And when He thus had spoken, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes
(John 11:43-44)

Arise, Lazarus

My official nemesis, TheDeadGuy, speaks eloquently of the day of his death, referring to it throughout his many writeups, as one would speak of a birthday or a graduation day, or some other natural milestone of one's life.

I never fully understood this, until recently.

Oh, intellectually, I could make sense of what he was saying. But I never felt it, on that deep level of empathy that represents true understanding.

Never, that is, until the day I died.

On the 29th of December, 2006, I held my children in my arms for what I hoped would not be the last time, but feared might be.

When I let go of them, unsure of ever seeing them again, I died.

This is not a metaphor. It is a very real and tangible thing.

Although it was later arranged that I was to see them, a bit over a week later, I spent that week in a dazed terror that I might never see them again.

A bit of family history might be in order...

For the duration of our time together (over 14 years), my relationship with my ex had been progressively deteriorating. Especially so, for the past two or three years. In the middle of 2005, immediately after my father's death, our relationship started a long final decline -- the main cause being that I resumed connections with my estranged family, including my brother, whom she loathed.

By late summer of 2005, we were talking of breaking up. But then she pragmatically decided to put this on hold while she finished her master's degree (while I perforce had to set my own thesis work, already delayed, aside to take care of everything domestic while she wrote hers).

Once she was done and had graduated, I had assumed that it would be my time to finish my degree. Not so. Now, she had her work, and it required all her efforts. In effect, she expected me to handle even more domestic things than before, while at the same time taking out all her frustrations on me.

Stupidly, I acquiesced, hoping somehow to revive the relationship. By this time, we were not having sex (something that had been rare enough in recent years).

As time went by, she once again began to hint that she wanted me to leave, and I began to realize that this was the only likely outcome. I gave up trying, and spent most of my efforts trying to stay afloat.

The tone of our conversations became increasingly hostile and cold.

I was working on finding an affordable apartment -- not an easy proposition, since my economy was in ruins, and since the title to the apartment we lived in was hers (a major act of stupidity on my part, one that has cost me the equivalent of about $70-100,000). I had no money to buy a new place to live. Yet I was actively looking for something cheap.

My only concern was how to arrange things with regard to the children.

Apparently, she'd been thinking along the same lines -- and had come up with a radical solution to the "problem" that I represented.

For months prior to the last breakup, she ceased to actively participate in conflict resolution between our two eldest children. When they would get into fights, as boys do, she would sit there silently, until I involved myself and separated the fighters, often by physical means. Then she'd jump up and berate me for "being violent towards them".

That is, when others were present.

In private, she'd seldom care enough to intervene.

In retrospect, she must have been scheming for a long time.

Things came to a head during Christmas 2006, when she managed to engineer her immediate family's involvement in the drama: she convinced her brother to report me to social services for violence towards my children.

Two (charming and professional, I have to say) social workers showed up at our apartment, on the 28th of December. They informed me of the accusations levelled against me, and I calmly gave them my own interpretation of the situation. My ex, at this point, must have decided that the odds weren't quite to her liking, so she upped the ante by claiming that she was afraid of me. She accused me of being insane, and acting threatening towards her. She did a creditable impression of a scared battered woman.

However, the conversation didn't end there, as she might have hoped. The people from social services, it developed, weren't foolish enough to take any claims at face value. With a number of probing questions from them, she soon managed to contradict herself repeatedly. Even so, in the interests of domestic peace, it was agreed that she would quit the apartment with the children, the next day, and give me until January 1st to clear out. It was initially suggested that she should leave at once with the kids, but she refused, reporting that she'd promised them a trip to Tivoli, the amusement park, the next day. At this point, the social workers exchanged glances. Anyway, their departure was delayed until the next day.

The next morning, she packed up the kids and prepared to go to Tivoli with them -- then, to my immense surprise, invited me along. When we got there, she suggested we split up and that I take the two eldest off separately while she went off with the youngest. We could meet after an hour.

Yes, you read that correctly. The day after telling the social services people that she was afraid of what I might do to her and to the children, she invites me to the amusement park, then sends me off with the kids alone. Get the picture yet?

I had a great time in Tivoli with my boys, though it was shadowed by the sense that I might never see them again.

Later that day, when she finally took the children off to spend New Year's with her family, I held my boys close. In TheDeadGuy's words, I died at that moment.

The next few days were a haze. I posted the writeup Hermetic, which I had written in my scratch pad, some weeks before.

I spent New Year's Eve, usually my favourite festival of the year, alone in the apartment that was no longer mine. Good friend that he is, andersa was worried sick that I might do something drastic. He text-messaged me repeatedly during the evening. I can't say how much I appreciate this.

Dimview was similarly concerned, and offered me a place to stay for a while.

On January 1st, I picked up a load of essential belongings, and trudged off to her apartment, where she and her boyfriend welcomed me into their home.

I was an emotional wreck.

For the first few days, I hardly slept, and ate very little.

Throughout, Dimview and Jens (her BF) were, quite simply, the nicest people on Planet Earth. My stay, initially planned for a duration of a few days, came to last four weeks. It took that long to find an affordable apartment.

After a few days had passed, the "More than walls" quest was posted, and Dimview suggested that I might have something to say. I did. Out of the depths of my heart, I pulled the raw sliver of pain that became the writeup This is my place.

In a very real sense, that writeup was written at the low point of my life. Shortly thereafter, I began seeing my children again, and the wheels of the authorities started grinding their bureaucratic but surprisingly effective way.

Weeks have now passed.

As I write this, I am sitting in my new apartment. A visitation agreement (temporary, but soon to become official) is in place, whereby my children stay with me every other week. They're looking forward to this, because my ex is no fun to be with, at all. And, now that the pressure of having to live with her has been removed from me, I am a far happier person.

The authorities notified me the other day that they no longer saw any reason to consider the accusations against me worth pursuing. My ex is progressively alienating every social worker that comes into contact with her, by self-contradictions, angry harangues and, when she fails to get her will, by accusing them of being "allied" with me. She is digging a deep hole for herself, and completely ignoring any efforts to reach compromise or to help the children. This point is not lost on the authorities.

My economy is bad, but will improve. I'm working my butt off, but it's my butt, and it's working for my future, so that's fine by me.

My thesis can still be finished, though much delayed.

My children want very much to be with me. Every time my oldest speaks to me on the phone, he tells me how much he is looking forward to seeing me again.

Throughout, I have discovered how many friends I have, and how reliable they all are. I have learned a great deal about what is important in life. And life is good. Even when it is darkest, it is good. And when the dark clears, as it inevitably must, there is a dawn.

Like Lazarus, I hear a voice calling to me, bidding me to cast off my shroud and come forward into the light.

It is a child's voice.

Three children's voices.

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