In Memory of my son ~ Gone Too Soon
August 21, 1974 ~ August 11, 2005
“There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”
Like many of you who have lost a child, after losing my son to suicide I felt stuck in a place of sadness where there are no pleasant memories. It took years for this story to surface in my mind. I share it to encourage you. If my life is a worthy example, mirth will likely bubble up eventually like it did for me; however, by no means will I ever forget my precious firstborn son. No matter where we are in our grief journeys today, we can expect to go through highs and lows throughout the rest of our lives. Change is inevitable, even in grief.
I walked the yard this evening, picking up broken limbs from the recent wind and rain. The muggy air reminded me of another evening some years before. I choose to share a story with you which, surprisingly, takes me to a time when laughter was out of place. If you think our actions were inappropriate I might be inclined to agree except . . . I was there.
Our house was bulging at the seams with people from both sides of the family. It was the first such gathering since our wedding many years before; however, I hated the reason for this gathering. Every fiber of my being rebelled at its necessity. The reason? A funeral would be taking place. Our firstborn son, Greg, had succumbed to his pain by taking his life.
Vehicles arrived and packed the driveway. As more people came cars spilled onto the lawn. Although grateful for the outpouring of love I was in overload by the sheer volume of humanity. People gathered in little groups here and there, upstairs and down, getting introduced or reacquainted while I wanted to run and hide for the rest of my life.
It was typical late summer weather with hot temperatures matched by high humidity. The AC was working overtime trying to keep everyone comfortable. As the sun dropped in the western sky the temperature dropped just enough to make the outdoors a bit more inviting. The young people were drawn to the backyard, setting up lawn chairs in a circle. No doubt they wanted to put some much-desired space between themselves and the “old people” in the house. As all of us have likely experienced “the young and the restless” aren’t likely to wear sad faces for very long. Soon they are looking around for something to do besides sit and talk, even something fun. Who could blame them? Naturally, I hadn’t planned anything for them. After all, this trip was out of necessity, not pleasure. The family members who took over the kitchen saw that the kids got fed, but beyond that, they were on their own.
Taking a shortcut to the backyard through the garage, my step-son spied a super soaker water gun on top of my firstborn’s things. Retracing his steps he retrieved it. Grinning, he showed it to me. With my smile of approval, he promptly took it to the faucet for filling. No exchange of words, but, I knew his target would be the gang relaxing in the backyard. In the semi-darkness, it would be easy to creep up on the unsuspecting. My sisters, niece, and I hid behind bushes at the corner of the house where we were close enough to watch but well out of the way should the “circle” suddenly explode.
My stepson stealthily approached, keeping to the shadows until he got within firing range. Then whoosh . . . he shot a stream of water in the direction of the chatter. The kids jumped up and chairs toppled backward. My youngest son and nephews headed for garden hoses and buckets. A water war was on! We ladies filled buckets, supplying “ammo” for either side in an attempt to stay neutral . . . and dry. Water hoses could stretch only so far so the big guys were carrying buckets brimming with water which they enthusiastically dumped over the heads of kids who ventured into their line of fire. For a brief period of time, we were shrieking, laughing, and having a ball.
Our closest neighbors knew why our “parking lot” was full. Maybe the whooping and hollering sounded disrespectful, but for a moment or two, I could set aside the heaviness of grief and take a brief respite from the unbearable pain. This break was special and created a “dripping” memory in the midst of such deep sorrow.
I had not thought of the super-soaker incident in years. I was too sad to plan activities for the kids at the time. Their wants were the farthest thing from my mind. Yet, when the opportunity presented itself it seemed quite natural to embrace it. Like his maternal relatives before him, Greg had loved a good practical joke. He would’ve been right in the thick of it, laughing his head off. Oh, how I miss his robust laugh!
I imagine that you have stored memories that will eventually surface to bring a smile to your face. Give it time. When they do surface and it’s appropriate, will you please share them? Laughter lightens the emotional load of us all.
There is little that separates our emotional highs and lows. My memory is an example of spontaneous grief relief, plain and simple. It allowed my heart to briefly escape the agony of overwhelming pain before the seriousness of sorrow quickly overtook me once again. After all, our reality is only a thought away.
Those who think grief has a time limit are mistaken. If you have lost a piece of your heart you know that there is no itinerary. No timetable. No judgment. Grief is as individual as a snowflake or fingerprint. Just breathe, and do what feels right for your soul.
Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but when the laughter ends, the grief remains. Proverbs 14:13
Scripture from New Living Translation (NLT)
Quote by Erma Bombeck, Brainy Quote