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Frodo Comes Home

November 28, 2016

Something J.R.R. Tolkien has Frodo stating as he journeys back to his beloved Shire near the conclusion of The Return of the King has resonated with me in my journey home…

“Are you in pain, Frodo?’ said Gandalf quietly as he rode by Frodo’s side.

‘Well, yes I am,’ said Frodo.  ‘It is my shoulder.  The wound aches, and the memory of darkness is heavy on me.  It was a year ago today.’

‘Alas!  There are some wounds that cannot be wholly cured,’ said Gandalf.

‘I fear it may be so with mine,’ said Frodo.  ‘There is no real going back.  Though I come to the Shire, it will not be the same.  I am wounded with knife, sting, and tooth, and a long burden.  Where shall I find rest.’

Gandalf did not answer.”

Post Traumatic Stress is not a sign of weakness, I have read, but the evidence of a strong spirit that has endured great suffering or trauma and come through it.  The memory of my service in the Navy produced changes in my psyche that only recently have I recognized; that trauma, combined with my imprisonment, had me wounded in ways that mostly did not show.  The evidence of my wounding was mostly invisible except in my inability to trust, to relax, and to believe that I am of value to society or that anyone could believe in me again.

Violent anger, often uncontrolled and seemingly out of nowhere, filled my waking moments (and often my dreams) with fear at who I would hurt next.  My beloved wife, Kathy, was often the recipient of these outbursts; the one person on the planet who demonstrated far above all others her sacrificial love for me, yet I often doubted her as well.  Suicidal ideations filled my daily thoughts; it just all seemed so pointless to go on like that.

But God…

In an amazing series of ‘coincidences,’ over a period of two years in which He kept me from harming myself (instances of how close I came still cause me to shudder), I made the acquaintance of and became friends with another volunteer at the USO-NC Center at Raleigh-Durham airport.  She invited me to participate in outreach to the military and Veteran community in our area with resources that would help them.  During that time I began researching PTS through many of those resources and at one meeting met Amy Gressler of Harbor Reins.  She is a licensed counselor and equestrian who has started a program for Veterans and active military to help them resolve issues relating to their service by working with horses.  The idea intrigued me as I had, with Kathy, run a boarding stable for horses for a time when at UNC and remembered how calming being around these majestic animals could be.

I began counseling with Amy and Liza Chartier as well as working with two different horses, Bob (a Belgian) and Commander (a pinto).  The process of learning how to connect with the horse enabled me to connect with the deep-seated hurts that I had not dealt with in any healthy fashion.  Over the time in which I participated in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, the ‘horse-sense’ of the animals I worked with, coupled with Amy and Liza’s insights, brought me closer to home than I ever thought possible.  The sessions would often end with me feeling exhilarated and more peaceful; doing these sessions weekly (for the most part) helped bridge me from the ‘ago’ (as I referred to it) to the now.

Something else that helped a great deal, again as a result of my learning about it through the Military Family Ministry at Hope Community Church, was Yoga Warriors taught locally by Jody Probert and Anne Bequet.  I remember laughing at a friend in prison who had told me that yoga was a great cardio workout; at the conclusion of my first session of Yoga Warriors I was exhausted and drenched in sweat.  I’m laughing no more.

Combining these two activities did much to bring me out of what had been a decade’s long funk and began (yes, began) the process of healing.  As with my friend Frodo, the memories will always be there as they are a part of the person I am today.  Through what I have experienced and especially through my faith in Messiah Jesus, the dreams are fading (really, all but gone) and the angry outbursts are gone.  But, just as with Frodo, my healing will always be incomplete in this life.  There will always be an echo of the wounding, the long burden within me.  Thankfully the effect it has on me is dramatically decreased, but it will always be there until I find my final rest.

One day, years after his return to the Shire, Frodo invites Sam to go riding with him.  While riding, they meet many of the Elven folk who are on their way to the Havens.  From there they will set sail to the far country (spoken of also by C.S. Lewis in his Chronicles of Narnia) where both he and Bilbo (the two ring-bearers) will finally find peace and an end to their burdens.  This ‘far country’ also is my expectation; that one day I will enter that rest and bow before my King and begin an eternity apart from any sadness or grief.

Until then, the journey continues.

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