19 Jul a year of firsts
It’s strange to be writing this because I still feel like I am living in a dream, a nightmare of the worst kind. I still hope I will wake up on June 3rd, 2013, and have a chance to do it all over again and save my son’s life. But that’s never going to happen. Never. I’m stuck in this horrific nightmare for the rest of my life and can only hope that the pain softens with time. That’s what I’ve been told. “It never goes away, but it gets easier.” I cannot imagine how it gets easier to accept that your only child, the one you delighted in, the boy who charmed us all, is gone. Dead. That happy, affectionate, lovey-dovey boy ended his own life and is never coming back.
Impossible to believe even after a whole year has passed. How did I survive? How can I still be walking around, talking, sometimes laughing? How can I breathe with this ever present ache in my gut, and this heavy weight pressing on my heart? How much longer will I have to endure life without my son? It’s too difficult to imagine a lifetime without him so I take life day by day. One of my fave writers says, “Just do the next right thing.” That is all I can do. I’m thankful for that advice and I share it as often as I can.
I haven’t felt like writing lately… I haven’t felt like doing much of anything. It feels like I just don’t have much left to offer. The sadness has only increased as the days have passed – which surprises me because I’ve been clinging to the idea that ‘it gets easier.’ Well, not yet. Not for me. I relive conversations, I cry, I beg God to bring my son back. I remind Him that this is unfair, I asked Him if He hates me, and wonder if this is some sort of punishment. I berate myself for my failings, I talk to Mase and ask him why… I remind him of how loved he is. I know he can’t hear me. He’s busy elsewhere, right? That doesn’t stop me from pouring out my heart to him and apologizing, over and over, for my shortcomings.
For him, it’s over. For me, it will never end.
This year has been a year of firsts. His sudden and tragic departure slapped me in the face so hard that I woke from my ‘normal life’ coma and committed myself to actually living. I loved my life before. I want that life back. But since I cannot have it, I am determined to savor every moment I have left and focus on the things that inspire me to be the best version of myself. I’m letting go of the things that have never benefitted me, never grown me or loved me or helped me, and adjusting my priorities to place more emphasis on the things that will keep my heart company through the rest of this lonely, hard life.
I reconnected with my youngest sister and her manfriend which has quite possibly been the greatest gift in all of this. We spent many days together, solving the world’s problems and a few of our own. We drank the best coffees, tasted some amazing ceviche, and ate ice cream whenever we could. Healing began in the company of my sis and brother-of-sorts, as I affectionately call him.
I learned to snorkel from one of my life’s most amazing teachers… yes, my youngest sister. I swam with ancient turtles in Mexico, and with enormous whale sharks! I jumped off a cliff into a beautifully crisp and cool cenote, and experienced the best swim suit wedgie which I promptly flashed my brother-of-sorts, much to his dismay. (Thankfully he is slow with the camera.) I survived food poisoning and ‘the nature’ and lived to tell the tale. Mosquitoes threatened to eat me alive and yet still I powered on… even though I dreamed of death and begged for something to just take me out. I silently volunteered to take someone’s place, someone whose family would miss him/her, someone who had kids still here.
But the Universe, or God, never listened to me. I survived the first summer without Mason.
I tried to return to work right away but ended up taking some time off after I found myself sobbing uncontrollably in my customers’ offices. Grieving is grueling and even more so when everyone is looking. People don’t understand grief; it makes so many of us uncomfortable. They don’t know what to say, what to do, or how to help. It’s almost funny… if it wasn’t so sad. We need to get better at supporting people in times of tragedy and grief. We need to recognize that we are all affected differently, there is no timeline, and showing love and grace is the only real way to help. Grief changes us, and we cannot control it or limit its reach.
Months passed by in a blur. It seemed only minutes later it was ‘back to school’ time. I remember sending Mase off to 8th grade and posting his 1st day of school pic on facebook. I was so proud of him. So in love with this boy I created all by myself… He was like me in so many ways, and better than me in many ways. He was kind, mature, smart, and oh-so-funny. He friended the friendless and tried to include everyone, even the oddballs. He didn’t ever want to be mainstream. He loved all things different. This year, I watched all the proud parents post their first day pics and I felt so lost… but I survived the start of the first school year without him.
This was the first time I realized that I’m not a parent anymore. When people ask me if I have kids, what do I say? I hate this. I hate this so much.
Thanksgiving was crazy. I wasn’t eating much back then because my stomach was sick a lot of the time. I lost 35 pounds (don’t worry, it came back with a vengeance). Although my stomach was sick a lot and the thought of food was nauseating, it seemed to tolerate alcohol really well. I decided I would start drinking again and drink I did. I was recently advised not to share so much about drinking in my blog… to which I responded, “I will share the truth. It is part of my story.” I’ve never struggled with addiction to alcohol, but this year I was at high risk. I was raw, emotional, and half dead at heart. I’m sure my behavior at Thanksgiving alarmed my dear friends. But we survived our first Thanksgiving without Mason. I drank my way through it and will forever be grateful for good friends who helped me to laugh that day instead of cry.
I never finished that blog post. I stopped writing, and it has been almost two months since I’ve written a word. As the one year mark approached, I felt more and more limited and just couldn’t find my words. My dear friend told me about her experience with losing her dad. She was a Daddy’s girl and his death was extremely difficult for her. She recalls getting to the one year mark and feeling like the pain should have ended. She thought “I made it. I did it. Now it’s over.” But it wasn’t. The day just passes and the grief is still there, the pain still present, the wound still gaping. I really identified with that feeling. I met the one year mark with hope for some reprieve but it didn’t appear. I realized I had been holding my breath. Waiting for it to be over. Imagining that if I made it to one year, that Mason would reappear? I don’t know. That is crazy, right? I was hoping for something that never came.
I won’t finish the post about my year of firsts. It feels too celebratory. Like, “Yay me. I did all these things.” It is too weird. Like I am living my best life without my son. That simply isn’t true. I am living my worst life without my son, but pushing myself beyond the norms I created and challenging myself to experience every single thing I can. Life is short. I realize that now more than ever. My son’s life was cut short. A mistake, an accident, a poor decision. I make those every day. One could be my last… I want to be sure that my days spent here are full of people and adventures that actually mean something.
Mason closed his eyes and opened mine.
Yes, I have had a year of firsts and I appreciate each one so completely and so deeply. I cherish the old friends who have held my hand through this life changing event, the constant friends who have shown love in every way imaginable, and the new people who have inserted themselves into my life and become cherished encouragers. They are my life support. Because of them, I can get out of bed, I can speak to groups of people about the impact of self-harm and suicide, I can look into someone’s eyes and wipe away their tears and tell them with my whole heart “You matter.” This has been a year of shock, grief, sadness, and loss… and it has also been a year of self-inventory, love, happiness, and hope.
Thank you for walking with me.