My favorite music is country music. Most of the time, if I am listening to music, that’s the station I have on….Country. Some how, there’s always a song that will go along with any mood. Yes, I know all the silly comments about country music and dogs and wives, etc. etc. I know it’s not the most popular genre of music, but it’s my favorite.
Anywho, there’s a song by an artist that was pretty popular when I was growing up…..
Tell Me I Was Dreaming by Travis Tritt
That tends to fit my life for the last almost five months. When I heard about my son, I wanted to believe it was a dream…..and I still wish it was. Every single day.
So, with that said, please tell me I have been in the middle of a nightmare for the last five months and please wake me up.
I know. I know, Unfortunately, I know….there is no waking up from this nightmare.
My son is gone. Forever…..
So, if I must dream now, let them be good dreams.
I pray each night that I will dream of my Darren. Pictures of him surround me. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, he shared a hobby of mine: photography. One of my favorite photos that he took sits on my nightstand:
It’s not the best quality as it was, but definitely not as seen above. That’s a picture of the picture in a frame. To see the actual picture out of the frame is much better.
But it doesn’t matter to me. The quality of the photo doesn’t matter. What matters is that he was with his three best friends. Amigos. Buddies. Pals. Bros. No matter what you call it, it all means the same.
They stood, facing the setting sun so bright before them. And he seems to relaxed. So free.
And that’s how I want to remember him. I don’t want to think of his broken heart. I don’t want to recall the tears he shed. I don’t want to picture the sadness I seen in his eyes.
But I do. I see it all.
And my heart breaks one more time every time I see those particular memories.
Life has a way of really tossing us a lot of dirty stuff at us. Although we make our own choices, many never learn the art of take responsibility for said choices. Sadly, their mistakes are always someone else’s fault. And so life goes, always living with the shoulda, could, woulda perception because they never really understood what it meant to take responsibility. For anything. Their words. Their actions. Their selfishnesses. Their wants. Their needs, so on and so forth.
Nineteen years ago, I gave birth to a beautiful, happy, bouncy baby boy.
He weighed 8 lbs and 3 ozs (or 5 ozs). The pregnancy itself was a topsy-turvy affair. His father and I were young and selfish, mean and stubborn which caused me to be an emotional wreck the whole pregnancy. Well, that played havoc on my Picadilly as now he’s a very anxious person.
Soon enough, his father and I welcomed another little beautiful, happy, bouncy baby boy into our lives. He weighed 8 lbs and 5 ozs (or 7 ozs).
By this time, it was apparent that their father and I shouldn’t be together. We fought all the time. Yelled and screamed and cursed and called one another names. But, speaking from my own perspective, I lost any bit of self esteem that I had through that tumultuous four-year relationship. Maybe he did too and maybe he didn’t. I’m not sure, but I was sure that we didn’t need to be together. Eventually, we broke up and went our separate ways.
Through the years, he and I have made our mistakes. However, when he and I broke up, my self-esteem was so shattered, I really believed I wasn’t good enough for those two beautiful baby boys.
And if you can’t see where that’s going, then here it is: they lived with him. I really believed they deserved better than me so I believed his lies. As they got older and I matured, my self-esteem slowly healed. My heart breaks, though, because while my heart was healing and my self-esteem was growing, my ex was destroying our two children, those two beautiful baby boys who soon grew, as babies do, into toddlers and elementary children and finally into teenagers.
Just to clarify, he and I broke up fifteen years ago.
And now, even after my seventeen year old took his life because of all the heartbreak, my ex and his family continue to manipulate my nineteen year old’s mind. He and his girlfriend are about to have a baby, in November actually. We buried my son in May and will be welcoming that beautiful baby granddaughter in November.
This pregnancy has been such a beacon of hope in a world of sadness. As the grandmother, I was excited to hear the news and with excitement, ask if I could throw a baby shower. Well, through some misunderstanding in the beginning about it, we finally made it here. The baby shower is in two days.
My son’s heart is broken. It was his brother we buried almost five months ago. Just imagine, a nineteen year old carrying his seventeen year old brothers’ casket for the funeral. Yes, with honor and heartbreak, he did that. As you can imagine, the heartbreak didn’t stop there. He, like the rest of us, live with that ache in our chest that will never go away.
And now, at a moment in his life where he should be feeling the love of his family not only for the heartache that we have all endured, but also because he and his girlfriend are bringing life into the world in a time of darkness. But, he can’t feel the love because his father’s family is making him feel shitty about a baby shower in which I am hosting that they were invited to, but refuse to attend. I am not sure that his father is saying anything to him, but some people in that family are certainly making him feel like crap.
He’s asking for one day……
One day for his parents to celebrate …………
His parents to celebrate – together – one of the most precious moments in his adult life and his dad or that side of his family won’t even give him that. Through those two boys’ lives, their dad has said he’s given them everything they’ve wanted. Just about anytime they asked, they got (according to their dad), but he refuses to give this to our son. It breaks my son’s heart which breaks mine. He refuses to stop being angry at me long enough to give our only living son the only thing he or his brother ever wanted….their parents not fighting, not to be put in the middle of adult squabbling.
I always try to be positive. I always try to see the good in people. I always try to forgive others even though my heart is still breaking.
But right now, after what my ex has done to our children, I am finding forgiveness not so easy come. It’s a daily battle…….
It’s not easy to move forward even though I know I need to.
I am scared to admit when the days are easier so I don’t let myself say it out loud. I don’t ever say, “yes, my day has been good. I have felt happiness.”
Why be scared, you may wonder?
Because Darren was one of my children and he always will be. To move forward, after he’s no longer here on the life journey with us, feels like I am betraying him in some way. Also, because I’ve may have gotten comfortable with the pain of losing him and to go back to happiness feels like I am betraying him.
It’s a crazy thing that mothers feel about their children. I have spent many years as a mother trying to take advantage of every second of spare time we could all muster up trying to be involved in his life. He didn’t live with me so time was a luxury I didn’t want to give up when it came to being with he and his older brother.
But, as it stands, seventeen years was all I got so looking back, time was more of a luxury than I truly understood.
Now, as I rebuild the pieces of my life, my family’s life, that Darren’s death shattered, my new normal is living with the constant heartbreak of him not being here.
If you’ve ever lost anyone close to you, you understand how incredibly lonely it can be.
Learning to live without that person is scary and even stressful. For me, moving forward in my life makes me feel as if I am betraying my son, like I can’t live life because he doesn’t get to live life. It causes a deep-rooted fear of moving forward. Fear of forgetting him (I know it’s not possible to forget him, but the fear is real). Fear of failing to keep his memory alive. Just constant fear.
After my son took his life – yes, there is a difference, he didn’t just die, he chose to take his life – I felt even more broken than I already was. I felt weak and lost. We are all broken because none us are perfect, but at that point, when he took his life, everything was broken inside of me.
The way I viewed the world.
I’ve attended only one Mass since my son has been gone. The loss completely ravaged my calm, my beliefs, everything I was striving to achieve in my walk with the Lord. No part of me understood why my son had to leave this world, but moreso, in the manner in which he left.
I still don’t understand. I probably will never understand. I am not even sure if my heart is willing to trust and have faith in God’s plan and that is scary for me. How do I go from losing my son, trying to understand the why to accepting that he’s gone and trusting God sees the bigger picture? I fight every day to get back there, to get back that trust, to find my faith again.
As you can see, many questions have been flowing through my mind non-stop and I have yet to receive any answers…at least any answers that I can accept.
As I mentioned previously, people in church have asked about me. Friends have worried and prayed for me, for our family. But, some people have actually cornered me to ask me directly why I have not been attending Mass. To be honest, it’s my father and mother-in-law who have cornered me, put me right on the spot. So, I go into my explanation:
Prior to my son’s death I had been praying for him, as most mother’s do. I began to have some concerns about his mental state. Not that I assumed any mental illness as much as I thought depression. I voiced my concerns to him and to others I thought could help. One day before he died, I prayed for God to intervene, to help my son get through a hardship he was facing. Anywhere from four – eight hours after he died, I received the news via a sheriff and a chaplain. Time of death is unknown as the coroner didn’t take liver temperature until the next morning. One of the sheriff’s on scene found his body at 11:46 pm so that’s what the coroner put as time of death. Anyway, the point here is my son’s death was the answer I received for my prayer. I was devastated. I, in no way, could understand why God would answer me in that way. Again, I understand that God didn’t make my son decide to take his life. The devil was doing that work, but I couldn’t and still can’t understand why God wouldn’t save him. As I said, God can perform miracles, but for some reason, not with my son. Again, the devil is getting inside my head and telling me that my prayers are not good enough, that my son wasn’t good enough.
And this is why I haven’t attended Mass……
However, I recently had the opportunity to attend a Thirst Conference. Right now, I can’t explain exactly what that is other than to say it’s a day long worship service, so to speak. I mean, we didn’t attend Mass the whole day, but….anywho, much to my trepidation, I drove to the location, got out of my car and stood looking at the building for a minute. I found the courage to walk inside and I am so thankful that I did. I only made it for half the conference, but the talk sessions I made it to, were exactly what I needed to hear. I even found the courage to go to Confession which I’ve needed to do for quite some time. I did not have the courage to attend the Mass.
I am excited despite the fact I avoided Mass because I made progress.
While I the Thirst Conference the one speak who made such a difference for me was Shannon Dietz. She spoke of her journey back to God through her own trials and hardships. Hearing her speak for 30 minutes encouraged me to purchase her book, Redeemed, which is based on her struggles from childhood, her marriage, her children, and her relationship with God. I have read the book and her story has some similarities to mine. However, I can’t say that I endured her struggles. I have had to face the struggles unique to my situation.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have questions and doubts and long bouts of sadness. I still feel anger and I am having a hard time trusting my faith, but I made progress and for that I am happy. Pray for me as I continue to heal and as I slowly make my way back to God. I say slowly because I mean slowly, like totally turtle slow.
For the past four months, one week, and one day, I have not been attending Mass. Of course, if you go back those months, that week and one day, you will realize it corresponds with the day that my son took his life. In all honesty, I have avoided Mass to the point that I won’t even go in the church doors. Sadly, I stopped praying. I stopped reading Scripture and study books. I stopped writing in my journal. The whole she-bang.
For the first couple of months, I didn’t attend Mass because, like many, I questioned why God would allow such a thing to happen. Please understand, I do not blame God for what happened to my son as He does bless us (some might swing toward curse) with something we all like to have, but never really consider ourselves to be accountable for: Free Will. Again, I do not blame God for my son taking his life. To some, it may appear as such, but appearances can be deceiving.
Each painful day that passed brought more questions with no answers and still does. People whom I consider friends have been kind. Nobody has questioned my sanity, that I know of 😉 and nobody seems to be critical of my frame of mind. Of course, I’ve almost completely withdrawn myself through the process so I guess I wouldn’t really know. I try to assume the best. My husband has told me people are asking about me at church. I’m not sure what that means, but there you have it. Again, I assume it’s out of concern.
Anywho, as the days keep passing by and I stumble through the healing process keeping myself busy with my new passion, suicide prevention, I feel myself beginning to lean back toward my faith. God is slowly creeping back into my life. I say creeping not in a bad way, but in a way that implies slowly moving back into my life. I find myself……
questioning the circumstances of the last four months…..
questioning life and our existence….
And I have realized that a small part of me misses my relationship with God, but with a little fear etched in there, too. My faith is tugging at my heartstrings, but battling my pride, my confusion, my inability to really trust in God’s plan for my life. I have tried talking to friends, to family, to my husband and I keep getting the same answer, “Shannon, I don’t know the answer to that” or “Shannon, I ask the same questions, have the same doubts, but still I trust in God’s plan” or “Shannon, I can’t tell you those answers, but I do know that God loves you and loves Darren.” And of course, those answers only bring a whole new set of questions that nobody has the answers to.
Yet, my heart is still broken and my mind is still confused. How can I have faith in something and not really know or understand what it is? As I said earlier, I don’t blame God for what happened to my son, but I question Him. Why would He (the one who can perform miracles) choose not to perform a miracle in my son’s life? Through Mass, we are taught to anticipate the glory of heaven. It’s the place we all hope to get to when our time on earth ends. I often hear that Darren is way better where he is than here where he was. His pain is over. He is no longer suffering heartbreak or anything else. I should be happy that he is in a better place. But am I? Am I happier, I question? Yes, some of me is, but some of me is still being selfish and wanting him here with me.
Story to be continued, but I will leave you with this:
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. ~ John 3:16
Knowing how painful it’s been for me losing my son, why would God do that?
The other day my son had an appointment so I went to his school to pick him up. While I waited in for car for him to come out, I noticed a van pull into a driveway of the home across the street. Looking at the van, it took me back to Eighteen years ago when I worked in a paint store. The store had regular clients, clients who owned painting companies or private contracting companies. I got to know these clients pretty well, spent much time goofing off with the when they came in the store. As I watched the person inside climb out of the van, I wondered if he was one of the painters who was a regular client. He was. I spoke to him for a few minutes, but then I had to go.
Talk about going back…….
Seeing that guy that afternoon sent me back in time.
A time when I was so much younger.
A time when I thought I had a few things figured out about life.
I had my whole life ahead of me. My boyfriend and I had one child and soon enough would be welcoming our second child, Darren.
That’s where Darren began. I was nineteen years old, trying to take college courses online, and working at the paint store, Columbia Paints and Coating.
Never, not one time, did I consider this is how it would end for him. Seventeen wonderful years he was with us. It wasn’t enough……..
Every waking moment of my day he floats in and out of my mind. Sometimes, the thoughts are strong, the memories vivid. Other times, he’s there, but my day is too busy to spend a lot of time thinking about it. But on those days, when the daylight fades to dusk and everything is slowing down, he is there. My thoughts trickle to him and all the memories envelope me.
I don’t know how, nor did I want to say goodbye, but I wasn’t given a choice……
One hundred seventy-seven thousand, one hundred twenty minutes.
Ten million, six hundred twenty-seven thousand, two hundred seconds.
That’s how long you have been gone.
I have yet to really go through your things. The clothes are still in the drawer, your boxes that were yet unpacked have been into storage, but still packed, untouched.
Many people have been asking for stuff…your friends, cousins, and aunt.
Actually, one person is quite beside herself because I haven’t given her anything of yours. Sadly, in an effort to upset me, she threw in my face that she doesn’t want anything of yours because, all the sudden, it’s morbid.
As if losing a child isn’t hard enough, there has to be an extremely jealous person throwing around insults.
My emotions already feel so raw. It’s up and down the Richter scale of emotions on any given day. I can be watching TV and fine, then all of a sudden I’m in tears. Grief doesn’t care where you are, what you are doing, who you are with. Out of nowhere, the tears start flowing and my mind is overtaken with you, memories of you. I’m right back there, that early morning, hearing the banging on the door, stumbling out of bed…..
It’s like darkness engulfs me and I can feel my heart breaking. I don’t want to get out of bed. I don’t want to do whatever errands I have for the day. I don’t want to leave my room. I don’t want to do anything…..
I beg and I plead for the pain to stop. I cry and cry, willing the tears to go away. I wonder to myself and wonder out loud. My nerves are so on edge they remind me of a frayed electrical cord hanging dangerously close to a basin of water, ready to spark and electrocute…….
The questions, the doubts, the fears, the concerns, the unspoken words all plague my mind and my heart.
And the anger wells up inside me, it sits there, waiting for an outlet….so I cry some more. This is where I am thankful that school is back in session as the kids are gone all day and don’t have to see me. I am composed by the time school releases in the afternoon. As a stay home mom with not a lot of outside work to keep my mind off of what happened, school is a distraction that I am thankful for.
Jumping back to what was said to me about smelling Darren’s clothes being morbid, anyone who understands grief wouldn’t say such a thing. It’s blatantly obvious that this person is (1) very rude and careless to say something like that, (2) has no understanding of what it’s like for one of your children to……to die. I have to be honest, I stumbled over how to phrase that! But, as for this person’s understanding, I hope she can try to be understanding, and I also hope she never has to personally endure a loss like that. It is not a pain I would wish on even my worst enemy.
Regardless of all of it, the pain doesn’t seem to be lessening. I am beginning to believe that ‘time heals all’ quote is b.s……..
The night ended as chaotically as any other night. My husband and I went through the bed time ritual with the girls: wind down time, pajama time, water/bathroom/brush teeth/more water/ another bathroom visit time, arguing ensues between girls time, calming girls down time, again, prayer time, hugs/tuck-ins time, another round of fussiness (heavy eyelids and all) time and finally…..
Three little zonked out girls are tucked warm and snuggly into their beds. Afterwards, hubby and I relax in front of television until one of us goes to bed. Might be him. Might be me. Might be both of us.
Soon enough, all’s quiet in our home. Darkness surrounds us while everyone sleeps. Hubby sounding like a freight train, baby waking for her feedings, but sleep….oh the peaceful sleep.
Meanwhile, 35 miles – give or take – from my home, my son lies dead. I awaken from my peaceful slumber to hubby saying, “Honey, you have to get up. The cops are here asking for you.” And me, in my sleep-hazed confusion respond, “What? The cops? What?” as I stumble out of the bed and stumble, still half-asleep and rubbing my eyes, out to the kitchen where I am greeted by a sheriff and a chaplain to hear the worst words I’ve heard in my entire life, “Your son, Darren Wallace, is dead.”
I simply stood there, dumbfounded. Not my Darren, not any of my children, but not my sweet, loving, broken-hearted, Darren. Not my big eyed, blue-eyed curly-headed Darren. I cannot even remember my reaction. I didn’t break down into a crazy-minded mother (but if I had it would be understandable!), but I was frozen. Like seriously, couldn’t make my feet move kind of frozen. I remember asking how, what happened. It all seemed so surreal, like I was standing outside of my body watching this happen to someone else. I stood there, tears streaming down my face frozen in that horrible moment.
How could it be happening to me, to my family?
I’ve relived that day in my head about 1000 times. I would like to say only once a day since then, but that wouldn’t be true. A more accurate amount would be to say 3-4 times a day. And I always arrive back to the same place……Why? How?
As I rushed the girls’ bedtime to me that fateful evening, my son was contemplating suicide. As I was going through the girls’ bedtime ritual with them, my son was lying dead.
It’s two days shy of four months and it hasn’t gotten easier. The days come and go in the same fashion, with the same fervor they always have, but now his death hovers over me, surrounds me like an invisible blanket.
Since that evening, my trust has diminished. I still trust the people in my life prior to that tragedy. Since then, I have met people who I trust, but I definitely don’t trust anyone in the judicial system, if I ever did, I’m not sure. Definitely not now. There’s a story there for a different day.
I had a meeting today with a couple of ladies. During the meeting, one lady asked about my son. I told her some about his story. She mentioned something along the lines of how some people would not be able to speak about their experience. I went on to explain why I think it’s easier for me. It’s never easy by any means, but the agenda to this meeting is what has made it so much easier for me. I am trying to do something with my son’s story. I am trying to help others not get there, to that dark place. Some may know and some may not, but my son took his life that tragic evening. So, when I mention the dark place, that’s what I mean. My dream is to help others not get there, but also, show others that that doesn’t have to be the option. Our goal is to launch a non-profit in memory of my son, DJW LifeProject.
Help is available and you can start with the number below. It is a national hotline, not connected to me or the non-profit I spoke about above. You can follow DJW LifeProject on Facebook if you so choose.