The Swift Goodbye

 ~ Sorrows come to stretch our places in the heart for joy. ~ Markham

_DSC4790 - Candle on log

In Honor of My Son ~ Gone Too Soon

August 21, 1974 ~ August 11, 2005

Nancy Reagan died in March, 2016 at the age of 94. She outlived her President husband by 12 years. Now she is buried beside the man she adored for 52 years. During the twilight of their lives, “Ronnie” became ill with Alzheimer’s disease. Nancy took care of him, as his mind slowly faded. The former First Lady called it “the long, slow goodbye”. I understand that statement. It is aptly named. My mother lost herself in the same disease. It slowly took her mind and shriveled her body. All the while my dad lovingly cared for her until her death 18 years later.

It was sad to lose first my mom and then my dad five years later in 2001. It was sadder still to lose my firstborn son to suicide four years after my dad died. Thinking about Ms. Reagan’s description of her husband’s slow fade from life, I felt the opposite was true with the death of my son. For me his death was more like “the swift goodbye.”

It’s been over ten years since my son died. Years of reflection have afforded some charity, however there will always be questions without answers. One comes to mind out of the pain of ongoing grief: “couldn’t I have done that?” Meaning, couldn’t I have done all those final tasks to honor my son which others did in my place? At the time total exhaustion required many helping hands, and I will always be grateful for them. It’s now, after years have gone by, that my hands ache to do more than put flowers on my son’s grave. Readers can tell that this is very personal for me, but I share it with you in case you, too, find your reflections fraught with questions. One should be allowed the freedom to ask them, even if only in the quiet of one’s mine, don’t you agree?

After the sudden, shocking death of my son, I remember feeling so rushed. If I had a choice, I would have preferred to slow the process down, so that my mind could attempt to catch up, (which, of course, IS impossible). It happened as if I was living in a blur and out of focus. Someone alerted my other children. I don’t even know who called them. I think now, couldn’t I have done that? Perhaps someone thought they were “sparing” me added grief. Why spare me? There is absolutely nothing from which one can be spared after death by suicide.

From a safe distance now I look back at the rush of activity which followed my son’s death and think, I would have preferred to be involved in every scene, every decision no matter how miniscule, for each was important. I was present in every scene at his birth, so why not at his death? I was notified of his passing, but not summoned to identify him. I have no recollection as to why not. Was it because I didn’t think to ask? People hurried us here and there to make decisions while we were dazed and shocked to the marrow. We agreed to arrangements no parent should ever have to make. We signed documents no parent should ever have to sign.

I don’t remember putting any thought into selecting his casket . . .  having never shopped for one before. (Is one supposed to shop for such a thing?) I have only a vague memory of that awful display room. I probably pointed at one through eyes brimming with tears, and hurried back out of there. Thoughtful friends offered to buy my son’s burial clothes. I agreed at the time. Years later I think, couldn’t I have done that?

It seemed like an eternity before we were allowed to see him at the mortuary. I had been praying, “God, if possible, please let it not be my son.” Unfortunately, there was no denying that this young man, with his short, sandy hair, fine handsome features, and beautiful hands, was mine. This man-child was once a bitty “bump” in my belly. This man-child, from the first tiny flutter, had my heart. Nothing bad could ever separate us. Isn’t that the hope of every parent?

Even though I am forced to accept my son’s death, I still love him with all my heart. I could never stop loving the baby I struggled to bring into this world ~ my mind already filled with the hopes and dreams I planned for him. May I never forget each detail, each nuance, each memory of him, all tucked inside my heart. Although I rage against it, somehow I must accept that this is all I have left of him . . . for now.

It seemed to me that there was little time allowed for closure before the final service. Why the rush? Does death have an expiration date? There is no prior planning like one may do for aging parents. Losing one’s child to suicide is shocking, numbing, and so brutally final. Preparations were made quickly and plans finalized. Now I look back and wonder, could I have requested that we slow it down a bit? Why the rush? I would have the rest of my life to process, grieve, and reflect.

All that remained of our sad, swift goodbye was to lower the heavy lid, and shut out daylight forever from the light of my life. Again, why the rush? Could I have asked everyone to leave, so that I could be alone with my son? Perhaps I could have eased into the shock of it all if I had been allowed to sit by him a little longer, touching him, studying his features, and crying more buckets of tears.

Would I have been allowed to stay until I was ready to leave? I doubt it, but I never thought to ask. Perhaps such a request would have been considered irrational behavior. We grievers are easily labeled by those who don’t have any personal experience with losing a child. I know the mortuary personnel were just doing their jobs. For them most funerals are business as usual. Naturally they want to close up and go home, but my heart was screaming, I’m not ready to leave! Can’t I stay by my son just one night? I can’t bear to part with him yet!

I know I will see this man-child again one day. He will look just like I remember him when he was alive, only better. We will squeeze the stuffins’ out of each other in a giant embrace. He will smile his awesome smile again. He will throw back his head and laugh for the sheer joy of being together again, forever this time, and forever free of pain. What a reunion it will be!

God will take away all their tears. There will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All the old things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

Verse from the New Life Version (NLV)

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8 thoughts on “The Swift Goodbye

  1. I could identify with all of this Gracie…My son Mark has been gone 7 1/2 yrs. now..and once the fog in my mind began to lift, I’ve thought all of the same things–and wished I had much more presence of mind, to make those last decisions for my son. I was pretty involved in the decision making–my husband was pretty much catatonic after our son passed. But I still regret not doing so many things. And especially not asking everyone to leave so I could spend time alone with my youngest child, my only son. We don’t get a “do-over.” And we wouldn’t really want one. But there’s a part of me that if given the chance, would make different decisions–even though the outcome wouldn’t change. I long for the day I’m with my son again. Where can I find your Facebook page please? Thank you, and God bless you!!

    • Hi Nancy, Thank you for your thoughts, running in a similar vein, and no, we wouldn’t want a do-over. I think it takes years before reflection becomes important, at least so for me. I am so sorry you lost your precious son. It is so hard and my heart feels your pain. Since I have received your comment (write often!) I assume you have been on my blog: hopeispossible.wordpress.com. I don’t have a website, but I have an author page on Facebook: healingaftersuicide @ thereishopeaftersuicide. I post there every two weeks and also on grief sites. Hopefully you can find me. If you wish to correspond via my private email, you may at: impossiblejoy@yahoo.com. God urged me to journal to Him. Long story short, which led to 2 books you can see on my author page which links to Amazon if you are interested. I am not a sales person, just another hurting mom and I know how my heart ached to read something I could relate to. I hope to hear from you again, Nancy. Blessings, Gracie

  2. “Couldn’t I have done that?” The real answer is no, at least not on that day. On that day, you needed those other people to do those things for you. On that day, it was their gift of love to you to share in the doing of things. They were not sparing you, they would doing what they could when you could not.

    Be gentle with yourself.

    • You are right and I continue to be most grateful. To me, the questions came from a deep place where pain from loss lives. In fact, it thrives there, giving me continued thoughts to process years later. Only in a non-existent world would I be able to do those things I said I wished I could have done in hindsight. It’s all about purging the pain; reaching others in pain as we walk this journey together. Blessings, Gracie

    • Oh Jacki, I am so sorry for your loss! I think I remember year 2. It is a bit easier now, at year 11. No less painful. He is still missed so much, as I know yours is, too. Share as much or as little any time you like. You can also send me an email (impossiblejoy@yahoo.com). It is private. I have been writing stories and sharing with Facebook for four years now. It helps me to pull out pain and share it, hoping that others in sorrow, will be blessed. You may explore the archives for other posts that appeal to you. Blessings, my friend. I will drop back and journey with you. Gracie

  3. I am so very sorry for the loss of your precious son. Know one no matter how a child dies should have to go through this loss. I lost a 20 year old daughter in a car accident and I know how horribly painful that was, still is, almost 19 years later. I have run a support group now for over 17 years and I have come to realize that know matter what age or how your child dies, the pain is the same, we just all express it differently. I also know that their tends to a be an added grief when a child takes their own life, but please know that you are in know way responsible for your sons passing. His pain at the time no matter what it was, was too hard for him to understand how to deal with it. Like you said, You will be together again and the only thing that will matter then, is the huge hug you will both give each other.
    God Bless,
    Diane

    • Dear Diane, I am grateful for your words of encouragement. Those of us who are able to give back, as you are doing, are blessed in some way, don’t you agree? I am so sorry for the loss of your precious daughter. No matter the number of years, we still feel the pain. You will get to see her again and I suspect that we will instantly forget all the sorrow when we see their radiant smiles. Blessings to you, my friend. Write again. Gracie

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