I’m really not sure where the last four months have gone, and so, so quickly, but they came, they went, and I am realizing that suddenly September is almost here again.
September….the longest month of the year.
For most people September is highlighted by numerous, exciting events spurred on by a new season of gorgeous fall weather and fun-filled activities. School is back in full swing, kids have jetted back off to college, and Friday nights are filled with the sights and sounds of hometown football games under the lights. There’s parades, homecomings, and bonfires, as well as the annual comfort of pulling jeans and hoodies out of summer storage. Creation seems to explode abruptly into the most perfect array of reds, yellows and oranges with cool, crisp autumn nights filled with the most marvelous sunsets. Farmers are out and about checking fields and population counts for the upcoming harvest that will be booming quickly. Around here the end of the month is capped off with what is known as the annual Apple & Pork Festival where multitudes of people swarm our small town for a couple days filling themselves up to the brim with kettle corn, river rat potatoes, gingerbread cookies, sweet corn and everything pumpkin or apple flavored imaginable while lugging home crafts, antiques and trinkets galore.
September is also known as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month although this issue is important enough to discuss year round. Nearly 30,000 Americans commit suicide every year and it is the 3rd leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 15 to 24 years old. On average, one person commits suicide every 16.2 minutes.
Each suicide intimately affects at least six other people.
Two years ago on September 6th our lives and happy, little comfortable world was shaken beyond all comprehensible measures when suicide intimately affected my family and so many, many others from my home town. My mind cannot even fathom that we are quickly approaching the 731st day since that horrendous moment because it still feels intensely raw like it was just yesterday. And while many around us have moved on with their lives and September is just another month on the calendar filled to the max with exciting activities, in all honesty it is nothing like that for us.
Last year when September rolled around we stopped for a moment and took a collective sigh of relief just because we had made it through an entire year and were able to some how, by the grace of God, keep our heads above water. This second year resembles nothing like the last. I feel like whoever said it gets easier blatantly lied! If you have ever been held captive, against your will, in a prison of grief with your tattered soul struggling to just accomplish normal daily tasks, we truly know how you feel.
Although Evan was not my son by birth, by proxy he felt like one of my own due to the undeniable bond and friendship he shared with my own son. They were truly two peas in a pod, bonded by an unexplainable connection that was out of their control. For years when we all lived on the same street if you were looking for one boy you were usually looking for both. They were almost inseparable. They spent summers swimming, riding bikes and walking up and down the sidewalks barefooted carving a well known beaten path between each other’s houses. At one point they spent an entire month living out of a tent in my living room, concocting up boyhood dreams of adventures together. They spent vacations together and were always conning us to take them out to eat somewhere. Later in life when we moved away to the country it was a running joke that Evan’s folks should just claim Mason on their taxes each year because he was always in town at Evan’s, some times for weeks at a time. They both were gifted with God given athleticism in different sports and were always trying to out do each other in some sort of competition. They thrived off being utterly silly together, laughing hysterically for any and every reason, and were true brothers from different mothers. I never worried about them when I knew they were together. It felt like they were one in the same with their charming mischievous smiles, outgoing personalities, and unmistakable ability to melt your heart into a pile of mush even when you were at your wits end with both of them. Nine times out of ten just the words “please mommy” spoken by those two, even as teenagers, with their angelic innocent faces, and hands clasped together in a rehearsed begging fashion got them their way with just about anything from me and Evan’s mom. How could we say no when it was always followed up by the biggest, sweetest bear hugs from those two while promising they would stay out of trouble? The love these boys poured out on both of their mommas could circle the universe a million times over.
~Just a Few Random Intimate Lasting Affects From My Point of View~
September is almost suddenly here and our house is littered with broken glass that we painstakingly walk around, desperately trying not to inadvertently cut each as we muddle through our own daily heartache this time of year because grief and suicide is a SOB.
The second year really IS harder then the first.
We are almost through the month of August and I have been weeping profusely for weeks on end because September is around the corner. It’s a very rare occasion that I can be alone without the waterworks exploding, throwing me into a complete madness with no end in sight for the moment. Driving in my car in solitude is the place where I scream to the heavens WHY even on the days when the sun is shining brightly and things are calm and peaceful. Evan! His name is constant in my head, continually on repeat and I make no attempts to ever try and stop it because I love him so much. It takes every ounce of strength left in me to not lose it completely because there’s a boy in my care, the remaining pea in the pod, who’s heart is still profusely ripped to shreds over the biggest loss he has had to endure thus far in his young life. A boy who feels alone most days because grief likes to play tricks, convincing you to think no one can understand the true depths of your hurt after losing someone.
At some point you think of everything on a scale compared to the actual grand scheme of life. It’s a roller coaster to navigate. Looking at the bigger picture do things like a clean room, doing his own laundry, having my kid make his bed, or asking him to throw his 7,000 empty Gatorade bottles away really matter? I want him to of course do these normal teenage life responsibilities but he can barely sleep alone at night without the nightmares chasing him when he closes his eyes. So we sit side by side on his unmade bed, surrounded by empty plastic bottles and cry together instead because some days there are just no words that soothe the pain.
High School football games were once the highlight of our fall Friday nights. Now I break out into a cold sweat when anyone even mentions us tagging along to a game with them. It’s not the game that suddenly blindsides me. It’s the flashbacks. It’s the green grass with bright white lines painted across it, the sight of a chain link fence circling a track, the vision of a team huddled together at the end of a game that tightens my throat until I am grasping for air. The news I heard and had to share with my son that night at a September football game still seem unreal. Some days it’s a nonstop bad dream we are constantly trying to wake up from. If it storms again on the 5th for the second year in a row or I even see a lightning bolt across the sky I may crawl into a hole. I will never forget the woman who was standing next to me that night. A complete stranger up until that moment. She turned to me after that life changing phone call and said “I know you don’t know me, but if I think what’s happening is really happening for you by the terror I see etched on your face, I am here for whatever you need in this moment.” I appreciated her kindness but only God himself could help me and so many other’s that night.
I spend countless nights looking out the window into the darkness searching for the headlights of my left behind son who hasn’t made it home after a long day of work. I know in my heart instead of coming straight home he instead is sitting in the cemetery, curled up in a ball of raw human emotions next to the headstone of his best friend.
The eyes of my child are emptier this time of year. There is a purple elastic bracelet that time and wear has scrubbed clean of the words that once emblazed it with comforting remembrance. To this day it never leaves my son’s wrist and few probably even know or recognize its significance and that it’s always there.
I am standing in the checkout line at the local grocery store where Evan’s cousin is scanning my groceries and placing them into a cart. We make small talk before she tenderly looks straight into my soul and asks how my son is doing. I don’t even know how to answer that question any more so I lie and say he is fine. We stare into each other’s eyes knowing the truth and during that moment we are connected by grief and my heart breaks for both of them and all of them once more. I cry all the way home knowing none of us may ever be completely fine again.
I am riddled with guilt because my biological son is still here where I can physically touch him, hold him, and hug him any time my little mom heart desires while there is a mother a few miles away who will never have that moment again with her own son and my human limitations can never change that for her. I hate myself every time one of my kids is driving me crazy because she would give anything to have her child back driving her crazy every second of every single day for the rest of her life. I will always unselfishly share my son with her and respect the bond they have shared for so many years even before the unexpected that cemented them together till the end of time. How little would I be if I could not? They need each other to get through the loss of someone so indescribably special to the both of them and I am thankful for each day that they have each other.
I run into Evan’s dad and normal pleasantries seem inappropriate. My brain frantically searches for things we can talk about but all I want to scream is “How are things?”, but don’t because it seems like the dumbest thing you could ever ask a father who has endured through the unthinkable and buried his youngest son all the while comforting everyone in his midst in humble stoicism beyond anything I have ever witnessed.
We recently visited the local dirt track where Mason was working and a tall teenage boy strolled by the concession stands illuminated by a bright light in the darkness and everything about him resembled Evan’s walk as he passed by. Time literally stood still for me and I wanted to run to the boy and hug him and beg him to just walk by me for the remainder of the night so my mind could recapture the imagine over and over again.
What I want my son to know at the end of each day is no one is judging how he feels and deals with his grief. We all feel the same range of emotions depending on the day and circumstance but are all still here holding each other up through the good, the bad and especially the ugly.
When I see the color purple I am instantly reminded that people matter. At the end of the day….PEOPLE ARE WHAT MATTER. The rest of life is just minor details and not the bigger picture.
I end every single conversation with both of my children whether in person, phone call or text message with the words I LOVE YOU after that night in September. I don’t care if they respond, I don’t care if they are hating me at that particular moment, I don’t care if they think I am the worst mom on the planet some days. What I care about is them knowing at the end of every day that they are loved and hearing it from me even when this crazy world is trying to get the best of us! Isn’t that what we are all searching for at the end of every day?
The statistics I listed above stated that suicide intimately affects at least 6 people. I can tell you first hand that Evan’s choice affected far many more then 6 people. The night of Evan’s visitation his family greeted visitors for seven straight hours. Since that day they have devoted themselves to suicide awareness and speaking out for those who are bullied and any suffering from depression or mental illness.
If you, or anyone you know and love is even remotely thinking about suicide I am begging you to please reach out to someone, anyone so another mother, father, family, best friend or town doesn’t have to endure the intimately lasting affects that truly never go away.
This is just a small fraction and glimpse into the after affects of suicide and how it is still affecting my family. Every word I write is from me and not the words of Evan’s mom, family or my own son. They each have their own stories and own words. I’m just a mom who is still here trying to help the last pea in the pod just survive another day without his best friend and assure you that your life DOES matter, even when you cannot see it or feel it.
Please know that YOU ARE LOVED!