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By Gregory Ross
I AM STUCK IN HELL.
On occasion I escape to Purgatory. On rare occasions I slip into Heaven. I made it out of Limbo when I was Baptized. Later the Catholic Church decommissioned Limbo. Seems fair. Why punish unbaptized babies and righteous people born before Jesus?
And why locate Limbo on the outskirts of Hell, on the edge of damnation? I could see putting Purgatory there, since it is where those who die in the Grace of God go to expiate their sins by suffering. My definition of Purgatory: life on this Physical Plane. That does not work with the die part of the official definition but, I long ago let go of caring about official.
A visit to Heaven is when the woman I love, loved me back enough to marry me and when our son was born and again when our grandson was born and again when our other grandson was born.
It is a hearty laugh, a beautiful sunny day with a cooling breeze, butterflies and bees in an explosion of flowers in our yard, a soaking rain during a drought, writing a piece that pleases, a well executed meal made for family and friends, a good night's sleep, then rising with minimal back pain, waking, reaching out to my wife and hearing her sigh.
Hell is War and the aftermath of that experience: homelessness, incarceration, anger, isolation, alienation, nightmares, waking fears, physical wounds, psychic wounds, moral wounds, destruction of normalcy, military sexual trauma, depleted uranium poisoning, Agent Orange poisoning, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, brain trauma injury, survivors guilt, startle response, suicide and worst of all, a profound loss of the ability to hold joy.
Our grandsons are an intense source of delight but, when away from them my levels of fear for their safety, their future, abound. All of which I still feel for their father, our son.
HELL IS WAR STUCK INSIDE MY SOUL.
Gregory Ross was in the Navy, serving in Morocco, Six Day War (1967), Philippines (1968), and Vietnam, 7th Fleet, Gun Line (1969). Published in Anthology: "Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace," edited by Maxine Hong Kingston.