It was five years ago April 17th that the phone rang in the middle of the night and our world darkened into chaos and devastation.
It was five years ago in the middle of a blizzard that I kissed my husband goodbye as he boarded a plane from Denver to St. Louis to be with our oldest son, Tyler, and to identify the body of our middle son, Michael.
I stood there shaking in the snow, but I was not cold. I did not, I could not, feel anything. I was numb in my body, my soul and my spirit. All I could do was turn around and go back in the house to try and comfort our other four children who were sitting in the front room staring at each other; no one had any words. We were simply frozen in pain, frozen in time.
It has been five years, and a huge part of me still feels frozen. A few months ago, a woman asked me why our son’s death was such a big deal, and why we couldn’t just get over it.
I woke up this morning and heard her words echoing in my head, over and over again.
The answer is pretty simple really – we are not trying to get over the suicide of our son. We do not, we will not, put any effort or energy into getting over it; we choose instead both as individuals and as a family to hold that pain, that searing pain, allowing it to transform and teach us.
Because of it, we have greater compassion. We can all cry with minimal prodding, we hurt for those who hurt regardless of the source of their agony. We reach out when worlds are shattered, and we pray earnestly with broken hearts.
One thing we don’t do is make promises. We will not lie.
No, the ache will never go away; no, you will never wake up and not be missing the person that you lost. No, your loved one is not an angel, nor have they been sainted. What they are is gone, for now, and it hurts like hell.
Yes, your life will continue, and your life will go on. Yes, you will wake up one day and feel joy; you will be able to sleep through the night again, and food will regain its flavor – at some point.
But you will never be the same. You will never have a day where the thought of your loss will not cross your mind. Over time, traumatic sobs will turn into cherished memories. This does not happen by time alone, however; you have to experience the pain – embrace it and invite God into it.
He is RIGHT there, I promise.
We are not “over” Michael’s death. We don’t plan to get over it; we will continue to love him and miss him. Every. Single. Day. There is always a missing piece in our Black tribe – even though our family keeps growing, we are adding precious members through marriage and birth, and it is glorious and amazing. Even this miracle of new life is a mixed bag of emotion; we have the best of the best becoming “Black,” yet they never even knew our Michael when he was alive, and that part feels surreal. They fill our hearts, but they cannot fill the beautiful, devastating Michael-shaped hole that remains. , He will forever remain in our hearts, minds, and family; why would we ever want to get over the significance of his existence in our lives?
The bigger the hole, the more intense the pain, it simply reveals the depth,width, and height of the love you carry for the one you lost. Isn’t that all that matters in life – that we love, and lose, and find the courage to live and love some more?
It’s been five years, and again we are separated by miles. Gary is in India preaching, our kids are in the States, and Noah and I are in Spain. We will all grieve apart and together, we will bring others into our pain, and they will willingly, lovingly, help carry the load.
We can and will laugh at the stories and memories. We will cry when we remember the hardest days – those we thought would certainly kill us. But we are knit together today in heart and spirit; we are loving and carrying each other even with oceans between us. We are stronger than ever, we love each other even more, and we are still not “over” Michael.
And that will never change.