Dear September 18th 2011 Adam,
There is no way to sugarcoat what I am about to tell you. It will be hard to read but you must. You must.
Your son—our son—is going to die in five days’ time.
You don’t know me but I know you. You see, we used to be the same, you and I. I used to BE you and you used to be me. We were one in the same at one time, one personality built of many memories both good and bad. But what happens tomorrow will fracture us, will tear us in two. The hardest part about this letter is that you don’t know anything about me yet. Sure, you may spot identical features in the mirror but upon further inspection you will find that you and I are anything but alike. If you saw me now you would have a hard time recognizing yourself—two and a half years of what you will go through will do that to you.
I envy you with your naivety and overwhelming confidence that everything will turn out alright. Where you get this from I can’t remember—it’s been too long ago. You will hold onto this sentiment until Friday, September 23rd when everything will change. Our son will die in our arms amidst the beeps and flashes of hospital monitors, amidst the nauseating smell of hospital sterility, and wet from our tears. He will look beautiful, for he is beautiful and we will say we are sorry for failing him.
You are close to ripping up this letter and for that I can’t blame you. The death of your life as you know it cannot be easy to read but this message must be delivered. I won’t call this a warning but more of a guiding hand from someone who has been on the journey you will now embark upon. At no time will you want to be on this voyage and at times you will curse the heavens for putting you on it. But there is no exit from its turbulent seas and the only thing we can do is accept the heartbreak in our life because we will have no choice.
So I have put together a list of sorts for you, answers to the three most resounding questions you will ask yourself in the next few days, months, and years—
- Will it ever get any easier?—to put it bluntly, no. The weight of losing a child never gets lighter. It will be as if you’ve put on a 50 pound weight vest and asked to run the rest of the marathon of life with it attached to your shoulders. Each hill or obstacle in your journey will become more difficult. Each stress you encounter, no matter how small, will be more poignant because you’re not full strength. The sooner you accept that you will never be full strength, the better. But what you will find is that you become used to the person you are WITH the pain. The pain never lessens but you will find ways to function in spite of it.
- Why did this happen to me?—none of us make it through this life unscathed. We all have burdens to bear, baggage that is as unique as our fingerprint. Some of us pick it up along the way, others of us inherit our troubles like a farm in disrepute handed down through inheritance. But then there are some of us that inflict the pain upon ourselves. We drew a bad number—it’s as simple as that. It isn’t fair. You will try to make sense of it but losing a son is just too difficult to make yourself understand. Your biggest challenge will be to keep from inflicting additional anguish on yourself.
- Will people understand?—no. And I will say that again for emphasis—NO, they will not understand. There will be times when you will tell them how you feel and why only to hear “move on” or “everything happens for a reason” or “someday you will understand” in return. They won’t understand that for a grieving parent there is NO good reason for your child’s death. You will beat your head against the wall with the hope and expectation that others might care. But if the past two and half years have taught me anything it’s that people lose patience with the bereaved easily. They will try to understand what you’re going through but when they can’t it will feel as if they’ve stopped attempting it altogether. It will be up to you to find peace within yourself.
Perhaps that’s why you and I will fight so often over the next few years. It’s a fight between remembering how you used to be and facing the man you don’t want to be now—someone you had no choice in becoming. You and I will have no choice. We will fight. But neither one of us will win.
With your emotions raw, you will expect others to do as you would do but I have the benefit of time to know better. This journey will hurt you, it will frustrate you, and it will only leave you with a different version of yourself. There are some days you will actually feel stronger knowing you’ve touched the basement of hell and lived to tell about it. But every single day you will know that you’ll never be the same.
March 27, 2014