One year ago today I arrived home to find my husband sitting on the steps outside our home. I immediately knew something was wrong but I had no idea how hard reality was going to slap me in the face only a few seconds later. In an instant, the silly songs I had been singing to Zach in the car disappeared. I jumped out of the car, leaving Zach in his car seat while I asked Hubby what was wrong. I could barely understand him when the stinging words came out of his mouth, “J___ killed himself”. Never in my life had I felt so much shock and pain all in one moment. I stood there in the driveway holding him, trying to be the strong one for this man who had always held me up.
Minutes passed and I realized that Zach was still in the car. My head was flooded with thoughts about how quickly we could pack our things and drive to Louisiana to be with the family. I was in a bit of a daze as I unhooked Zach and carried him inside. As I looked at his face I ached at the thought of him never getting to really know his uncle.
Somehow, my body kicked it into high gear and I started packing. I called my mom to let her know what happened and that I wouldn’t be at work. I made arrangements for someone to care for our animals and was calculating how far we could drive before having to stop and sleep when my mom called back. My boss offered to let us use the company plane to get down there the next morning so we didn’t have to make the drive.
I wasn’t prepared for this. I coped by trying to be the strong one. I needed to be there for my husband even though I was little comfort to him. I didn’t really break down until the funeral. I don’t know when I have ever sobbed so hard in my life. I didn’t know that this man, who I had only known for a few short years would make such an impact on my life. I wanted to be able to take all of his pain and suffering away. I wanted him to come back-for his wife, his brothers, his parents, and his nephew. I wanted to wake up and discover that it was only a dream.
Even though many people offered to keep Zach for us I took him along because I knew that I wouldn’t get through this experience without him. He comforted so many people that week. Through my tears I thanked God every day that I had him and that his smiles could fill my broken heart and others with so much joy. I cried at the thought that some day that could be my son and I’m not sure that I could handle that.
Even thinking back to it now, the whole experience still feels so surreal. Some days go by without even a though of J, but other days I can’t get him out of my mind. Some days I want to believe that he is still down in Louisiana doing the same old things he always did-working, creating music, fishing, hunting, and hanging out with his family. Then reality sets in and I have to force myself to face the cold truth that he is gone.
A few days ago would have been J’s 28th birthday. He was almost exactly one year younger than me. I think sometimes about what my family would do without me right now. How would Zach and Hubby fare without me around? I know they would get by, but the thought of leaving them is unimaginable. I don’t want to think about my son growing up without his mommy by his side. I don’t want to think about the pain, hurt, and anger that Hubby would feel if I was gone from his life so early. I wonder how my parents would cope with the loss of a child.
I think about J, and how much he must have been suffering to have that desire to end his life. Like his family, I wonder if I could have made a difference if I had reached out to him. I wonder if the doctors could have helped him more. I wonder if his destiny was truly already written and if he would be gone now even if he hadn’t ended his own life. I wonder about these things often and I also wonder if it will ever stop. I wonder if anyone can ever truly understand the effects of suicide before they do it.
J’s memory will always live on in the hearts of his family and friends. I have written my thoughts about this today, but I remember him every day. I see him in the eyes of his son. I see little pieces of him in his brothers. I will forever treasure the time that I did spend with him and regret that I didn’t have more.
I will always remember.