I have in my possession two of the saddest letters. . . even re-reading them, they gripe my heart. They are written by my Cousin Byron Raphael; the one who looked after Elvis in his early years in the mid ’50’s, to my Aunt Hermione, his mother. In the letters he is 55 telling of hardships: I hate the mindless opening of x number of cartons and the grind of cleaning up after somebody who’s had one too many. But, let’s face it, I have no skills or craft and this is the best I’m going to get. . . he speaks of his menial job where he is berated although his boss knows of his illness and how his wife works a menial job where she is propositioned by her boss. He says: I always had my dreams, my plan, my hopes and my tomorrows. But those are things I can only read about in books now. It’s the time in one’s life when you accept that your deepest dreams are gone. That, I find is the true death because it’s the time one stops living and stops feeling so the pain is stilled. I feel like a man standing high on a cliff overlooking his life and feeling forgotten but not yet gone. He ends that letter oddly by telling him his mother, my aunt to give a greeting to my father and his family but not to share his condition.

The other letter is worse:. . .Please believe me that I am not afraid of being ill and only the heavy pain gives me anxious feelings. . . . he tells how his Buick brunt out, and selling the last of his stocks at a loss. His wild life demolished, his career gone, his health is terrible and he can find no income other than as a bag boy or a dishwasher, yet his wife stays close working at a coffee shop and traveling by bus. He wishes better for her. I hate myself when I see Cherie come home from a job that she’s so much better than. I don’t have the guts to walk in front of a speeding car but I have stopped taking medications and I’m hoping that if something happens I don’t linger and make it worse for everyone. Page two of this letter is not in my possession; most of my aunt’s personal papers were strangely absent from her home after her death. Someone simply missed these two pages.

Byron is gone. Before his death he wrote the expose that many did not like about Elvis, I know it brought him money. I want to honor him. I never knew him well; he and I seem to have been similar. He  had a highly sensitive system; unable to handle medications, inflicted by terrors and bad reactions to drugs and the environment at a time when such sensitivity was not accepted. He suffered bad luck, bad choices, poor decisions, bad advice…. I do not know. When I read his letters I do know that I have not been wrong to not cave to my own illnesses nor loss of my income and career. He reminds me that blind acceptance is hitting the dark wall of the maze. One needs to hold to dreams and to take chances. It’s better to fall in the midst of reaching for what you want, like Forrest who at last had his land, than to become mired in the grind for the ordinary. No one should be bereft of innate joy. And no one of us should be unable to carry the light to others, no one should turn aside for we are all one people, one experience in a zillion voices.  Our strengths are different, our weakness effects us in ways we may not share. He says, life holds nothing for me now except Cherie and she must not spend any more of her best years with someone like me. My Dear Cousin in that you are wrong. ….

My next post will be full of photos I took at a wonderful friend’s home in Placerville.
Kudos to true friendship and enough money to make life work.

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