I’m so glad that you got that “feeling” to go open the present from your brother. What a perfect gift. I know you will cherish it.


    1. Melissa, paralyzing is the perfect word. Like lots of people, I am struggling to get out of these depths of helplessness and anguish. It’s not easy, especially since my daughter is the same age as these victims. I’m definitely not even close to being there yet, but I am trying to get back to that feeling of love and light again. I want to be there for my kids.

      And it was so odd, this urge to go open my brother’s little present. He lives in Florida and mailed this to me a few weeks ago and I just put it under the tree and didn’t give it another thought. Then the other day, I was in the middle of crying again and something told me to go open it. It’s not like I make a habit of opening gifts a week before Christmas or anything (I swear!)

      Thanks for reading this and I’m sending you and your family some love and hugs!

  16. Oh, God, Darla, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post. I needed this today–truly did. Thanks for sharing this connection to your dad. I am so moved, so touched, so all-the-things-I-want-to-feel-this-time-of-year! Happy holidays, my friend.

    1. Y’know, I was really surprised with this gift. I love my brother dearly, and I know he’s a great guy and all…but something tells me his wife had a little something to do with it also. lol Merry Christmas to you!

  17. Hi,
    A beautifully written post, and what a lovely surprise you had waiting for you in the present under the tree, a wonderful idea your brother had putting that all together.

  18. What an amazing gift! Your brother must be a saint — people who give the most incredibly thoughtful gifts are often the most incredibly thoughtful people.

    Thanks for writing this beautiful piece — I needed a post like this today.

    1. Thanks so much, David. So happy you read it and liked it. It was a struggle to get any words out and the words I used pale in comparison to how I feel inside.

      Just visited your blog and I am loving what I’ve read!

  19. Its so good you followed the advice and opened the parcel. So often though we hear the little voices in our heads we ignore their advice. What a thrill to find your Dad’s old report card and all those old movies including your parents wedding day!

  20. Oh boy. I have been playing (a bit) of catch up, and all of the posts I’ve read so far have been tear jerkers! Why must everyone make me cry when I’m on holidays? (Don’t you people have any respect?) All kidding aside, this was such a beautiful post, Darla. I know that your dad will always be with you, whether it is in spirit or via old report cards and movie reels. xo

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