13 Apr you matter… my messy beautiful
Who wants to lose their child? Who thinks it could happen? Who could predict that on February 16, 1999, the clock would start counting backwards from 5,221 days? We know our days are numbered and our physical presence on this earth is finite. However, we never expect that number to be small or that chunk of time to be interrupted. We never expect to see the beginning and end of our own child’s life. Do you know when your child will die? Do you know how she will leave this earth? Do you know why he will die… why God will allow it? Can you predict the cause of death? Would you ever even try? We are foolish as parents, so naive. Things happen to other people’s children, not our own. None of us thinks it will be our child who is kidnapped, or gets leukemia, or jumps from a water tower after being bullied repeatedly by classmates. We aren’t able to imagine that because our love for our children is so great, so huge, and so deep. But when it happens, we desperately try to wrap our hands around it. We want answers. We want someone to blame. We blame ourselves. We hate God. We pour our hearts out to Him and blame Him in the very same breath. We cry out, “Where were you, God, when my child was dying? “ We alienate people and isolate ourselves. We never ever stop crying. We medicate, we numb, we replay the event… it is a sickening, horrific, incomprehensible experience. Yet, some of us live it every single day.
Five thousand two hundred twenty one days is all I got with the boy who made everyone laugh. He was brilliant and far beyond his peers in maturity. He was deep, thoughtful, and kind. He was sarcastic, hilarious, quick, gregarious, tall, handsome and strong. I loved and loved and loved my boy. I am living your worst nightmare.If this could happen to Mason, end his life and alter the course of mine, it could also happen to your son… and leave you wondering just what the heck you did wrong. Oh, how I wish Mase was still here.Life without my son is unbearable and almost impossible. I am sooooo jealous of mothers who can hold their sons tonight, and soooooo angry at mothers who do not treat their children like treasures. It’s the truth. I want to be them. I want to think I have forever. I want my son to be lively and happy and bouncing around my kitchen, instead of just a box of ashes on my shelf. I would love him and squeeze him and ignore the F on the assignment. I would laugh with him and let him leave his bathroom dirty for another day. I would kiss him a thousand times and thank God for his incredibly unique personality. I would get him to say my favorite things one more time… maybe a hundred more times:
Me: “Mason, how come you’re so beautiful?”
Mason: “Cuz my mama made me that way.”
What would happen if we all sat down tonight and had a conversation with our children about how much they matter? What if we stopped yelling, ignored the dirty dishes, saw past the piles of laundry, and just stared into our baby’s eyes and told them how much we love him? Whose future could we change if we poured our hearts into our daughters daily, and hugged them, and raised them to believe they are royalty? How many deaths can we prevent just by hugging it out? Please have a conversation with your child today. None of us is exempt. This could happen to you tomorrow, God forbid. Please have the conversation today. Tell your kids that if they hurt themselves or took their own lives, you would cry forever. Tell them about the times they brought you so much joy. Remind them that they are world changers. Look them deep in the eyes, hold their face in your hands and say, “You matter.”
So many people in this busy, crazy world do not feel valued. They feel like they have messed up so badly that they can’t go on. Some feel alone and disconnected and they cannot figure out how to plug back in. Others think they just don’t mean anything to anyone; they don’t experience love as regularly as they should. Many of us walk through life a little numb and bewildered, searching for some meaning but finding that it is just out of reach. The goal for aMasongrace project is to motivate and inspire people to keep living; to help them develop a self confidence that surpasses anything life throws at them; to instill a belief that helps people cope with the stresses and trials life brings. Kids and adults alike need to understand that they really and truly matter. Their hearts matter. Their thoughts matter. Their bodies matter. Their lives matter.
I want something good to come out of this horrendous life event. It would be unbearable if my son’s life was a waste. His death was a mistake, and it can serve as an example to others. Self-harm is not the answer. Snap decisions kill. Depression isn’t always the cause of suicide… sometimes, it is caused by stress or panic or fear. Mason was so gorgeous and full of life. I still cannot believe he is gone and we are fast approaching the one year mark.
I still struggle to accept it…
The aMasongrace project started as a way for me to keep Mason alive, and to use my experience with suicide to help others. Life moved on, the world kept spinning, and everyone returned to their normal routines except for me. Except for my son. I could not bear to let him go so quickly, without warning, so I determined that I would keep him close by working to save others. I just had to do something… doing nothing simply wasn’t an option. Mason will be remembered the right way. Telling his story is a way for me to keep him close and to find joy in my memories. Through the aMg project, I’ll continue to fight for the underdog (my thing), and be able to offer second chances when people mess up (his thing). I want to spend every single day of the rest of my life doing what I should have done on June 3, 2013. I want to show people how much they matter.
I just received approval for the nonprofit piece of the aMasongrace project. We now have a tax ID number… WOW. I never imagined I would be the founder of a nonprofit organization. Suicide and self-harm weren’t even on my radar. I remember my exact thoughts about self-harm and the obvious lack of understanding (or empathy, for that matter) that I had for people who hurt themselves. What a cold heart I had. Like many people, I just chalked up self-harm to a need for attention. I was actually derisive about it in one conversation… those words stand out to me now as harsh and uncaring, and filled with ignorance. Little did I know then that I would one day devote the rest of my life to helping others see themselves differently. Suicide was the furthest thing from my mind. Who kills themselves?!!?! Only depressed people, or super sad people, I once thought. Crazies, maybe. Medicated folks. I don’t know. I never talked about suicide with Mason. Never, ever thought I would have to… it never even crossed my mind. Not my kid.
I wasn’t and I am still not in denial about who Mason was. I know exactly who he was and I am very protective of him still. I get a little defensive (ok, maybe I get reeeeaallly defensive) when people who never knew him try to characterize him or label him as someone who was depressed and struggled with deep sadness. I knew him. I knew him. He was my boy, the love and absolute joy of my life. I didn’t miss a sign; there were none. I didn’t have a troubled child… I didn’t lose him to a long, arduous battle with depression. I lost him to a snap decision. I lost him to a misunderstanding of consequences. I lost him in a moment. He was here, and then he was gone. My baby boy. I am often struck by this thought: “If it can happen to Mason, it can happen to anyone.”
What will aMasongrace project do? It will get into people lives. It will cherish, and adore, and motivate, and inspire people. It will encourage people to love others. It will challenge parents to be better and do more (even if those parents are already amazing!). It will serve as a reminder that even though we are all the same in some ways, each of us brings something unique to this world. There are people waiting in the wings to be a part of this movement, this a-mase-ing effort to change the world one person at a time. I am so thankful for each of them and cannot wait to see what we can do together. It’s time to begin…
Please pray for the aMasongrace project. Pray that people will hear about it, will want to be a part of it, and will support it financially. Together we will not only change lives, we will save them. I am forever changed by the impact of suicide. I don’t want anyone else to feel this way. Ever.
Help me spread the word: You matter!
This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!