My last post was seven months ago. I thought I had crossed the finished line, accomplished what I had set out to do. To put Aaron and his untimely suicide behind me. I understand that sometimes we think we have said everything that needs to be said on a subject. Sometimes we feel we just need to step back and take a deep breath. And there are times when we had enough of a subject and want to file it away Or maybe all three.
One of my boys, Gabriel (23) is living with his girlfriend (Rachel) and her parents while she is preparing to have her first child. It is a very exciting time in their lives. A few weeks ago tragedy hit Rachel’s family. Her dad ( 51) died in a motor bike accident.
On Facebook Rachel wrote a touching ode to her dad letting him know that his unborn baby grand-daughter would learn about her grandfather that she would never get to meet. Rachel also mentioned in a text to Rhonda and myself how surreal this experience has been thus far.
When I heard the news I knew the process, I was instantly transported back in time. I could feel their pain, their shock and that surreal feeling of “what the fuck just happened”. For a time you live in this bubble as you can feel your body move and think but in slow motion. You go through the motions of life wondering when you are going to wake up from this nightmare you are experiencing.
You wonder when your loved one is going to walk through the door then realizing that it was all a dream or a bad joke being played on you. You see your loved one in such obscure places like a shopping center, riding by on a bicycle or just waiting for a bus at the local bus stop.
Some people call this being in denial. I think it is being on the cusp of another world. Perhaps it is a way of God allowing you to slowly accept your loved one is pulling away and never coming back, as though you are still holding his hand while he is trying to leave this world. A time to adjust, not a time to mourn. Shock sets in as you do not want to believe what has happened and your mind does not accept the outcome. It’s not a miracle you anticipate but a mistake that you are hoping will right its way back to the way it was.
During this time friends and family are gathered, many coming out of hiding not having seen or heard from in years. For a short time you are insulated and protected from what inevitably will come, the grieving process. But this surreal feeling is a blessing in disguise, a place between two worlds. A time to be able to hold on and feel your loved one as though he is sitting right next to you. A feeling that you could learn to live with but reality will invade your space.
For me this surreal state lasted until just after Aaron’s funeral. We had a wake or gathering at our house of friends and family. When all our guests left including my dear wife who had to work that evening, the older children moving the party to another venue, I was left alone with our family dog who took his place at the end of our bed oblivious to our loss.
Alone for the first time grief hit me like a ton of bricks. Reality came in like a flood. My world would change at that moment never to be the same. That surreal feeling that enveloped me like cotton wool protecting me from heartache was gone. My life was going to change its ways forever.
I don’t know what type of grief Rachel and her family will face or how long it will last. It is up to the individual. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, no time limit. I do know that there is a light at the end of a very dark tunnel and when we come out the other end our life will never be the same. Some better, some worse.
I pray for Rachel, Gabriel and their unborn daughter that their end result will be for the better.
As a family we have over the past 7 years refrained from talking about Aaron’s death. Rarely have I had conversations with any of my children about his passing and how it happened. If they talk about it among themselves I wouldn’t know.
As time passed each of us learned to deal with this tragedy in our own ways. I never broached the subject with my kids nor did they come for advice or a shoulder to cry on. In retrospect I wish I could have coped better, at least for the sake of my children.
At our yearly Family Day when we gathered each year near the date of his death. One year my ex-wife brought a picture of Aaron and placed it in the center of the picnic table as a reminder of why we were there. One of her older daughters lovingly rebuffed her and told her it wasn’t necessary because we all knew why we were there. His picture remained in place that day but never showed up again.
Our conversation at these outings was never about Aaron. It didn’t have to be, he was there with us, in each of our hearts and thoughts and we all knew it.
Someday I would like to be able to talk to each one of his siblings and get their story to get a better understanding of how Aaron’s death affected them, the things that they went through, the anguish, heartbreak and their own personal grief. Did they carry any guilt blaming themselves in any way, did they harbour any hidden memories that were too difficult for them to face. What fears did they encounter the days, months and years that followed. Did his death bring them closer to their siblings and our family in general or did they drift away inwardly if not outwardly.
As I reflect on their part in this family tragedy I was encouraged when I started to think about the physical ways that each one of them wants to remember and honour their brother.
Each year many of them meet at his headstone at the local cemetery on his birthday. I didn’t know this until my wife showed me a picture posted on Facebook of them gathered together one year. One of my boys who apparently couldn’t make it the year the photo was taken, had his own face superimposed in the photo and posted it himself to show that although not able to make it in person he was there in spirit.
At Aaron’s memorial we had a small photo of him printed and laminated and passed out to all who came to remember him. Each one of my kids has this photo either in their wallet or purse and even on their refrigerator in the their kitchen.
Quite a few have gone to the extreme of getting tattooed with his name or other messages on their bodies, keeping him forever remembered.
I am not a big fan of tattoos. I have none myself but I have come to terms with the fact that this day and age it seems to be ingrained in our western culture not much different to social media.
So when one of my daughters turns up at a family gathering one year with a huge tattoo on her outer thigh I was really taken by surprise and to be honest my reaction was not a great one. Then when she told me to take a closer look I saw it was a picture of Aaron permanently inked on her leg. It was her way of honoring his life.So how could I argue with that.
When my youngest child who is now eighteen told me she wanted to get a tattoo I froze. She is what is known as a “clean skin” and the last I thought would go down this road. She consoled me with the fact it would be a little one. When I asked what she was thinking of getting she proudly stated, “Aaron’s name”. Another one of my girls has a little message on the back of her neck with Aaron’s name so anyone standing in line behind her will know that whoever this Aaron is, is very special to her.
The boys went about it in bigger ways having their memories of him emblazoned on their chest or arms.
There is a story behind each tattoo, each visit to the cemetery and their personal bigger story locked away in each of their hearts.
Their outward manifestation of their love for Aaron needs no explanation or discussion.
Someday I hope to be able to have the courage to ask what lies inside their hearts and how that fateful day affected them.
Someday I will ask, but not today.
Deciding to move on has changed the whole perspective of my journey (Surviving Is Not Enough). I am excited again about life and what the future holds. The changes are mostly internal right now and these changes are synonymous with giving up my grief. I don’t believe I would be able to move on and allow grief to be part of my life at the same time.
After the initial shock of Aaron’s suicide wore off, grief hit me with its full force. My dictionary defines grief as; “
As time went on, my grief attacks became less constant but the intensity remained the same. In the beginning I didn’t know how I would be able to take the constant barrages of emotional instability that grief brought into my life.
In retrospect I see how I put up the white flag of surrender by allowing grief to become a part of me. I accepted that it was always going to be by my side so I invited the unwanted guest to stay and live with me.
‘Give it time’ was a phrase I heard and read many times. It became a cliché, something people say for the sake of saying something positive. I believed it in theory but I couldn’t relate to it in practice. I felt there was nothing within my power to stop the grieving and I couldn’t see that far in the future for it to make any sense to me.
I had hoped that some day grief would just fade away and I would sneak out from under the hold it had on me. It had never crossed my mind that giving up grief could be a personal choice. I had accepted that it came and went at will, that I had no say in the matter. Its was true in the beginning. I was at the mercy of its raging storm.
But, I must admit, as time went on the attacks lessened and their intensity was manageable.
When I declared myself fit and ready to move on, for the first time I realized that leaving grief behind was something I had control over. I didn’t have to wait until it was out of my system, nor did I have to accept it would be with me forever.
I have moved on to continue my journey, leaving my grief behind.
Writing this blog has set me free in so many ways. Telling my story has taken me from being a victim of circumstances that were beyond my control, to being a survivor of the loss of a loved one.
When I first started putting my words on paper, ideas were plentiful and it was evident I could write what I wanted at will. I couldn’t hit the keys on my computer fast enough. For once in my life my brain was working faster than my body parts.
My story is a journey I was reluctant to go on. Taking me away from my normal life, my family, my friends and just about everything associated with the life I once lived.
Within I became a hermit, a recluse living in my own world that was causing me to drift further away from family and friends,while going through the motions of living a life that appeared, at least to me, normal.
Brooding in an inner world where the lights had been turned off, I would venture out from time to time only to have my eyes blinded by the intensity of the sun’s rays. I would then retreat back into my lonely world as fast as the speed of thought.
Six years later someone decided to turn the light on in my darkened world. I took that as a sign, it was time to come out of hiding and face the world. I then had this insatiable desire to tell my story. For the first time I wanted to talk about a life lost and its effect on me. It is only then that I realized that there are millions just like me who are going through a similar process and are on a journey in search of healing.
These past months of writing has liberated me and I have discovered a peace that I hadn’t experienced for as long as I can remember.
I was not only on my way to recovery but I hoped it would take me back to a place I call normal or at least the way it was.
It was working beautifully with my muse working overtime keeping me creatively inspired, each word keyed at the speed of thought, each paragraph edited simply enough to be readable, and spell-check at my beck and call. The wall I had systematically built around my heart was being torn down piece by piece, word by word.
I knew within that I had to finish the ‘book’, as I would refer to telling my story. It had a beginning and therefore it had to have an ending. To me it seemed simple, the ending was becoming a survivor, someone who passed the test and came out the other end beaten and battered but alive.
I had this feeling inside that my job would be complete and I could get back to ‘normal’ when I finished the ‘book’. I just needed to keep writing until there was nothing more to say.
Then the unthinkable happened. I couldn’t finish another paragraph if my life depended on it. It was taking me longer to come up with ideas for my story and unfinished posts were starting to gather dust. I had hit ‘writers block’ at full force. My muse decides to go on holidays. My fingers were developing cob webs and my mind was drifting back into the old ‘normal’.
I needed to take a deep breath and figure this thing out. It was not time to raise the white flag of surrender. There was a reason that I was becoming stagnant and I refused to believe it was just ‘writers block’.
I wasn’t going to try to write another word until I understood what it was that was blocking me.
It’s been several days now since writing the above. I had to take a ‘time out’ to sort out my thoughts. I had to come to terms with something that was holding me back but I wasn’t sure what it was. There was no use in waiting for my muse to come back off of holidays, she wasn’t coming back until I addressed the elephant that was in the room.
Up until this post I had been operating under the impression that surviving the death of a loved one was the main goal, it wasn’t. Then I proclaimed that I was no longer a victim of suicide and not longer trying to survive. Let the world know that I am as survivor. I have reached the summit. I can get back to living my life as a normal human being. I am healed.
So why the ‘all of a sudden’, I can’t put two words together to make a sentence. I wasn’t going to budge until I got an answer and I believe I have. The mental block was only there to slow me down, actually stop me in my tracks. I had come to a crossroads, not in my writing but my life. If I thought that being a survivor of the loss of a loved one was the ultimate goal, I was way off base. It was never meant to be the goal, only a marker in the next step of my life.
I had a decision to make. Accept my new label of survivor as the be all and end all, try to reconstruct my life and get back to normal or take the next step. I had to come to grips with the fact that this journey will never end no matter how many mountains I climb. What I discovered about myself was a little scary but exciting and exhilarating at the same time.
I realized that I would never be content, happy or even at peace with myself unless I continued to move forward, which meant leaving my old life behind and anything that would hold me back including any excess baggage that I needed to leave behind to move forward.
I had worked very hard over the past years to eliminate the intense grief, guilt, confusion, anger, blame and all the other emotions and labels associated with suicide. Now it was time to give my Aaron a hug and let him go, not for his sake but for mine and those around me.
By continuing to hold onto the past I am effectively making the future non-existent. I know deep down inside Aaron would want that too. He would want the best for me. He doesn’t expect me to sit around and mourn his life as though by allowing myself to move on completely would be nothing short of being a traitor to him, my son.
He would want me to take all the valuable experiences and lessons of life I have accumulated over the last years and turn them into something useful, for others.
But in order to do that there is a price to pay, there is a very important decision that has to be made. I have to let go of the past, I have to forsake what I have been holding onto these past years. I need to let Aaron go so I can move forward. As simple as that.
He is already where he is meant to be. But my desire to keep him alive in my mind and heart, his memories fresh and at my fingertips will not hold him back but keep me from moving forward.
Surviving is not enough, leaving my old life behind is the next step in this wonderful journey that has been given me.
Today, I have made my choice.
One of my first lessons on life after Aaron’s death was a simple one. That life goes on…with or without us. We can choose to get off the merry-go-round called life or we can continue to live our lives even though at times we feel like robots just going through the motions without emotion, desire or the will to live.
Eventually I had to go back to work. I was diving my work van down the highway when I noticed smoke coming up from under the hood, the temperature gauge went from normal to high in a matter of seconds. My water pump broke and I was stranded on the side of the road with the traffic passing by at high speeds not giving me the time of day. I was just a passing blip on their radar.
I had this feeling when I went back to work that somehow, God in his infinite wisdom and understanding of my delicate emotional turmoil that He was going to make things somewhat easier on me. You know, slowly let me find my way back into the everyday life of normal.
At first I was a little discouraged. I mean, come on God, I just went through a traumatic situation and my heart is very tender and sensitive and now this happens as soon as I try to get back to being normal? I would have thought a little understanding would be apropos under the circumstances.
He did understand, a jolt back to normal was what I needed. I had a decision to make, get back on that merry-go-round we call life or purposely digress from the life I was meant to live.
Oh, how tempted I was to leave my van sitting on the side of the road, walk toward the sunset shedding my clothes along the way and never return. But that was not meant to be. Wake up man, bills had to be paid, kids had to be cared for, a wife needed love more than ever.
It wasn’t the answer I was hoping for but that’ll do me, a wake up call that life was going on with or without me. As much as I didn’t really care either way at the time, I knew I had to make an effort to be alive inside.
Not long after, some well-meaning friends took us out to dinner. During the meal one of our friends looks over to the other and says, “they seem to be handling things quite well considering the what they have been through”. Hello? We’re sitting right across from you, we can hear you. I didn’t give the comment much thought at the time although I was happy to know that we passed a test.
But I realize now, the way my wife and I passed that test in that restaurant was part of getting back to normal. Act happy even if you don’t feel like it, enjoy your food even if you can’t taste it, interact like you are genuinely pleased to be with someone even if you feel like going home and crawling into bed, think about the feelings of other knowing you have no feeling yourself.
To me that was the key to my sanity. Like the old saying goes, act like your happy and you will eventually feel like your happy. Act like you have no pain and eventually you will feel no pain.
Those lessons were invaluable to me. I was never going to get a furlough on life’s daily challenges. In retrospect those challenges came fast and furious and the grieving and all other emotions associated with the loss of my dear son would have to be dealt with in private or on my own time.
After all I had my own life to live and life will go on with or without me.
In the beginning stages of my journey I had developed some bad habits. Fear was at the top of the list. Fear that I would lose another son or daughter to suicide. I starting monitoring some of their movements with the precision of a tracking device. Watching their every move, their every word, the tone in which they spoke, their attitude. I questioned everything, where are you going, who are you going with, when will you be back, how long will you be out, what is so and so like, where does she live.
They were teenagers for God’s sake. Their alter egos were all over the place, it was impossible to track them all. With all good intention I tried to nip the problem in the bud, confront what could only be described as normal teenage behavior that sent alarm bells ringing in my head.
I was on a mission to stop the next suicide attempt in my family at any cost. I was out of control. I started using strong-arm tactics and I am embarrassed by my actions, and downright horrified because it could have caused some serious damage in their young minds.
When I believed that those I was closely monitoring were moving out of the sphere of my comfort zone I would say to them, “I lost one child already, I am not going to lose you too”. I was so fearful of losing another I was willing to say anything and the sad part about all this was that I believed it. Fear turned to hysteria. Now I may be over emphasizing my actual actions but that is how I felt inside. I was terrified to lose another and willing to do what I thought was within the framework of my parenting responsibilities.
My kids were as affected if not more by Aaron’s death and here I was putting unfair pressure on their lives because I was fearful for their well-being.
One day I had a wake up call. When one of my teenage daughters was acting out and I gave her my, “I don’t want to lose another child” bit. She retaliated by giving me a well deserved verbal slap on the face. She said, “dad, not everything is about you”. I froze. She was right. I had made losing Aaron about me. I took it personal
That dressing down was the best thing that could have happened to me. I thank God for my kids, they are so forgiving.
Fear was the reason I acted the way I did but guilt was the driving force that lead me to the fear.
Unfortunately guilt comes with the territory of having a loved one take his or her life. We can feed it with fear or we can learn to keep it in its place. It’s there ready to pop it head up and devour us if we let it or we can allow the process to run its course and let guilt naturally fade from our lives.
I am a different person these days. Time and the desire to continue my journey no matter the obstacles brought me to higher ground.
The day the guilt vanished was the day I became a survivor. The day I saw my self as a survivor was the day I stopped being a victim.
If we continue to carry the guilt with us we will never be able to understand what we are fighting for. We are fighting for the survival of our lives, to be able to continue to function in a world that has turned upside down on us.
Guilt carried long enough, will make us believe that we are responsible for the death of our loved one. That is when we play the victim.
I played the victim for too long, I carried the guilt around all these years privately blaming myself for my son’s death.
My guilt and victim tag vanished in one day when I proclaimed to the world;
I am not the victim here, I am a survivor.
Its two in the morning Rhonda’s phone beeps, a text has been sent. She turns on the light, grabs her glasses and reads the message half asleep. One of the kids asking if she was doing anything. If not could she pick him up from the city as he has no other way home.
My dear wife works twelve-hour days and to say she is tired at night when she crawls into bed is an understatement. Without missing a beat she texts back, “tell me where you are, I’m on my way.” She jumps out of bed gets dressed, grabs her bag and heads for the door in her pajamas.
Me with my eyes closed can picture her every move. This scene has played itself out a hundred times.
“May I remind you” I say, my eyes still glued shut, “that before he went out you told him he needs to find his own way home. You don’t have to do this”. .
“Yes I do” she says.
“Because I can, because I’m a mother, because that’s what I do.”
“Ok, you win, drive safe…..”.
Rhonda takes pride in being a mother, she loves it and she relishes the daily mundane challenges each child presents.
Broken arms, severe burns, heartbreak, bullying at school, low grades, health issues, sibling wars, police matters, teenagers, the list goes on.
Rhonda is right in the midst of it at all times, always ready to fix any problem big or small. She may not have all the answers but you can be sure she will go about finding someone who does.
One morning while having a cup of coffee together,(not many days after Aaron’s death), we were caught up in our own thoughts enjoying one of those special moments without having to speak. We were still in the “what on God’s good earth just happened to us” state of confusion.
We were understandably having a hard time accepting Aaron was no longer with us, that he would never show up unannounced anymore, that we would never see him again at a family gathering was difficult coming to terms with.
Breaking our silence Rhonda blurted out, “you can’t fix dead”.
She looked over at me to see if I had heard what she said, I did and I looked at her for an explanation.
She said, “you know, I have this philosophy in life that as long as there is a pulse,there is life and where there is life there is hope. When we have hope I have the belief that if there is a problem or one of our kids needs fixing it can be done. But you can’t fix dead. Aaron can’t be fixed anymore.”
We went back to sipping our coffee giving more attention to our own thoughts.
From time to time when we hear of a suicide our hearts go out to the survivors, the loved ones left behind. We understand the unwanted journey that each one must travel. We would look at each other and sigh, sometimes one of us would say, ” “you can’t fix dead”.
Now it impresses us even more that we can and should try even harder to fix those who still have a pulse.
For better understanding you may want to read About This Blog first.
When Rhonda called from the police station with the news about Aaron’s death I wasn’t surprised. A father’s intuition.
When I hung up the phone I gave it a few minutes to sink in. I wanted to start making phone calls to the kids and break the news but first things first.
I went to the front door, opened it, stuck my head out and looked up toward the heavens. It was dark by this time and no one around to witness my outburst.
I screamed at God, then gave Jesus a what for. What I said is not printable and I wouldn’t want to repeat it even if it was.
I didn’t want to fall victim to His come back so I quickly ducked back inside for safety. Yeah, right, like running in the house would protect me anyway.
My outburst lasted no more than a fraction of a second. I was so ashamed of myself but I just felt I needed someone to be mad at and more importantly, blame.
I was mad at God for letting it happen, for not stopping Aaron and for just being so inconsiderate of how it was going to affect me and my family.
Hate is a strong word but it is the only one to describe my feelings toward God at this time.
But sanity prevailed. I needed to pick on someone my own size or better yet another human.
That little outburst at least got the anger part out of my system for the time being. It was replaced by a myriad of emotions from heartache, confusion, guilt and sadness.
Anger would have its chance to surface again but not now.
Somehow I made it through the next week, the funeral, family and friends and going back to work.
Anger was always close at hand, just simmering wanting to find a way to the surface. I felt more and more compelled to find someone I could hold responsible for this tragedy in my life to feed my anger.
It was time to play the blame game.
God got a free pass for obvious reasons, although there are still a few questions I’d like to ask Him but that will have to wait for another time.
I started with the prime suspect, me.
I would look in the bathroom mirror and stare.
“It’s all your fault” I said.
I needed to be more convincing.
“IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT”,I screamed my head so as not to draw attention.
One more time I thought just to get the point across.
“ITS ALL YOUR FAULT” emphasizing each word as I said it.
With the finger firmly pointed in my direction it was time to tell me why it is my fault. Blame has to have a good reason.
- You’re a lousy father. (yeah good one)
- God is punishing you for your secret sins (no argument there)
- If you weren’t so caught up in your own world you could have done something to stop it. (ouch, below the belt)
I beat the crap out of myself on a regular basis.
But I wasn’t going to take all the blame, no sir. I was going to share the misery around a bit.
My dear wife was on my radar. She not only had to fight her own personal demons and battles but she also had no choice but to fight with me on mine.
If I was willing to take the blame because I was a bad father then she had to fess up to her part in the crime.
Over the course of time, I would bring up how I felt we as parents failed Aaron. We had to come clean and acknowledge what lousy parents we have been.
It would start off as a normal discussion about a seemingly innocuous topic. When she wasn’t seeing it I upped the volume until I was in a screaming match. Blame with anger, it never fails to get a rise.
It always ended in my dear sweet wife crying but God bless her, she never gave in. She knew she was a good mum to her kids and did the best she knew how. She thought if that wasn’t good enough then so be it but she wasn’t going to take the blame for Aaron’s death.
After many rounds in the ring I threw in the white towel of surrender. She was right, I was wrong.
I turned my attention to the one person who I could make the blame stick. Aaron himself.
I got so mad at him on so many occasions I thought my head was going to explode. After all he was the one who did it to himself.
I have his picture, a small three by five in a nice little frame sitting next to my computer. Over the years we have had many conversations. One way I might add as he never spoke back. Not yet anyway.
There were times I was so upset at him I would put his picture face down, like sending him to his room for being naughty. If I was really mad at him I put his photo in the bedside table drawer. I wouldn’t let him out until I forgave him.
I even remember telling him one day in the midst of one of my blame sessions.
“When I get to heaven young man I’m going to give your the biggest hug you could ever imagine, then I’m going to kick your ass”.
The good news is; I don’t get mad at God anymore. He forgave me. I don’t get mad at my dear wife anymore, I forgave myself. I don’t get mad at Aaron any more. I forgave him.
And I don’t get mad at myself anymore because I stopped playing the blame game. Not that I don’t want to from time to time, but now I know its not good for me.
For better understanding you may want to read About This Blog first.
At the time of Aaron’s death I was working as a mail contractor for Australia Post picking up mail from the post offices and delivering them to the mail center for sorting.
My last run of the day started at the southern tip of the city. On any given day of the week this time of day starts a build up of traffic as commuters rush home.
Friday afternoons are worse as everyone seems to be knocking off early to get a jump on traffic.
But this was a Tuesday so something was wrong. Road works? Traffic accident?
While loading my van with the day’s mail at my first Post Office stop, I was approached by one of the staff,
“if your travelling south you will have a hard time getting anywhere” she said.
“No, I’m going north, why is that”? I queried
“Some idiot decided to walk in front of a truck and kill himself. You would think that if he was going to off himself he could have done it some other way so as not to inconvenience others. ”
Normally I would have come back with a snide remark or a smirk and nod of the head in agreement,I would say something that put us on the same page. Suicide was not high on my list of showing any understanding or compassion.
But I had a really bad feeling. I thought it might have been Aaron. My heart sunk and my stomach turned into knots.
I gave a weak reply and got out of there as quick as I could.
Rhonda had been in contact with Aaron on a daily basis for the past week as he had been meeting with her about certain things in his life. So when she couldn’t get a hold of him that day my worry gene took over.
I was concerned all day but not frantic. Lisa ( his older sister, he worked in her cafe) told Rhonda she spoke to him in the morning and he was in good spirits, he just moved into a new apartment and seemed to be OK.
Winding back to the mail center was like a death march. It seemed like an eternity trying to get home that evening.
The house was quiet and all seemed normal. I took a deep breath as I started to relax.
Rhonda was still at work.
Before I could settle in Rhonda phoned.
“Hi, I’m at the police station. Are you sitting down? I’ve got some bad news.”
Why do people ask that, is it just something that we get from cop shows on TV? Does sitting down better prepare you for bad news, are they afraid you may faint and hit your head?
“Aaron is dead, he was hit by a truck and died instantly”.
My worst fear has just become a reality.
And no I wasn’t sitting down.
Rhonda told me the police contacted her at work. They got her number from Aaron’s phone. They asked her to come into the police station. It was a few minutes walk from her work.
“The police are bringing me home as they don’t want me driving, I’ll see you soon. I love you” she said
I was waiting for her on the front lawn.
When the police car drove up and dropped Rhonda off, she thanked them as they drove away.
We hugged, held hands, looked into each others eyes without word. I took a deep breath as walked toward the house.
This was the beginning of the worst day of my life.
For better understanding you may want to read About This Blog first.
When we received Aaron’s death certificate it read “cause of death undetermined” meaning the coroner had not completed his findings on the cause of death. More than a month later I got a call from the coroner who wanted to fill me in of what he knew and to ask a few questions so he could complete his report.
He told me that there was no alcohol or drugs in Aaron’s system and then proceeded to ask some questions about his mental health and lifestyle etc. My answers were guarded, I think because I have a tendency to distrust strangers about my personal life and that of my family. It’s not that I was trying to evade his questions although I must confess I wasn’t making it easy for him to get a straight answer out of me.
He then asked if there was anyone else in the family who he could speak to that could shed some light on Aaron’s background. I directed him to my eldest daughter Lisa, who was most involved with Aaron at the time as he working in her cafe.
The next day Lisa calls and mentions her conversation with the coroner and how he felt that I was “in denial”. OK, fair enough but denial over what?
I knew that Aaron died. I knew that he walked in front of a speeding truck. I knew he would never be coming home. I knew he took his own life, I knew he would never be at another Christmas dinner or family function. So what was I in denial about?
It’s not like I was going to bed at night, reaching over and kissing my wife goodnight then say, “let’s get some sleep, I want to get up early so I can put the coffee on for Aaron when he comes home.”
No, I knew exactly what was going on.
There was obviously so many things I was confused about and didn’t understand but being in denial was not one of those things.
In saying that I must give the coroner the benefit of the doubt because delving into my memory bank I must confess he may have a case for “denial”,
The only person who knew about my loss from my work place as a mail contractor was my immediate boss. I never said a word to any of my work colleagues about my son’s death. I didn’t want any undue attention, I didn’t want any one to feel awkward around me. I am a very private person and I wanted to keep it that way.
The Christmas before April 2008 our dear kids all pitched in and gave my wife and myself Air Tickets and organized accommodation so we could go back to my home town in the United States for a holiday. I hadn’t been back for nearly forty years so it was a very special gift. We already had our tickets booked for June 2008. Two months after Aaron’s death.
We had considered postponing the trip as we knew we would still be quit raw emotionally. We were encouraged to continue with our plans as apparently it would be good for us to get away.
I asked Rhonda before we left for the states if it would be okay if we could not mention that Aaron took his own life.
My sister is my only living close relative along with her two grown married children. We spent most of our time with her. Of course she knew of the tragedy as it happened but I never told her that he intentionally walked in front of a truck.
Why? Because I was ashamed that one of my kids would do what I thought was an unthinkable selfish act. My pride got in the way and I refused at the time to allow myself to talk about it. I was confused and ashamed. Not in denial. I knew exactly what I was doing by not revealing the whole truth.
Was I confused? Absolutely.
Were there unanswered questions. You bet.
Was it a touchy subject for me? No doubt.
Was I in Denial? Not a chance.
But, and just maybe there could have been one small incident that could be interpreted and possibly sway the pendulum toward self-denial.
The week I went back to work after the funeral I was sitting in my van preparing to make a delivery at a shopping center. My eyes lifted just as a young man passed by. I didn’t see his face but from behind he looked and walked like Aaron.
I was miffed, could that be him? I had to see his face. I don’t know what I was thinking. Getting out of my van I followed the poor guy and I was off for my first ever stalking adventure. My short legs were having a hard time keeping up with this guy so I had to put on the after burners to get far enough in front of him to see his face.
Out of breath and far enough in front I did a stop and turn all in one motion like I was lost. I got a good look at this guy who looked nothing like my son. I felt pretty silly but not foolish enough to think if even for a moment that maybe, just maybe I was in a bad dream or worse, someone was playing a bad joke on me.
I will confess that for that brief moment and only the one time I may have been, just maybe “in-denial”.