One Year Later

I turn on the news and cringe as the only thing that seems to be happening is more pain and turmoil. In an already shattered world, these senseless acts make even less sense. I answer the phone and learn that yet another life, innocent and young, has been taken. I can’t even browse social media or join seemingly safe groups without hearing about death. In many different forms, but still the same. Death. Finished. Complete. Gone.

My mind understands why, but my heart is much slower these days –and still struggles to keep up.

I wake in the middle of the night –yelling for it not to be true…if only I could go just a bit further then perhaps I would find the solution. The answer. A few more minutes. That’s all I need. I beg for more time before I open my eyes and realize the only one privy to my midnight outburst is the dog…used to my antics, she doesn’t even wake anymore.

I try to do my part –I try to add some good back into the world. I pay for dinner in the drive through for the person behind me. I purchase ten extra cups of coffee. I put together bags and deliver them at the homeless shelter. I smile when I want to cry. I pick up complete strangers and give them a ride. I listen. I hear. I act. But it is rarely enough.

Because I turn on the TV that night and see the news of more pain. More suffering. More hopelessness…and slowly my heart begins to understand just what yours felt.

The pain of this world, is just so much. The burden of others –too heavy. The wish for peace and happiness, impossible.

The thing is, despite having all the knowledge –despite knowing what you felt, what you went through and what you would still be going through – I cannot understand, completely, why. Why it wasn’t enough. Why it couldn’t have just been enough. For one more day.

Much like the reoccurring dream that haunts me when I sleep –I wish for more time. Just one more day, to make everything right. To build that perfect world where only peace and happiness exist. To take you away from this world that caused you so much pain and suffering. To give you the happiness you deserved.

There is nothing I can say that will change the events that took place last July. There isn’t anything I can do that will change the way you thought, but it won’t stop me from trying. Buying coffee and giving strangers rides will not bring you back –but it might just give me a small glimmer of hope in the seemingly hopeless world.

The things I do are for you.

They are the things I do when I’ve spent another sleepless night trying to make sense of this senseless world. They are the things I do when I want to bury myself under the covers and never look out again. They are the things I do when I to and make sense of what you felt. They are the things I do when I can no longer try and convince my heart to understand what my mind already knows –when I no longer want to. They are the things I do when I miss you…when I am sorry.

One year ago I whispered to you: I’m sorry. I’m sorry it wasn’t enough. I’m so, so sorry.

One year later –I am here with the same whisper: I’m sorry. I’m sorry it wasn’t enough. I’m so, so sorry.

I Saw You

I saw you the other night, and instantly recognized the look on your face. Unlike others, I saw past your sad eyes and happy smile and recognized that you were trying to hold it together. Your normally happy disposition was tainted, like a stained glass –what once was shiny and bright had become dull and sad. Others probably assumed you were just having a bad day –a hard time at work, a fight with a friend, something you would soon be over –but much like others who have been down this path, I saw the sadness that hung behind your eyes like a well-worn blanket.

I wanted to say something –but didn’t know what. I wanted to tell you that it would be ok, somehow. That while I didn’t ever know if you would be ok –it would be. But I didn’t know how, so instead I told you to have a good day and cringed as you smiled…knowing that it was like salt on an open wound.

I bought you a card to a coffee shop, wrote a note and left it on your door –not knowing if you would appreciate the thought or want to destroy everyone in your path because couldn’t I see you were suffering?

The thing is –I know how badly you are hurting. I know the pain and anguish in your soul. I know how horrible it feels to wake up in the morning and be forced to put on the “I am A ok face!” I know how challenging it can be to have to go out of your way to convince others you are ok –when really, you are falling apart and just wish someone would care enough to notice. To acknowledge the pain. I get it.

If I could I would tell you that it will somehow be ok. That it never gets better, and you never reach the point of no return. That the pain never leaves, but somehow, somehow –you learn to live with it, beside it, despite it. You learn to acknowledge your own pain when others won’t. You learn to adjust, adapt, change and conform. To live without your heart and with the pulsing pain.

Somehow, you learn to see the beauty in the rain, the sun through your tears and the purpose in the pain. I don’t know how, exactly –but you do, and you will. Even though I know it feels like you never will see the light of day again, and giving up seems easier than trudging through this sludge left behind. Honestly? It would be easier. It would be easier to give up then be reminded, day after beautiful day, that you –were left behind. While others were chosen to fly free.

Somehow. It will become ok again. You might never be ok. Your heart might never be whole again. You may still wake up every morning and have to convince yourself that getting out of bed IS the best thing…but it will be ok. Somehow. Please believe me when I say this –because I say this not only to you –but to myself as well. As one who is in the trenches beside you, yet somehow millions of miles away –I understand. I see your pain. I feel your sadness. I am not fooled by your smile.

Please know that someone out there understands. Someone out there realizes you have a pain so deep that you feel your own pulse in your fingertips. Someone out there understands that your pain is so deep that you don’t know if there is any point of return. Someone out there is balancing that thin line of pretending to be ok –and losing it altogether.

The coffee card was not to help you celebrate your sadness or pain, but rather remind you that there is still some good in this world –even if it only comes in a paper cup. Please hold onto the fact that while you may not know me really well –we are connected by a thread much deeper than meets the human eye.

I see your pain and your sadness, and have not overlooked it. I know that you are hurting. That there is nothing that can touch that. But I am not willing to let you be overlooked. I see your pain –and I acknowledge it, and hope that somehow –that will bring a small amount of comfort to you in this terrible time.

Yea, I’m ok

Someone asked me a few months ago how I was, I smiled, and made some smart comment about life then asked how they were. They never looked back. I sighed relief, because once again –I didn’t have to explain just how not ok I was. They ask me all the time “How are you?” and I keep saying my standard answer. I keep telling them that I am ok –how are you? And then eventually, they stop asking. Because they know my response will always be the same. I’m ok. I’m always ok. Because I always have chosen to believe that if I’m not –I will be. And that small glimmer of hope that someday, maybe, one day, somehow, I will be ok? Has gotten me through some dark moments.

I decided a while ago that when I was having a bad day –I was going to do something nice for someone else. I bought seven cups of coffee last week. I only drank one. I still don’t feel any closer to being ok.

For the most part, I ignore it. Whatever it is. I go out of my way to actively avoid it –because avoiding it is all I know how to do. I know that if I face it –head on like most assume I am doing, that there is no coming back. And quite frankly, back is the only direction I want to go. Back. To when life was somewhat ok.

Because the truth is that I am not ok.

I don’t say it because I want to draw all the attention to me, because I don’t. I would rather go see the dentist than have all eyes on me. I don’t say it because I think it will help –I know it won’t. If anything, it will only hurt worse. I don’t say it because I think I need to, or someone is making me. No, I say it because it’s true. And right now, I don’t know what is true and what isn’t. I need to start somewhere.

I miss them. I miss them all. I miss them all, so very much. I miss them all so much that sometimes I feel as if I just hold my breath, maybe just maybe the pain that is surging through my body will leave. I miss them so much that it feels as if I have a thousand volts of electricity racing through my body. I feel like I am holding an electric fence. Hugging a sting ray. I feel as though if my chest were to split apart –then maybe I would have some relief from the pain that is building inside.

…and I don’t understand.

I don’t understand how I am still able to wake up in the morning when all I want to do is just keep sleeping. I don’t understand how I am able to breathe when my breath has been taken away. I don’t understand how my heart can still go on beating, when my heart has been taken away. Multiple times. I don’t understand why I keep going, one foot in front of the other, when everything I ever worked so hard for, is gone. Just like that. No questions asked. No take backs. No do overs. Just gone. I don’t understand why people keep asking me if I am ok. I don’t know what they want me to say.

Because no. The truth is I am not ok.

I miss my wife. I miss my daughter. I miss my nephew.

But saying it doesn’t make it any better. It doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t change the facts. It doesn’t bring them back. Saying just how much it sucks and how badly it hurts to wake up every morning and face another day without the ones I love…does not change the facts. It isn’t anything new. It doesn’t help anyone.

So instead I keep waking up when all I really want to do is die. I keep smiling when all I want to do is cry, I keep saying I am ok, in hopes that one day it will be true…and I keep buying coffee for the person in line behind me in hopes of making maybe one person’s day a tiny bit better.

No, I am not ok. But I don’t know what else to do except fake it until one day –I can finally hold them all tight and never let them go.

I Miss You

I haven’t written about her here in a while, a long while, to be honest…and while part of that can be a testament of how time works in healing wounds, part of it is also because I haven’t been able to make coherent thoughts lately, let alone -words. One thing I have never been able to do is look at pictures that are, perhaps, close to the time of when she died. I can look at the pictures from the year before, months before even. But pictures that are close to the time when she died? I can’t bring myself to do that. I just can’t.

Last night I was looking through some old photos -trying to find one of Dylan when he was younger, because as you may have guessed, I can’t look at any recent pictures of him either, when a picture fell out that made me pause to catch my breath. In the quiet darkness of the night I held what is perhaps that last picture I ever took of her.

A picture of her in all her ornery glory. Her grin, her hair, the scratch on her chin that followed her to her grave. All of it was there. In one black and white image that I have never looked at or posted before. I took a few minutes to memorize the details before putting it back in the small folder that holds the hard copies of the very few pictures I have of her. Two years does not present a lot of opportunities for pictures. I have very few pictures of her…what ones I do have, I hold very close.

It’s been an incredibly difficult eleven years. I miss her more this year than perhaps in years past. I couldn’t tell you why -perhaps it is because the wounds have been opened and the grief of losing another person is fresh. I don’t know. It is different, this missing. It isn’t that soul scraping pain that feels as if you will be hollowed out from the inside out, but rather a dull ache that something…someone…is missing.

Small glimpses of her remind me of all that I am missing. I had a very few short years with her -and while for them I am grateful, I am constantly reminded of all that I lost out on. All that I am missing. All that I don’t have. While I try to remain positive and look at what I do have -I can’t help but look longingly over my shoulder at what was. What will never be.

Life moves on, and with it, I have no choice but to move on as well.

But sometimes I must pause and acknowledge that dull ache. I must acknowledge that I loved her, love her, and always will love her. That the pain is there for a reason, the memories are not for naught, that she did exist, that the hole in my heart will always be there -as a small reminder, a token. To what was. What always will be…but what never shall be again.

I miss you.

In His Absence

These are new grounds for me, this helping a child navigate grief. More specifically, helping an autistic child who is non-verbal, navigate grief. I don’t know how much he understands, or what all he really comprehends about the whole situation. I don’t know what questions he has, or what he is feeling. I don’t know what is going through his mind. I don’t know if he is experiencing the normal stages of grief -or if he is handling things in his own way -the way he does everything else.

I just don’t know.

I watch him, carefully, for some sort of clue. I look in his eyes when the opportunities arise, I watch him carefully open the containers that hold the items I have packed away. I watch him look through, selecting one or two things before hiding them away under his own bed -where he puts his most beloved treasures. I wonder what is going through his mind. If he wonders if he is next. If he wonders why his best buddy is suddenly just gone. Didn’t they have something special? Wasn’t he supposed to be there for ever and a day?

What goes on inside his mind -is beyond me. I try my hardest. I really do. I understand the importance of body language and tones. I know from the way he screams if he is happy or upset. I know from the way he twists his arm if he is frustrated or just tired. I know that when he starts picking at his eyes and hair that he is having a hard time understanding something. That he is frustrated. I know that when he slides under his bed -he doesn’t want to deal with people. That he wants to be left alone.

I know that he won’t eat in public, that he prefers to go with no pants and that he is his happiest when he has space to be himself without interference. But I also know that the bond he and Dylan had was something that can never be replaced and something that will always leave a hole. I know that he used to wait by the window, watching and waiting. That he followed Dylan around like a lost dog, that the small bits of favor that he showered on him went much further than any other action. He would do just about anything to be with him, to be acknowledged by him.

I know that if he could, or did, speak -he would have said that when he grew up he wanted to be just like him. I know that Dylan knew this -and while he was your typical teenager in many ways -he often would comply and shower a little bit of affection on his younger cousin, who might as well have been his brother. They shared many moments together and apart…

…and I am not sure how to go about healing the wounds I know were left behind.

All I can do is watch from the sidelines. Try and gather clues from the way he reacts. Try and be understanding when he has bad days -knowing that he too, is struggling in his own ways. Ways that are perhaps, much harder because he cannot verbalize what he is feeling. I can’t offer him help because I don’t know the extent of his suffering, even though I know it must be deep.

He loved him -and he was loved by him. They fought, they bickered, they argued. With each other, against each other, and behind each other. But they also had a bond that was unbreakable. In ways that I thought would carry them far. If for nothing else, they had each other. Regardless of what happened -they would have each other. They would have each others backs -in good times and bad, and that would carry them far.

Just not far enough.

While one boy got his final wish -to depart this world and no longer be shackled with the pain and aches that this world could not heal, another is left to grapple with his absence. I don’t know how to explain all of this and more to a boy who still looks out the window, waiting for his hero to step off the bus. So instead, I sit with him. I watch the horizon, knowing full well that he won’t be returning, but wishing -for just a moment, that perhaps -he will.

PICT0020

If for nothing else, to bring some answers to a boy who thought and still thinks, the world of him.

Rising Above

Close to probably five years ago there was a couple I knew. An older couple who had been married for years. Many years. They were, in my mind, the idol of marriage. They were what one should strive to be like. Their attitudes, outlook and perspective on life was something to be desired. About five years ago -the wife landed herself in the hospital. The particulars were hushed, the details were secret and the information private.

I brought them coffee and a news paper every morning, for no reason other than I felt absolutely helpless but wanted to do something. It was a small task that didn’t require much effort on my part -and a task that I didn’t even know if they appreciated.

A few short months later -she passed away.

It was only then that the details slowly began to emerge, details that literally -made me sick to the stomach and made me wonder if bringing coffee and newspapers only made the situation worse. It wasn’t even a few months after she had passed -did he show up at my house with a box of cookies and a card.

A handwritten note from him and his wife -thanking me for the daily coffee and newspapers. The “little bit of normalcy” in their dark days. I remember thinking how -in his deep pain and anguish -he had taken the time to thank me for something so simple and stupid. The task he performed did not go overlooked -simply going to a grocery store to buy something was a task I found to be a challenge at best -even years after my loss. Writing a note -with her name, and delivering it -holding a conversation in which he openly admitted to crying daily…

It is something I will never forget and something that will forever be etched in my mind and heart.

To do something for others is one thing -but to do something for others when you are hurting so badly -is another. It comes from a much deeper part of the heart.

Which is why I decided that instead of drowning in self pity and despair -I am going to choose to do things for others. Even, or especially when, I don’t feel like it. On those days when seeing daylight is so, so hard -I am going to put others first. I am going to do something kind for someone else.

I am going to kick this sadness. I am going to beat this despair.

I might not ever be ok again. I might not ever think of certain things without spiraling downwards.

The hardest thing in my life is knowing that while my life is seemingly out of control and I am completely crushed -there are other people out there. People who are hurting. Just because my heart aches, does not mean the rest of the world has ceased to exist. Instead of giving into my desire to pull the covers over my head and not face the world -I am going to face it head on.

I am going to push through. I am not going to be beat down.

Someone told me once that your life -your words -can have an impact on others. Your simple deeds can hurt someone so badly…or they can help keep someone from the despair of suicide. I am clinging to that hope. Clinging to the tiny shards of hope that maybe -just maybe -my actions will have an impact on others…and if not, at least I am not allowing myself to be swallowed alive -regardless of how badly I want to be.

be-kind

The Truth of Forever

I need to believe he was happy, but at what cost?  Perhaps I always needed to believe this, perhaps that is where the rose colored glasses came in at.  Perhaps.

I shouldn’t have gone looking through pictures, shouldn’t have forced it.  I shouldn’t have tried to convince myself, yet again, that he was happy.  The truth -the hard, cold, honest to goodness truth is that he wasn’t happy.  Regardless of what I wanted to see or believe.  If he were happy -he wouldn’t have done what he did.  If I hadn’t forced myself to believe that somehow, he was happy -maybe, just maybe, he would still be here.

My mind so badly wants to believe that somehow -regardless of how true it is -that he was happy.  Of course the pictures show he was happy -why wouldn’t they?  I’m not the type to snap pictures of sad or miserable people -I take pictures of things I want to keep, memories I want to hold onto.  The few pictures I do have don’t speak as loudly as the ones I don’t.  The gaps in between the ages and pictures tell a story louder than any picture ever could.

He wasn’t happy.

Yet I still want to believe, somehow, that he was.  Even if it means changing history.  Rewriting the past because I cannot live with knowing that he wasn’t happy.

But history doesn’t lie.  The missing pictures, the few smiles scattered in between tell a story loud and clear.

I found what I was looking for -I found my answer.  I just didn’t find the answer I was looking for.

Sure, I found one or two pictures that have him, smiling.

But between the lines, the missing pictures, the lack of evidence tells me everything I need to know -louder and clearer than any smiling picture ever could.  He wasn’t happy.  I didn’t want to believe.  I still don’t want to.

Yet instead of being able to do something about this -I am left to live the rest of my life knowing that he wasn’t happy and I failed to notice.

Opening the Door

With Josh coming home this weekend, one of the things looming on my to do list has been to clean out their shared bedroom. The door to this room has been closed since before I left for my trip, and hasn’t been opened for any length of time since. As if shutting this door would somehow shut out everything negative. As if shutting the door would erase all that happened. Would somehow make the day disappear. As if it would all somehow go away, with the simple shutting of the door.

But life moves on, and as life would have it -the time to open that door has come. Quicker than I would have liked, but here none the less.

I had somehow played up the moment of opening this door. As if something you see in the movies there would most likely be a fog…a distant smell that reminded me of him, and the few moments that followed would be that of remembering the happy times, the good times, the times that made this life worth living. The fog would lift and there would be a neat pile of things that somehow closed all the wounds that have been open these past few months.

…and then like magic, the room would clean itself up, pack things away and life would move one -with the door wide open.

As bizarre as this may sounds, I really can’t think of how else to explain it. But when I opened the door, as you probably already knew -there was no fog. There was no magic moment. And the only smell was that of cat pee and misty crackers. Which is probably best, because the odors of a teenage boy are not those to be desired.

The room was exactly how it was -six months ago. The thing is, he wasn’t in that room six months ago. In fact it has been close to two years since he has been in that room. Things of his have been moved, and pushed away, rearranged and shoved aside. While the room was always ready to accept him -when he came back, it also doubled as Josh’s room and for the past year and ½ it has been his room only. With the exception of Dylan’s things -piled along the side, pushed under his bed and shoved in his drawers.

The goal today? Was to box as much of his stuff up as possible. The plan has been to box it all up and sort it later when Madison is here. But I didn’t make it that far today. I made it across the threshold, set the boxes down and sat down beside them.

…and instead of boxing things up, let my mind run wild.

It doesn’t take much these days. Doesn’t take much to get the thoughts running and all the feelings feeling. I thought about the first time he talked about suicide, and how I did nothing about it. I thought about how he probably danced around the topic so many times, yet I failed to realize. I thought about how often he would have tried to get help -but was turned down. I wondered if he was really ever happy. I thought about the past ten years. The bad and the really bad…

I tried to think of happy memories. I tried to pull out the good times, but like some sick joke -those memories have vanished and the only things that replace them are the many ways that I have failed and let him down…and as if there was any need to elaborate on these feelings, I started to think about putting all of his things in boxes. As if boxing his things up, was the same as boxing him up. As if his life didn’t amount to anything but a few boxes in the corner.

I closed the door, leaving behind the empty boxes.

Today I opened the door, crossed the threshold and brought in some boxes. Tomorrow I will put some things into those boxes and try to put away some of the guilt and regrets, and maybe in doing so I will find those happy memories that I know exist.

Somewhere.

Coming Home

He is coming home, and I don’t know what to think.

Seven months ago, when Dylan finally succeeded in ending his life -I booked a trip out of the country.  I left a month later -and in doing so, I packed Josh up and left him with friends.  Originally it was only going to be for the few months I was gone, but when I got back -I couldn’t pick him up.  It is hard to explain, but there was a force that just would not allow me to pick him up and bring him home.  I couldn’t even see him.  I closed the door to the bedroom and walled off those areas in my mind.  As terrible as it sounds -I just couldn’t do it.

Over the past few months I have debated heavily with myself, friends, family and others as well.  I have questioned every avenue.  I gave myself fully over to the idea of never bringing him home again.  My thought process was simple: I had already failed enough.  Most seemed to back this theory -in their own ways.  Not so much that I had failed, but that I wasn’t cut out to be what Josh needed.  Some ignored the question.  Others threw their opinion at me.

There was only one person who told me again and again, over and over -that I should take him back, no questions asked.  But this only made the choice more challenging, because I wanted the vote to be universal. Unanimous.  I wanted there to be no doubt that the choice I made was the right choice -and yet it wasn’t.  I couldn’t persuade either side to move to the other side.  I couldn’t unite the vote, and so it was split…and so was I.

I don’t want to fail him.  I didn’t want to fail Dylan either.  I didn’t want to fail any of the kids.  My purpose in everything I did was to better them, not fail them.  But as the weeks and days ticked on, my mind only continued to scream how badly I had failed.

…and then in a random twist of fate, someone mentioned something to me that would change my thinking.  They referred to Josh as a dog.  They said that they would be more devastated to give up their dog than I should be about giving up Josh.  Others would go on to call him a burden.  A responsibility to large for myself.  A hindrance.  They would say that I should leave him and explore my life deeper and further.  “Let go and live.”

The responses cut deeper than any of the two sides had cut before -and as those cuts healed, I began to realize that this boy?  Was not a burden.  He is not a dog.  He is not something that should be tossed around.  Yet that is exactly what is happening.  While the family he is staying with is nothing less than perfect and ideal for him -they don’t want to keep him forever.  If I were to decide not to keep him -he would go into foster care.

He deserves more than that.

I don’t know if what I am doing is right -and I don’t know that I will ever have that security or confirmation.  I don’t know if this is the right thing to do, I don’t know if this is me -failing all over again.  All I know is that right now -this is the decision that feels the least wrong.

…wish us luck.

I give

I am not the kind to admit this stuff easily, or to just anyone. I am a firm believer in ‘fake it until you make it’ kind of stuff. I hate admitting that I am failing, or on my way down and often will continue digging myself into a hole so deep that I might as well tunnel through because there really is no point in turning back.

But the truth is I am struggling and I am failing -quickly. I’m losing whatever grip I have on reality and quickly sinking to places I don’t want to go.

The truth is, I have been sober for nearly eight years. Something I have struggled with in the past is attempting to drown myself in whatever I could get my hands on. It isn’t something I am especially proud of, but it is what it is. I sobered up for one reason…and now that reason is gone, and in its place is a boat load of things that I simply don’t know how to handle.

Truth is, I have turned back to drinking. Truth is, it isn’t working…and instead of getting out while I am ahead, I head deeper into the spiraling hole calling my name. A few friends have picked up on it -yet no one has called me out on it, which makes it easier than ever to spiral myself out of control.

To be honest, I don’t know why I am even admitting it. Perhaps so one day I can look back and critique myself. Perhaps as an attempt to slap myself into shape. I don’t know. All I know is that I am falling, and I am falling hard. There is no security net to catch me this time. There is nothing to stop me from going all out, all back. There is no point in sobering up this time. No reason to turn back.

I am, simply put, exhausted.

Going to sleep provides no reprieve and instead leaves me waking up in the middle of the night in a heavy sweat with my heart racing and mind running rampant. Staying awake only leaves my more exhausted and more frustrated. The only way I can get any relief is by turning back to my old ways…ways that I swore I would never return to, but can’t remember why.

I’m tired of fighting so hard for so little. Tired of getting up only to be shoved down. Tired of whining and complaining. I’m tired. I’m hurting. I’m struggling. I’m failing.

I have no words, no thoughts.

They say to reach for help -to call someone who will help -but when you call and no one is there, when the only voice you hear is your own, echoing back -it is hard to imagine there might be something worth living for.

For perhaps the first time in my life, I give up.

I just give up.