Since the first rummblings that something was wrong hit our cell phones at 1:30 am on April 17th, I have longed to touch my son. For hours we did nto know if he was hurt, or infact gone. I ran up and down the stairs, throwing suitcases in the truck, and then franticially checked flights from Denver to St. Louis. My baby was hurt, and I had to get to him as fast as I could. When a policeman finally answered our question hours later, I crumpled into a ball on the floor. A stranger was telling us our son was dead, there was no hurry to get to him, there was nothing I could do. I still wanted to get to Michael, I still wanted to touch my boy. I knew the best thing was for Gary to get to Tyler as soon as possible and his flight was booked immediately. Back and forth in grief and confusion we went. We did not want to be separated from each other, we couldn’t drag Noah, Caleb, Alexis and Emily through the trauma that awaited us in St. Louis. We also could not leave them home without their parents at a time like this. We both knew the next 48 hours were going to be beyond brutal no matter what we did. At the same time we could not imagine being separated either. We held each other close and, I breathed in the smell of his skin, he kissed my forehead, and then was whisked away to the airport. My legs struggled to support me again.
I retreated to the fetal position until my friends arrived, they just crawled next to me, surrounding me, and we all wept without speaking. Occasionally I came up for air, sobbing near hysterics, ” I want my little boy, I just want to hold my little boy”.
Michael was close to 6’3 and 180 pounds of solid muscle. There was nothing little about him. His smile was huge, his heart was full, his charm was disarming, his personality was intoxicating. To a mother, the physical size of your child means very little in the way your heart perceives them. Your baby is your baby, no matter how old they get, or how they tower over you.
So much of the last few weeks is a complete blur. So many moments and conversations I have been told about, but don’t remember. What I do remember is my desperation to hear from Gary and Tyler while we were separated. What happened? What are the police saying? Where is michael now? What were they seeing, what are they hearing? Each answer only brought more questions. Nothing made sense. There must be a mistake, this cant be real. Decisions had to be made. Tyler and Gary were as desperate to get home to Colorado as we were to have them home.
Gary called me the moments before he went in to see the shell that housed Michael Ryan Black for 19 years. We whispered into our phones, as if we were afraid to wake him. In my mind I knew he was not there anymore, but I still wished I was there, to touch him one last time. I knew what Gary was going to see was just a shell. Still, that shell is what I fed, I cared for, and held close everyday since he was 6 years old. That body told the story of Michael’s life with his scars. There were small scars from being a wild little boy, and longer deeper ones that were proof of a fierce warrior that dominated the football and rugby field. I made Gary promise to kiss his cheek and tell him mommy loves him. He promised.
Last week Emily came through the front door carrying a large box that Fed Ex had left on our porch. “Mom” Em whispered softly, ” I think Michael is in there” we opened it to find the large green vase filled with the ashes of our sweet boy. Em and I just left it on the dinning room table without a word, knowing what the other was thinking… “that’s not Michael”.
I hate that stupid green vase.
So, this past weekend I walked on the campus of Lindenwood University, filled with huge trees and towering red brick buildings. I made Gary take me the spot where our son took his last breath. I asked more questions, and my husband choked out more answers. I wanted to throw my self down on the grass and weep into the soil. It was 4 pm and the campus was a buzz with students trying to finish the school year amist a terrible trauma. So, I held on to my rock and sobbed into his chest to muffle the sounds. I looked at the grass again praying for answers, wanting to feel Michael. And then I saw it, out of all the green lush growth was one tiny purple flower.
Is this my comfort? Is this a sign that life continues, that something beautiful will grow from a place of tradgedy? Wouldn’t it be great to end this blog all wrapped up with a bow.
Isn’t this where I tell the world that I have figured it out, that I have my answers, and with that comes complete peace..
I am terrible liar, my voice quakes and I start to sweat. So, I have to be honest. The purple flower brought no conclusion, it brought me no peace. I have peace because I serve a God that promises peace that literally is inconceivable. I have peace about what eternity looks like for my family, ALL of my family. I have perfect peace because I know a powerful God created everything I can see, and cares about everything I can’t see. Our God is not just Holy and Just, but all loving, all knowing, with the tender heart of a protective Father.
Michael and I will laugh together again one day, and his eyes will sparkle with TRUE peace. All of my questions will then be answered, and none of this will matter anymore.
Today I am more confused then ever, today it still hurts to breathe, and I still just want to touch my son.