Over four years ago, my life changed forever.
In November, I gave birth to the child I had been longing for and dreaming of.
In December, my sister lost her youngest son.
As time has gone on, the pain has lessened but never goes away altogether. I find it sneaks up on me at the strangest times, like when I hear a certain song on the radio or when I’m eating barbequed ribs at his favorite rib joint. He would have been 21 that following February, and I’d like to think he had one hell of a party up in heaven. He would’ve liked that a lot, especially if you had some David Allen Coe cranked up.
There are so many things that I could say about him. He loved to eat lobster. Soccer was his favorite sport and he was really very good at it. He adored animals and always had a complete menagerie in his room and doted on them completely, especially his dog Jeffrey. He loved to be outside and especially to spend time either fishing on the side of the river or out on a boat. One of my favorite pictures of him is standing on the deck of a boat with two of his best friends – they had just spent the entire summer sailing – and he is laughing with his head thrown back and that blond hair shining in the sun. He looks so very happy at that moment that it’s how I choose to remember him. He was very good natured, had a wickedly dry sense of humor, and was an incredibly laid back type of person.
He was a gentle soul and always took things to heart. Kids can be very cruel, and he struggled a lot especially in high school with the other students taunting him for one thing or another. He also struggled with depression for several years. But it seemed like in college, he had finally found his groove – he had joined a fraternity, his grades were pretty good, and the last time that I saw him (three days before he died) he was tired from having taken exams but talked animatedly about how excited he was for the next semester.
And something went wrong – we still don’t know what – and he took his own life.
The day of the funeral was one of the coldest days I’ll ever remember. We carried Monkey Man in the baby carrier and took him with us to the service. My sister and brother-in-law had decided to have his remains cremated and then we had a private internment in the memorial garden of their church. The church is a huge stone structure perched on a cliff overlooking the mighty river that runs through our city. As we stood in the memorial garden watching the priest empty the ashes into the hole, a stiff wind whipped up and grabbed the ashes and they blew all over us. It was almost unbearable to stand there and feel the grit cover my face and I wondered if it was a sign from above.
For several months, I went to the memorial garden every week to sit and think and pray. It was hard to be thankful for the blessing that I had received by the birth of my own son while watching the anguish of my sister and her husband as they mourned the loss of their son that they had loved with every fiber of their being. And after a while, the visits to the garden became less frequent and then became more of something that I would do when I happened to be passing through the area.
Today I had to drive past the church on my way to one of my jobsites. I felt compelled to stop, but I knew that I had a meeting waiting on me to arrive so I kept driving past the church.
As I drove across the bridge that traverses the river, I saw a lone heron slowly flying its way down the river.
And I thought of him.
And I thought about those ashes being whipped out into the cold December air over the river.
And I hoped that that he has found peace at last, happy out there on the river where he spent some of the best days of his life...laughing with his head thrown back, golden sunkissed skin, and blond hair blowing in the wind.