In between Thanksgiving and December 14 is a time of reminiscence. Thanksgiving Day was the last time I saw my son alive. December 11 is the last time we spoke together, and December 14 is the day he took his own life. I can’t believe that in just a few short days, we will hit the 5-year anniversary mark.
The 21 days before his suicide were filled with joy and laughter. I hosted the family Thanksgiving feast with friends and family. It was a time of gratitude, love, and appreciation for what we had, the love we felt and celebration. When my son left for the day, we shared our usual good-byes, I love you’s and hugs. My son was the best hugger. He would pick me up and squeeze so tight that I felt his heart beating. His beautiful heart, alive and well.
The Christmas season was now upon me. I love to transform my home into a magical place that is happy and joyful. I have special silver baby cradle ornaments with the names of each of my children.
I also have 4 mini trees for each child, Courtney, Brittany, Hannah, and Connor. I decorate these trees with ornaments that were given to them and ones they made. Each one has its own flare and personality. I loved doing this because I included my daughter Courtney who passed away many years ago. Her memory lives forever.
Christmas is a time that I reflect on my family. When it comes to presents, I want to give them something special. However, sometimes that something special can be what they need. Oh, the practical part of me. I knew my son needed a new set of sheets, and comforter. He was still using the one he had as a child, with footballs, soccer balls and baseballs randomly scattered across the blue background. I found the perfect comforter and sheet set to replace the worn and torn one. I was excited to give it to him.
The last time my son and I spoke, he was on his way to work. Even though in my mind, I found the perfect gift for him, I asked him what he wanted for Christmas. I still needed to get him something he wanted instead of just what he needed. He told me, “I don’t need anything. I just want your support.” I told him of course and that I would always support and love him no matter what. We said good-bye, followed by “ I love you to the stars and back”. I said, “Times three.” Those were the last words we said to each other.
After he death, life was happened next is a blur. I remember going through the steps to make his funeral arrangements. My son lived life to the fullest. Hakuna Matata – meaning “there are no worries”, popularized by the movie The Lion King, was his mantra, even when times were tough. He would jeopardize his job to help a friend in need. He truly did not want many material things. He lived a simple life yet was happy, or so I thought. Behind the happy face, there was something that was so dark and heavy that he could not see a way out, or a solution to his problem.
Suicide is complex and unique, all too frequently leaving survivors with unanswered questions, guilt, and rage. Yes, that was me then. My grief was deep, my heart broken. I cried in the car. I cried at the grocery store. I screamed into my pillow and punched it like there was no tomorrow. I had highs and lows. Good days and bad days. Confusion, despair, and chaos were part of my daily life.
But then, over time, things changed. I found happiness, joy, laughter. My wounded heart was healing. Tears no longer ran down my cheeks. My pillow became a place to rest my head. I live a good life now with clarity, purpose, and direction.
The last 5 years have been a whirlwind of growth. I chose to not let his death dictate my future. I practiced what I preach: take care of yourself, exercise, drink water, eat nutritious food. I focused on my thoughts and kept them positive. I gave myself permission to look this tragedy in the eye and tell myself that it was up to me how I handled it.
Now, I decorate the trees in memory of not just my first daughter, but my son’s memory as well. I reflect con my children and my life, how it has changed and where I am now. I think of the good times and am grateful for the ones we had. I’ve made it this far, to 5 years, and each day, each year gets better.