I never knew how much I’d miss you. I do now. Six years gone by, past that Wednesday noontime, August 26, 2015. The missing has evolved. All the normal grief stuff has morphed into an acceptance of the reality that you won’t have me laughing uncontrollably again, the reality that my worry is over because I know you are safely in God’s hands now.
I love you so much. My middle child. Your quick mind. Your charm. Your creativity–you excelled at so much. Writing, humor, carving, woodwork, painting. I treasure the etched glasses and the precious framed prints. I treasure the story of how you took a car engine apart and rebuilt it by You-Tube! Oh, the things you could have done. That grieves me.
You loved me and your grandparents and your wife and your daughter and siblings. And the grandchildren that you must be so proud of if heaven allows you a glimpse of them. If only you were here to see them grow into little people with bright minds and beautiful smiles and loving hearts. Your daughter got your intellect and way with words, but (fortunately) those gifts are combined with a strength and discipline that you never had.
My heart ached for you then, when you were so self-destructive and angry. My heart longs for you now. I remember kneeling by my bed and turning you over to God, for I knew your choices were out of my control. I am comforted to know that you know Jesus, knew Him then and are by His side now.
Your death changed me irreversibly. When asked how many children I have, I answer, “Two living–I lost a son.” Sometimes I volunteer that I lost you to a tragic death by suicide. Your death turned me into a passionate advocate for mental health awareness and mental illness acceptance and treatment and suicide prevention. Your death made me someone that others who have lost a loved one to suicide confide in. I even facilitate a support group for those in my “club,” the club I never wanted to belong to. The club of mothers who have lost children. The club of those who have experienced the death by suicide of loved ones.
You are loved and remembered, Son. Someday we will be together.
One of my favorite Bible stories is found in the Old Testament, book of Esther. Esther was a young Jewish girl whose Hebrew name was Hadassah. Her Persian name was Ester, the Persian word for “star.” (Esther is the Greek spelling.) She was in captivity in Persia during one of the times of Jewish punishment for rebellion. Her uncle, Mordecai, was her protector and adviser.
The Persian king had ordered Queen Vashti to appear before him and his guests after a seven-day feast during which wine had been flowing freely. His reasoning was to exhibit her beauty and brag about his conquest. Queen Vashti, who was entertaining the women of the palace, did not feel like getting dressed up and donning her crown to parade in front of a possibly drunken group of men just upon the king’s command, and refused to comply.
The king was furious, but his advisers were appalled. What if all the wives in the kingdom followed the queen’s example and began to disobey their husbands? Horrors! Therefore, the king, upon his advisers strong insistence, essentially divorced Vashti and stripped her of her royal title. Ah, but he soon began missing the benefit of having a beautiful wife at his beck and call. His advisers had the answer. Beautiful young virgins would be sought and brought before the king so that he could choose a new, and, hopefully more compliant, queen.
In a classic “Me, Too” episode, Esther, because of her beauty, was taken into the haram of King Ahasuerus to become a candidate for what would be either a forced one night stand or ultimate wife/queenship. Needless to say, upon the advice of her uncle, she had not revealed that she was one of the Jewish captives. This would have automatically disqualified her from consideration. After months of grooming and training and purification rituals, it was her turn to be taken to the king. Instead of requesting extra jewels and more enticing robes to entrap the king, she wisely accepted only what the king’s eunuch in charge of the haram advised.
Well, Esther won the love and grace and favor of the king, and he made her the queen instead of Vashti. But trouble was brewing. Insurrectionists sought to overthrow the king, and Mordecai, hearing their plot, shared it with Esther who then shared it with the king. The king’s life was spared and the plotters were executed. But more trouble was coming. An evil character named Haman came into power as one of their replacements. He became angry with Mordecai, who failed to offer appropriate respect and fear when Haman passed by.
Haman could not be satisfied with just destroying Mordecai. It was because of Mordecai’s Jewish faith that he was disrespectful, the evil man theorized. Therefore, all the Jews in the kingdome must be killed without the opportunity to defend themselves. Alas, what could be done? Not only must Esther appear at the king’s request, she must not appear uninvited, upon penalty of death, unless the king extended his sceptre toward her. Well, he loved her “more than any other,” and he did accept her visit(s) and intervention on behalf of Mordecai and her people as she reminded him of her uncle’s role in previously saving the king from assasination.
To make a long story short, because of Esther’s intervention, Haman’s plot was thwarted, he was hanged, and God provided protection for his people in captivity. The most telling verse in the whole book is this (Mordecai speaking to Esther):
For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
Esther 4: 14 (NKJV)
Some of you think you know where I’m going with this. I bet I surprise you. Joe Biden made two bids for the nomination for the presidency in the past. This time he won the Democratic nomination and, ultimately, the popular and electoral vote, not by fraud or theft, but because a lot of us (81,283,098 Americans) voted for him. That was 51.3 % of the popular vote, translating into 306 electoral votes. He won.
And I believe, at this point in the history of our nation, that it was God’s will. He has groomed Joe Biden for 78 years to act in wisdom and maturity and love for democracy. He is not senile. He has a mild stutter that causes some of you to claim this. He does not love China–look at his history in the Obama presidency when he was definitely not friendly with the Chinese leadership when sent on diplomatic missions. He is not a socialist. He loves this country and its people. He is devoutly Catholic and hates the loss of infant life as much as all of us conservatives do. Please give him a chance.
I’m sorry many of you are disappointed in the election results. Many of us were disappointed four years ago. Winners and losers. That’s the way democratic elections work.
And to you, President-elect Biden, and to you, Vice-President-elect Harris, it was for “such a time as this” that you were born. Take the opportunity to heal America seriously, for we are wounded. Follow God and love people and make the most of your time. I will be praying for you.
You’re always with me, in my memory and my heart, but today I felt you even more keenly. It was 45 years ago that I gave birth to you. It’s been 3 years, 3 months, and 25 days since I lost you. I don’t know if you are able to know what is happening in our lives. There are some things that I really hope you know.
Like what a beautiful, strong, level-headed, wonderful mother your daughter is. She’s going to start her graduate education at Harding University in January. My understanding is that she wants to be a mental health counselor. Maybe that’s because of her personal awareness of how mental illness can change families. You were right, you know, your son-in-law is a gift to this family. He loves and cares for his wife and children as the finest of men.
Yes, you have grandchildren now. Lorelai’s 4th birthday was yesterday. It was just last week that she sent me the colored page pictured above in the mail. Kaci said it was the first “outgoing” mail request she had made. I treasure the envelope with GiGi in her sweet printed hand. She is beautiful and charming and smart, like her mother at that age. Her mother had hoped that she would wear the Alice in Wonderland dress you brought from Disneyland for Halloween but her mind is very changeable and she opted for another costume. Oh, and she loves unicorns and books and puppets.
And now you have a grandson, too, Sully, born May 30th this year. He is an adorable infant, thriving in the love of his mother and father and big sister. Oh, how I wish you could be here to see them all.
I like to remember you when you were your healthy, charming, handsome self, with that engaging smile and sensitive heart and creative gifts. Your way with words and the funny radio ads and love of the outdoors. Kaci has that love, too, more than I expected.
Steffie still struggles with losing you. Her love for you is still strong but she is coping and carries on. She is a great nurse and her home health patients love her. And she has her animals, 3 dogs or is it 4? and a cat at present, I think. But then there were the rabbit and flying squirrel that came and went.
Your brother and sister miss you keenly, as do I. I miss the “old” Daniel before you were sick and tormented and in so much pain that you had to leave us. I’m not angry any more, just sad for the loss of such a beautiful soul. I pray your pain is a thing of the past and that you are at peace.
Do you remember the beautiful, strong web that sweet spider Charlotte weaved in the children’s classic Charlotte’sWeb? The story is one of life and death and redemption and has charmed and touched both children and adults for years.
A certain passage has been on my mind lately. Sunday, August 26th, 2018, marked the three-year anniversary of our son Daniel’s death by suicide. How appropriate the timing! Because September 1 began the official month for suicide awareness and prevention. The day after Daniel’s funeral, my granddaughter, Daniel’s daughter, shared a passage with the family from the book she was currently reading to her daughter, Dan’s grandchild, only about 8 months old at the time of his death. You’ll notice that my granddaughter was quite progressive in her choice of reading material for her little girl of 8 months–the book was, you guessed it, Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White. This is the passage she read that day, the passage she shared with family along with her comments:
This is going to be long but thought I should share with everyone. I’ve been reading Charlotte’s Web with Lorelai when we have time to read at night. It’s been a few days since we’ve had time for a chapter obviously but last night I sat down to read to her. Wouldn’t you know it was the chapter where Charlotte dies and I feel like the following quote was meant to be read by us after all of this:
“A little tired, perhaps. But I feel peaceful. Your success in the ring this morning was, to a small degree, my success. Your future is assured. You will live, secure and safe, Wilbur. Northing can harm you now. These autumn days will shorten and grow cold. The leaves will shake loose from the trees and fall. Christmas will come, and the snows of winter. You will live to enjoy the beauty of the frozen world, for you mean a great deal to Zuckerman and he will not harm you, ever. Winter will pass, the days will lengthen, the ice will melt in the pasture pond. The song sparrow will return and sing, the frogs will wake, the warm wind will blow again. All these sights and sounds and smells will be yours to enjoy, Wilbur–this lovely world, these precious days…” (from Charlotte’s Webb by E.B.White, 1952)
This little lady has been weaving the most glorious web on our front window. She produced an egg sack, and, as nature goes, she has died. Watching her work and give her life for her progeny caused me to remember Kaci’s words for us as we grieved her dad. I am forever grateful that she shared with us that day.
Many of you readers have lost children by other tragedies–accidents, sudden illnesses, prolonged illnesses. We mothers and fathers experience a grief that is one-of-a-kind when a child dies. It is not the natural order of things to lose a child, and the pain of that loss stays with us until we join them in God’s presence.
It’s important, I think, to remember that the life we live after they are gone from us is important. Days and months and years pass. We should strive to appreciate and even enjoy the miracle of life as long as it is ours to live. Yes, our hearts will be pierced by moments of grief so keen that we mentally cry out or long to sink to our knees in despair. We must know those moments, but live the rest of the days to the best of our ability, with thanksgiving that we knew that child for whatever time, with hope that we will meet again in heaven, with intent to do whatever we can to prevent any other useless death, with loving understanding for the grief of other parents who have lost a child or grandchild or anyone who has passed too soon from this life.
It was no accident that Kaci found and shared those words that day. I don’t believe in coincidences, just the hand of God reaching down to comfort us in our times of need. The hurt is still with me, but so are the memories of Daniel before he lost his way. I pray for each parent who has lost a child. May God’s peace and comfort strengthen you today.
I found this picture the other day. It’s the way I like to remember you. Full of life and laughter and love. I still wonder sometimes if anything could have been done to save you. Fishing season this year I so longed to see you on the pond bank pulling a big bass from the water. Hunting season is here and I miss your excitement about it. You made such a production of planning and preparation and then the joy of the hunt.
Losing you changed us all. We still grieve. We still feel guilty at times. You would be, I think, I little irritated but a lot proud of me now. It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a blog. You were the one who prodded me to keep doing it. Therefore, you would be giving me a call to remind me that it is time for another post. I missed getting that call so badly!You were so proud of me when Freely Given was published. You wanted a signed (bad) proof copy that required corrections, acting like you were convinced that it would someday be of value. Now Colorado’s Choice is coming out, and you’re not here to cheer me on.
My writing has changed. My conversation has, too. Bringing suicide into awareness has become my soapbox. I share our story a lot. I don’t think it’s to get sympathy. I am just compelled to open the discussion, focus attention, direct people to sources of help, both to prevent suicide and to help survivors heal. I wish no other mother would ever have to lose a child in this way. I wish no other family would have to experience this pain. I long to be present and a source of support and comfort for those who fear a loved one’s suicide and for those who are living the nightmare.
You are always in my heart and thoughts. I see you in every picture of Kaci and Lorelai and recognize your love for the outdoors in your daughter’s joy as she becomes a “country” girl. Your craftsmanship is evident everywhere in this house. What creative gifts you had! I heard an author/speaker describe heaven as a place where we still use our God-given gifts. I hope that is so. It’s such a shame to waste yours.
I’m really having a hard time with this blog, because it’s been nearly a year since I did much writing. It’s like your death redefined my life. I am now the mother of a child who committed suicide. It’s not a pretty definition. You were so very proud when I published that little novel! Since your death, I’ve written hardly anything. I think it’s time for that to change.
You know, losing you was a terrible experience, made all the more painful because you didn’t “pass away” quietly or die from some horrible illness or tragic accident. You chose to leave us, on your terms, your time. That has made this whole experience so much more hurtful, I think. Sometimes I’ve been just plain mad. How dare you hurt us like this? How selfish of you, thinking only of your personal pain and not thinking of our survivor pain.
I know, you didn’t realize, weren’t thinking. You were in such a deep, dark hole of depression and dismay, not knowing how to beat the addiction to methamphetamine, not having enough courage to own up to your mental illness, recognizing the hurt that you were causing the wife that you loved, the child you adored, and the grandchild that you felt you would never be good enough for. You had truly, as your loving wife explained, “lost your way.”
You are not forgotten. Steffie loves you still-she chose and designed your gravestone, and it is so much what you would have chosen. She even included your logo on the vase. As we drive by the cemetery each Sunday morning, I feel tears threatening. How I would love to see you and comfort you and make things better! Your brother misses you, particularly when he has some “project” to do, like jack-hammering concrete floor to fix a leak. And your little sister has been changed by your loss. She, previously so filled with the desire to escape her depression, now says openly that she would “never” hurt the family like you did. I am grateful, because I don’t think I could survive losing another child through suicide. Being a survivor of suicide is, indeed, a label one never wants to wear.
I think of you every day, son. I wear a necklace with your name on it in remembrance. It gives me comfort. Although I miss you with every inch of my being, I at last know that you are safe and at rest in our Heavenly Father’s arms. And, through it all, my faith is ever stronger. God is good. His love, grace, and mercy are enough to see us through the darkest of days. I only wish you had remembered those truths from your early years. Perhaps, then, you would have never chosen to leave.