Today marks three months since the tragic death of my son, my daughter in law and my 2.5 year old grandson.
I recall after losing my mother it had been a while and I thought I was over the worst of the grieving then I hit the three month mark – and I had a complete emotional breakdown and thought I was losing my mind. I could not stop crying and I realize looking back on it that I had been so busy with the “business” of her death; planning the funeral, picking out a headstone, getting the will probated, paying the bills, clearing out her apartment, going through her things with my siblings and the multitude of other duties, that it kept me in a semi-state of shock. What I thought was “dealing with the grief” prior to that was just scratching the surface.
At the three month mark – most of the “business” is done and as you begin to return to what is left of your life – the shock or should we call it the “aftershocks” begin to subside.
You have cried, screamed, lashed out in anger and confusion and experienced all of the emotions that you could imagine and just when you think you have gone through the worst of it and are on your way out of the darkness; you look up and suddenly realize that the light at the end of the long dark tunnel is, in fact, --a train.
Our three month mark just happens to also coincide with the first holiday that we are “celebrating” together as a now-broken family --with three empty chairs.
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday as it comes at my favorite season of the year. It is also the holiday that we typically celebrate with only the two children that are closest geographically and their families; unlike Christmas where we typically have 30 or more. It is a smaller and more intimate gathering. For many years it has only been my husband and me, my daughter, her family and Brian. He seldom ever had his children on Thanksgiving and for twelve years it was just us. Then when he married Kara she joined us and we had just the two families. So this year the gaping holes in our life will not escape us as we go from Donald and I and two families to Donald and I and one family.
It is not the best situation that it falls in the same week as the three month anniversary; which will multiply the sadness and renew the grief. But if there is a common theme through all of this it is that everything about it has been “multiplied”. And it seems to me like the “train” analogy is a very appropriate one.
I have said this has been like being hit by a 100-car freight train. The first single car fully capable of killing you on its own and there are yet 99 more to completely crush what is left.
The multiple losses, and all that came with them: the loss of my youngest son; the loss of my daughter in law; the loss of my 2 1/2 year old grandson; the horror of how it happened; the burning questions of what happened; the fact that we could not see them and have any closure (not that I think I could have stood that and stayed sane); the anger at the lack of investigative police work and the fact that they jumped to this conclusion within minutes; the frustration over the lies we have been told and the missing information that could have given us at least a small measure of relief; the multitude of unanswered questions and the mystery surrounding all of it; the guilt we have all felt that was logically unjustified but ever-present just the same; the way that my child has been portrayed to the entire free world; the horrifying and undeserved legacy that was left for him; the legacy it has left to his surviving children; the way that we as his family have been treated because of a judgment call that was five whole minutes in the making; the way that “friends” have turned their backs on us during the worst most devastating time a person can live through; the complicated mess that this has left us to deal with; the loss of faith in the God that I have always had to lean on and much, much more. As the cars to the freight train just seem to go on and on.
So I supposed it should not surprise me that the three month mark would fall on our first holiday without them and that our first holiday without them would be typically my favorite – marred forever now because I will always connect it with this first holiday. Or that, that holiday would be the holiday for being Thankful. I pray for the strength and ability to be thankful for all that I still have.
And I do still have a lot to be thankful for… I have finally found my way through the darkness and the devastation --back to some measure of faith. I have a God that loves me and I know that I can trust Him and know that He has my children with Him. I am thankful for the time that I had Brian and the joy that he gave all of us. I am thankful for having Kara for the time that I had her as she was a delightful breath of fresh air and brought the gift of her love to Brian and I am thankful that we had Paxton and thankful for what he taught me about God's unconditional love in the short time that we had him.
I know that they were never really mine – they were always His and He cares for them now and forever.
I am thankful for a new more vivid appreciation for those that I have left in my life. I have my other children and grandchildren that are also a great joy to my life and I have my husband that has comforted and stood by me through this worst of times. I have my siblings that have been there with me through so many things in my life. I have my home, my neighbors and my church family. And most important of all, I have the knowledge that God sent His son to pay the penalty for my sin. And it has never been driven home to me quite so succinctly - the depth of the sacrifice that God gave for me - until I lost my own son.
I have a lot to be thankful for.