The Day After

Last night I stopped over and visited SIL’s mother.  She’s a wreck, though The Daughter said she’s doing much better today.  Last night she was sleep deprived, hadn’t eaten all day, and had been crying pretty much non-stop.  I hugged her – one mother sharing another mother’s anguish – and she said “how do you heal from something like this?”  I replied, “I don’t know.  I don’t think you do – you just learn, over time, to live with the pain.”  I know two other couples who have lost children – one was killed in a skiing accident over Christmas break during his senior year of high school.  He was one of SIL’s best friends (SIL was one of the pall bearers) and would have graduated with him in 1993.  His parents are very well known and loved in the community, so it was a community tragedy as well. He had hundreds of friends.  They closed school and held a service for him in the gym.  It was so sad, and his mother has never been the same.  She works, she still does community service things, she smiles, but there is a sadness about her, in her eyes, that wasn’t there before.  She seems to me like a shell of the person she was before his death.  The happy, chipper woman I knew is gone.  Her husband moves through life, but he too has lost his spark.  They function.  They have to – they have two other sons, and now grandkids.  But she told me that there is not one second of one day that she does not think of her son – and it’s been 15 years.  The other couple live about two blocks from me and the husband works with SIL.  Their son would have graduated with The Daughter in 1994.  He shot himself in their home during his senior year.  He spread a sheet out over the carpet and left a note saying he was sorry about the mess.  He apparently was distraught over getting bad grades and didn’t want to face his parents.  So sad.  I can only imagine the guilt they carry with them.  He wasn’t as well known and well-liked as the other boy so his parents didn’t have the same sort of community support and outpouring of love and sympathy.  They kept to themselves.  They were always very private people anyway, but they withdrew even further.  They have an older daughter who has a couple of kids, so they pour themselves into those kids, but they too often appear to just be going through the motions.  I am sure a huge part of you dies when your child dies.  A parent is not supposed to bury a child. I pray to God I never have to know what that is like.  I’ve told YS that if he ever does anything stupid like that, I’ll kill him.  Ha ha.

I have the grandkids for the night.  There is just so much family drama going on, and all the other grandkids are with friends or the non-sibling, non-custodial parent, so when offered options as to how they would spend their evening, they opted for Poppy and Grammy’s house.   Today was the immediate family only viewing.  The Daughter said it was really hard.  Apparently all the sisters and a couple of his friends got tattoos like the shamrock he had on his shoulder, with his initials on the leaves of the shamrock.  The Daughter was upset because getting the tattoos made them late to the viewing, and then their tattoos became the focus of things, which The Daughter felt was very disrespectful and inappropriate.  But everyone grieves in their own way, and who is to say what is appropriate or not?  The service will be on Monday.  I’m sure there will be a huge turnout.  He was a well-liked kid.  In a couple of weeks, the out-of-town family and friends will be gone.  Everyone will go back to work and school, and life will return to normal for most people.  But his mom will never be “normal” again, and I want to be there for her when, in the middle of the day, for no apparent reason, she finds herself falling apart and alone.  I told her to call me, no matter when, and I’ll be there in seconds.  I hope she takes me up on that offer.  Sometimes it’s easier to fall apart with an “outsider” than with your immediate family because they don’t share the same kind of anguish and can just listen.  I will just listen, and hold her, and let her cry for as long as she needs to.  It’s just a small thing, but maybe it will help her go through this process.  I hate that I can’t do more.