By Jaime Cryer
The hospital exam room was trashed. The vital-signs monitors that had been screaming were all silenced. We stepped away from the stretcher, exhausted. All efforts at resuscitation were futile. As people began to leave the room, I began the normal task of an ER nurse whose patient had died, cleaning up the room and preparing the body for the family to view.
I was at a point in my career where I was burned out from years of being a nurse in the emergency room. But still, even after years in the ER and seeing life at its worst—and often being horribly cut short—there was something so humbling about watching someone take their last breath and slip out of this life. As I was disconnecting wires and pulling out tubes, I stopped what I was doing and stood there for a moment. I looked down at the lifeless face of this patient. His eyes were empty and, oddly enough, his expression carried no worries. I thought to myself, “I wonder what he carried with him before he let go of this life? What troubled him from the years prior?” None of it mattered now, but I can assure you that a few hours before he left this life, he was still holding on to something from the past.
What does it mean to let go? For me, I reached a point in my life in 2012 where I could no longer hold on. I had a secret that I had carried for my entire life. I wanted so badly to let it go, yet I was fighting so hard to hold it in. I was a husband, a father, a son, a brother, but I was gay and I wanted to let go. Everything in me wanted to take the mask off and let it shatter on the floor. That is exactly what I did. I had been hiding behind religion, a church, a family, and I was holding on for dear life. But I let go. The aftermath of coming out was more than I expected. I faced judgment, rejection, harsh words, and I carried a heavy weight of guilt for what I had done to my family. I picked up the words and the actions that were hurled at me, and I carried it.
That was three-and-a-half years ago. One particular morning not too long ago, I got out of bed before daylight. I felt heavy. A phone call the day before (basically a verbal assault) had tipped me over the edge, and I realized I could not carry the weight of this any longer. I wanted to release my knuckle-white grasp and let it all go.
Since coming out, I have had to walk this road a few times. I have found myself holding on to people and places that were not meant for me, unaware of how toxic it all was until I could no longer stand under the weight of it all. So I let it go. Sometimes I pick it up again, but I am learning to let go. Maybe you are like me and you want to let go of everything you’re carrying. It may be guilt or fear, or it may be the heaviness of a secret that you have kept hidden. Let it go. Maybe it is a one-sided, empty relationship—giving your all with nothing being reciprocated back to you. Maybe you have loved and poured yourself out, only to be met with mediocrity. All of the hurt, the anger, the guilt and shame—let it go. Be you. Be real.
I lost a dear friend years ago because he could not let go. He had a secret that he carried with him, and revealing it was too much for him. He fought really hard to let go and find the freedom that comes with being real, but unfortunately he reached a point where his truth was too heavy, and he took his own life. I can’t help but wonder what his life would have been like had he just let it all go and found his freedom.
Letting go is never easy. It means change. Sometimes you grieve for what you let go of. It is a scary process. It is difficult to find happiness when you feel responsible for the loss of other people’s happiness. But what I can tell you is that it was truly eye-opening to let go of everyone, and all the things I had been told, and all the things that others expected me to do and act like. It is a humbling moment, just as it was in that ER room littered with resuscitative paraphernalia and a lifeless patient. I told the truth—I started a new life, and for that I am forever grateful. I’ve found the life I had always wanted. I met the most amazing guy and the love of my life, my fiancé, Jonathan.
Sometimes it takes tragedies in life to bring about change, and sometimes it doesn’t. I let go of everything, started over from nothing, and found the life I had always hoped for. For that reason, I am a better father and soon-to-be husband.
If it had been my life that ended in that hospital room and I was the one lying on a stretcher, I know that the people and places of my past would not haunt me in those final moments. I will now be surrounded by my children, my family, my husband, and his family. Even though letting go is easier said than done—and it is a natural instinct to pick up the past again because you feel responsible—you will find freedom by simply letting go.
Happy Father’s Day.
And even more, Happy Pride!
Jaime Cryer is a registered nurse who enjoys writing, reading, fishing, and talking medicine with his fiancé, Jonathan, who is a family nurse practitioner. His children are a big part of their lives, as well as their families. They enjoy cooking together and traveling.