Good Mourning Son- Month Two & the Rope I stole From Francis Chan

Good Mourning Son- Month two, and a few

 

Good Mourning Son,

I miss you so very much Ethan; It has been all too consuming this void in our lives. Life without you.

We are in a season of new. Saying goodbye to the old and hello to change, hello to something we do not want to greet. You, Sweetheart, have been gone now two months and two days. Months, I hate to say that word. It tells me, even though I know, you are not coming back. This life here on earth no longer holds your soul.

You see, maybe, somewhere inside my heart, I held hope you would still walk in the door. The nightmare of losing you would be over, and I would wake up. Month two reminds me that will never be true.

So much has gone on since you left us since you parted ways with life on Earth.  I pray and feel in my heart you are welcomed into your eternal home in. I have been studying this place you now call forever. So much more than I can ever even imagine.

 Most of what has gone on here means nothing in Heaven.

Here on earth, we put great focus on things of today. I think it’s because most often we are confused about what the end may bring. We think of today forgetting our lives past this place. I do, put so much pressure on myself, worrying daily about today when it’s forever that matters.

One hurdle we had to cross was getting your brothers and sisters through the last weeks of school. I am so proud of them Ethan. It was hard. What you did to them. Ripping away their ordinary and forcing them to live their days with you gone. Sometimes, they craved the simplest of times and other days overcome with how ridiculous average sounds.

Your death, you took your life, which sets us all apart. It puts us in a place where people look and wonder.  That is hard, for us all.

What you wrote kiddo in your goodbye letter, well they took that to heart. The thing is dear boy; it is much responsibility. When you take your life and leave behind traits, you want others to be. You left behind a ghost of what they need to be. Pressure to live up forever to what you wanted and felt you could not be.

They are already amazing on their own. Growing strong and in God’s time without added pressure here on earth.

Graduation was the best, and the worst. We were able to watch your sister walk the stage and feel a part of everything she has worked her last ten years here as part of our family. She felt she belonged with her peers, her smile melted my heart. That was the best, you gone, the worst.

Your dad and I too walked the stage.

Ethan, I cannot tell you how long that walk was. The silent of the crowd, so thankful it was not them down below walking up to accept their child’s diploma. I have never had so many eyes on me at one time. Those were the hardest steps of my life, walking in slow motion to take that simple earthly paper that you should have touched. It was not ours to take; you earned it my boy. Ethan, I wish you could have finished those last weeks of school, walked that stage and felt the pride in yourself.

The pride we always felt for you, my beautiful boy.

I have had to take a break from facebook at times, reading the posts about other graduates is hard. It is a bittersweet feeling. I want those things for you, and if I am honest, for me too. So many kids are off to their college orientations. Yours was that first week in June. Dad was going to take you. It hurts, all of our dreams for you gone. The pain in that place in my heart that still to this day two months and two days later can not be explained. It hurt to know you are not going away to school. I have not even called to cancel your spot. Somehow, I cannot. The emails come reminding me often of what needs to be done, and yet, I just can’t make that call.

What does a mother say to her son’s new school? “My son took his life a few weeks ago. He forgot Gods plan for us all and didn’t put his faith in him, go ahead and take his name off your list WMU. My boy will not be there. He is gone from this life too soon.”

I guess that is what we need to say, Goodbye WMU, a parent’s dream for their child means nothing when they choose to take their life.

 

I adore your lady friend’s son, that is what you used to say. “Mom, Can I go out with a lady friend tonight?”  We have had the true joy to see that you made some wise choices, that you were a good kid. These girls that are your friends, well sweet love they are true beauties, not just on the outside but full of amazing grace and heart. When we search for something in our day to bring joy and thanks, many times it has been the smile and hope that these young women give. A few have reached out and lifted your brothers and sisters up.

We are thankful for their support. The gifts they send, and the fact they stay in touch.

The other thing….in your death, we see the good of so many students. Not just your lady friends but some you just passed in the halls, some from years before, some who you just touched because they relate to your hurts. It is through these kids, almost adults that we see seeds of hope. The good in them, Ethan, We know these are the kind of kids who can make a difference here on earth. It is these kids that are now my friends on Facebook that I add to my prayers each night.

Praying for them to let God guide their way and bless them on the road to adulthood.

A gifted dancer raising more money than most to make miracles happen,  the neighbor’s times three, one that stood tall giving a message to all on graduation day, the girl who once contemplated taking her life, now stands strong gifting life to others through her story. The junior who steps up to her senior year of leadership. A love of Christ that will lift her up along the way. These kids, you once knew and a few that you hardly did, they remind me of all that is good. They took the time to reach out. They and so many more I did not mention took your death and now have a chance to use it to make a difference in their lives. Life has meaning if you choose to go on.

If you decide to work past the issues of today and create purpose. Serving others is key…they find this secret most do not.

There have been times my sweet EE that I have wanted to close the door to my Father in Heaven.  A few passing thoughts of anger have caught up with me in month two. The emotions are not to be described. No words explain what grief brings. I have had moments where I am numb. Hardened to protect the soft that once was my normal. You know, my boy, how my heart has always been. A bit like yours I think. Full of feeling with deep thoughts beating inside. Processing you being gone became too much, there are days I just shut off the world to protect that place. That hurting spot of love and regrets.

 

When I do that, shut off my feelings and turn away that is a bit like you, isn’t it? I may have forgotten in those moments of hurt that this life on Earth is short. God is to choose when it is time to go. God has a plan for our days. So, taking one’s life is not ok for a son. A mother shutting off her feelings and letting numb takeover is not the way to go either, I now see.

 

Remember Easter Sunday? You were gone to work, and I was feeling bummed that you had not prioritized a day I love so much. The Day we celebrate Christ’s resurrection, all he has done for us. I sat in the living room giving a bit of a lesson to our crew. I told them about a rope. I had Zach grab one from the basement in fact. I took a sharpie and marked off in solid black a section of that rope about an inch long. The long rope I had laying in my lap was showing a few feet or so, the rest coiled up with no end in sight. A few days before I had listed to a Francis Chan sermon on u-tube.http://The Rope Sermon by Francis Chan

I had written myself a sticky note and put it on my desk it said: “The Rope I stole from Francis Chan.” I had a blog post in mind.

The message is pretty clear, This Life here on earth is short in comparison to Eternity. That is what God has planned for us Eternity. A forever place. A place far beyond the joys and physical things of this earth.

God does not promise a world free of pain and danger, but he does promise us help when we face fears, hurts, and pains. The life we live today is just a short inch or so marked off on a Rope of eternity. God will rescue those who live in the shelter of the most high. I find rest in the shadow of the Almighty here on earth so that in my eternal life I can see the glory that should be. I will place in him sweet boy of mine, the hurt of my heart and the fear for your siblings as they grow through this pain of not having you here on earth.

 I will not turn away from the one who wants to comfort me if I let him.

 

Ethan, sweet love, my first born son. I miss you so much. The tears remain. The heart hurt beats away inside my soul.  Month two and two days, it is the place where we go about our day, normal, yet never normal again. We carry our loss with us where ever we go inside our pockets of grief and sorrow, hidden now more and more to not scare away those we know.

Month two and a few days is the place where I remind myself to live for more than today. To remind our family and friends, your brothers and sisters that God’s plan for us is great. That, this earthly life, if lived well, if served with grace, if we see what others may not then we get a long rope, endless in fact.  That each choice we make is not for today but a far greater gift.

 

Month two and two days of mourning you in Heaven brings the memory of the Rope I stole from Francis Chan, Earthly life is small in the length of Eternity. I will live it with thanks, gratitude and serve my Father in Heaven letting HIM guide my life on earth. I rejoice that one day I will get eternity. All my heart aches of today are a mere sharpied out spot on a forever rope with God. I wish you could tell us love how wonderful it would be if we could all live this life knowing how much more we get in eternity.

I wish you would send down a ray of sun with angel love, warming the hearts of all who need to be reminded there is so much more if we just believe and have trust in God each day.

 

Loving you more than ever, more today than even yesterday. My sweet angel boy, pictured in my mind, surfing the clouds of Heaven with a smile wide. Your curls blow in the winds of love and your hugs welcome children who enter the beautiful gates of Heaven. Your image on Earth is more than enough but the picture of you in Heaven makes the hair on my arms stand straight and the hurt in my heart lighten.

 

 

Failure or Faith – Just a few months ago

 

Before

Failure or Faith, The months before and the months after my first-born son takes his life.

It is no surprise now that I like to write. Before, April 17th I wrote for myself or to share our blended family life on this blog. Long before the blog, I journal.  I find it interesting now, looking back, the entries I have saved in my folders on my laptop over time.

I wrote as if, I was telling someone a story that was meant to be shared.

I thought all of this time. It was for me. Writing, that is. A healing release of the unknown. The entry I wrote below is on the eve of January 20th, 2017. It was written after an unnerving day, a day of no control. I stayed up late that night writing, letting loose the words I needed to get out.  I had cried to a friend a short few before I wrote. Scared. Hurting for my boy. Little did I know that the fears that bubbled and oozed over in my mind, and even said out loud were the beginning of the end.

 

Crumbling to my knees. January 20th,  2017.

 

Sometimes there are not the right words to write the fear you hold up tight. The anguish you cry out or the churning, turning way your insides burn when you cannot fix the child you love so much.

This child of your own, the one you once held tight. The angel face and runny nose. The tiny hands and fat little toes. The little mouth that smiled when he saw you as he woke. The honest heart. The inquisitive mind. Always questioning why.

Then one day he sank away, why is he so hard to find I say to myself.

I’m alone at the house, doing the most mundane of things. Sweeping up the breakfast crumbs from the floor. The morning sun of just after nine streaming through the front window. My phone rattles on the counter and I think for a moment to let it go, but instead remember then that my boy sometimes calls. The last time he wanted to stop by on his way home from a class at another school for a quick handoff of a breakfast made special by mom before his next class begins. I always oblige this little task, my boy will be gone all too soon. He is deciding between Western and MSU. I will take this little gift of mom things I get to do. Treasuring the tasks, wanting it to last more for me than for him.

I get to the rattling pink case on my kitchen counter just in time. He calls from his car. Mom, he cried, “Come Quick.” I cannot do this alone. I hear the tears in the roughness of his voice. I sense danger in his plea.   Alarm set in as my heart skips beats, my clammy hand’s tremor as I hold my fingers together tight and pretend to have all my wits. I drive the short mile or so to the school.

My focus on the road ahead and the prayer running out loud as I ask God to let him be safe.

I stand outside of his car on this cold dark windy day. Parked in that senior lot. Signifying he is almost done with this stage, only a few short months before he drives away from the safety of his life as a kid. I think maybe as I pull up, is it too late? He finds no safety in his day. Standing there I can see, his world has come apart. I open the door and get in. Moving his backpack to the backseat, I kick papers and a taco bell bag to the side to make room for my feet as I climb in his car.

His eyes plead with me for relief.  He rages and cries and tells me not to look if he disappears one day. That maybe this life is not for him. Too hard to live with the anxiety within.

What does this mean? Do you want to die, sweetheart? I ask with a lump so large in my throat it takes a moment to choke the words out. “No,” he says, “ I want to run away, I want to go away to school and escape this anxiety, the chaos in my head.” He screams “I just wish this would stop!”

I can see he is in a place so dark.

I wanted to swoop him up….Hold him so very close. Lay his weary head on my shoulder, pick him up and rock back and forth. So I try. I reach out, and he leans in, putting his head on my lap and weeping in fear of who he is.

Fear paralyzes me; I can’t think. There is nothing more I want in that moment than to have every answer for him and a way to heal his hurts in an instant, I am left stroking his hair and praying over my boy.   I tell him softly that no matter where he goes, high school, college, adult life, he needs tools to help him fight this anxiety within. Then, I have to admit to him, I can not do it alone. That I just can’t fix him by myself. That this beast within is stronger than my mom fight. We need help. More than we have been getting. More than I know. I am helpless it feels to fix him up. I want a band-aid for his heart.

A magic pill to take away the anxiety that wells over him, waves of distress pulling the air from him, in shuttering cries, his head still on my lap.

He pulls away then, something came to him, a thought perhaps. The days gone of him cuddling on my lap, now the few minutes of rest he had in my arms replaced with hardness and defeat.  He gets out of his car. He stands too high, taller than me. I cannot pick him up and settle him in tight and safe like I once did. I guide him in my car, and we drove away. He let me. Take him away; this is new and unexpected. Normally now in the stage, his response is “leave me alone.”

We stop at home and I run inside leaving him dazed and starring out the window. I can see him from my bedroom as I call his therapists office.

They say they can not help him and send us on our way. I’m lost. Where to next?

We drove for a while, my emotions hidden behind a curtain of faith.  Praying “Lord, Give me Strength to help my son.” I take him to the place where they claim to fix children up. The big school just south of us. There, I know there is help. They have a hospital just for babies like mine with hearts that hurt and minds that are vulnerable to the world’s games.

They trick us both with an invitation in. Sitting now for awhile while we process the problem within. My baby is eighteen so I can’t even listen as he shares his hurts. He is a man they say and deserves to be treated like one.

What I found out is he is just not sick enough. If he wants help but won’t take his life, he is healthy enough to figure it out.

I feel sick…my knees are weak. There is no help here. They tell us to leave.

I sit in the office with the white jacket doctor. He asked me over and over “What do you want me to do for him”? I wanted to scream in his face, to shout so he could hear what he apparently won’t, “save my baby”. I cry hot tears of anger and fear instead, squeaking out “Give me something to show him the way. Don’t send us from here to be on our own.” My mom’s heart is ready to explode.  The white coat doctor man, with all of his experience, sits and stares back at me.  He is antagonizing me with his blank face. “There is nothing we can do today,” he states.

“Wait,” I say. “Have you not any fix him up tools for my mom bag?” “No book on teen anxiety?” I ask.  “No,” the white jacket replies, “he can have an appointment in a crisis clinic three weeks away.”

Three weeks, What if he runs away, I think. What if he does not finish school, I wonder. I bite my nail in nervous contemplation of my child’s future. I cannot comprehend the look on white jacket doctor. He must not have kids, I sense. I mull over the hand with no wedding ring. His face comes into focus beyond my eyes fighting the tears burning my face. He is young. This white jacket doctor  trained to act this way….he lacks the heart part of experience with mothers like me. He does not know enough life with parents fighting for their child’s sanity. He is less than half of my age.

The white doctor man opens the door, says “have a nice afternoon” and walks way.

 

History and paperwork tell the mama in me that the man who is a boy, my boy. Is fighting a battle since an age well before three. Early on we took him from place to place. They gave us a diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder; we healed him then with prayer and a nutritionist. With routine and safe surroundings. Occupational therapy and purging from him from the poisons within. Gone was the mercury, aluminum, and wheat. Dairy and Red food dye a thing we never wanted to see. In time, the environment controlled, the special school let him go and finally he seemed free.

Life went on normal for years. We started to forget the stress of before, those days of anxiety in a child so small.  I  protected his world from all of the bad things.

Providing for him a pretend reality.

The teen years come much too fast. With it comes social distress. He could not find his fit.   I know this. I hate that this is how he feels. That he wants to fit in. That the friends he worked so hard to make sent him away. We did this.We worried he needed a new group, he was stumbling, and we saw it, so we gave him an ultimatum. Find a new fit we said. One with no pot, no smoking, no crazy stuff.  We thought it was behavioral back then. We thought it was friends that influenced him. It was deeper inside; it was him. We did not see then that it was back…the anxiety that scared him in the night as a wee little one was back and controlling his mind.

The shock of life as a teen, too much to bear for my sweet boy, too much for his fragile mind.

He began to find ways to calm and soothe.  It was not through the natural ways we taught him in the past. Smoking things to calm himself down, we fought to regain some control. At first his dad and I not on the same page and then after some time we realized things had to change.  It is confusing this teenage thing. Is he behaving poorly because he needs more of us? Is it pain from our divorce? How much independence do we give him?

Debating on how to best handle him our ongoing conversation. His dad and me. His dad and his fiancé, Mike and I. The four of us separate but together in our quest for what is best.   Lock him down or let him learn life’s lessons the hard way? Skipping school and sleeping in he managed to keep good grades. Smart and funny the teachers love him, I think kids struggle with his deep, intense issues and up and down personality.

 

I crumble to my Knees in despair.

I have to take my boy home today. Away from this university hospital that claims to be the best. White Coat doctor just left me to cry alone. Ethan in the waiting room, He knows. He says all the right things to leave.  I cannot change a thing. I cannot be the one person he needs to fix him, to help my boy today. He struggles more than most I know. Something deeper is broke. We are starting to see it. This Sensory thing, It does not go away when they grow up. Some learn to deal, some heal, but others deal with the day to day. My son, an adult they say, is still “Out of Sync” after all of this time. There is a darkness stirring in him.  Up and down, hot and cold, dark and light. Lord, help him. Help us fight this scary thing.

 

No Doctor can fix him today. My mother’s heart cannot find a cure. We will press on and fight the battle and continue for that is what I am called to do. There has never been a place I love more than mother and wife. This moment is no exception. I do not care what they say.White coat Doctor can shut that door and walk away. We will find another white coat doctor to help us…I am not giving up on my boy, not today, not any day.

I know what Jesus said.

“In the world, you will have tribulation” (John 16:33)

There is no perfection in this life on Earth.

I give Thanks for my son, my child whom I cannot control. I find joy in the fact that God has a plan far greater than I know.

 

So we press on.

 

I am Praying with a reverent heart that he too, will remember my Father and find solace in his Love as I do.  Praying and leading my children my life goal.

I want to be like the Apostle  Paul, leading with joy. I do not want this anxiety to take over and diminish the good in my son. I can’t let the fear paralyze me, unable to move forward to help him.

I will not let Satin in. He cannot have my son. He cannot capture his mind. God made him mine.

“Restore to me the joy of my salvation” (Psalm 51:12)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and future. Jeremiah 29:11

 

So, we persevere on my son and I. Knowing the testing of my faith produces endurance. Affliction torments my sons’ heart and mind. I will not give up on you, my beautiful boy.I will find strength in each battle I fight by your side.

 

I find joy, like Paul in the life that we have even in the anger of moments, even in my deepest fear, even in the unknown.  Moving forward with my boy one day at a time. Ceaseless in Prayer for healing of his mind.

 

Ephesians 2:10

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for Good Works, which God Prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 

Today, Present time.

My writing brought me once again crumbling to my knees. A reminder of what is not. A  sickening kick in the heart of what will not be. All I did not.  I have sat on this particular entry for weeks now. Praying over it. Inside, anger, turmoil, and grief.  As I read what I wrote just months ago, anger overcame me, for a time I have questioned God.

“Why have you forsaken me,” his own son said to him nine hours on the cross.

 

I have wondered the same. Why have you forsaken me? My son? I am not perfect, as  Christ is. I am a sinner. Full of sin from the bottom of my baby toe to the last hair on my head. I was born this way. Every day I live here on Earth is a daily choice for me to live life more like Jesus. Most days I am filled with the ugliness of sin. Not murder or hate…but other ways. My mouth for one is never as pure as it should. I do not serve daily without asking for things in return. The list goes on and on. A bottomless vessel of sin, I am. Earthly, human and nothing perfect.

It would be the easiest for me to read this entry written a few months before my boy took his life and assume God was punishing me for my mistakes in life.

It would be easy for me to glance at these words and in one quick second believe God had forsaken my son. Closed his ears to the cry of my boy and the prayers of my heart. That is what many would do. They would say “God, What good are you? You left us. You looked away”. It is what I wanted to do. Turn my heart the other way.

The lines about Joy- a joke.

Workmanship?, “Lord you created my son with mental illness and took him too soon”!

 

A bitter laugh has escaped my mouth in the weeks since my son’s death. Anger at myself for my imperfections, Anger at God for taking my son.

In the angriest of moments, there have been times I  think God is not with me, that he failed my son. In the deep wound that gushes heartache. The daily struggle to understand reality. He, my boy, is gone. The failure tearing slowly each day in the cloth of sanity. Thread, unraveling into solitude and confusion. His Blue eyes stare back at me from every picture in the house. The gold cords of academic success dangling in my face, taunting me of what my boy wanted to be.  The green graduation gown of yesterday haunting me with all that he can not have.

The rip of pain as I recognize how inadequate I am as a mother. A child, blond and tiny, dancing tip toe in the store brings reminders of the children he will never have. The grandchildren that are not to be. A wife my boy will never have.

I feel defeat. I feel alone. Bitterness wraps me up. Numbness overcomes me.

I open the very book that brings things back together, written long ago and filled with the same wisdom now as then. My house is quiet with the kids at school. Pandora playing quietly, each song creates a cadence to the sound of my read. The verses become lyrical, the music I need to stop the bleed of my wounds.

I realize God did not take my son from me. Ethan chose that on his own. In one impulsive moment when his mind was weak, he took his life. God knew maybe, that in the end, he would. That is something, on this earth I will never know. The question can not be answered with a yes or no.  I do know God uses Evil and impulsive mistakes to bring ultimate good. That is where I focus. Each word, each study, each musical song of God’s word stitches up the tear of my heart. The unraveling of my soul strengthened by the thread of light The Holy Spirit whispers in my ear.

I am here, he says once again. Reminding me of his love for my son.

God is not gone, he is right here with me.  I believe he covers my boy with his mercy, love, and grace. In his home, my son rests for eternity. My prayers to God still go on. He takes the brokenness of our loss and teaches me that there is more than –nothing-  in the depth of my sorrow I could easily believe.

 

I do not understand the plan. My son had to fight a battle that he lost.  He felt taking his life was a solution to his distress, the truth is we could have fought to find help and he could live on. I am sure of what I am called to do in Christ. Love my Lord first, love and serve my neighbor, give thanks,  find joy in what will come.

I know with all I have, that God will use my boy’s life for the good of someone else. That my son is not hurting any longer. That there is a plan far greater than I know.

 

I have Faith in my Savior and all he did.

John 16:32-33

Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have told you all of this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But, take heart, because I have overcome the world.

 

The Tale of Two Teens – Graduation Day

The tale of two teens begins long ago.

A time before I even thought of becoming a mother. When I was living a young married life kind of dream. It starts with another mother across the ocean in a harder life. One who could not take on the care of her beautiful Chinese baby.

Our sweet Audrey Hai Ping is a beautiful young woman, older than her peers at nineteen. She walks the halls of Howell High School working harder than most do just to understand the simplest of things.  Her dad and I adopted her from China when she was ten. Before God gave her to us, she lived in an Orphanage in Zhu Hai, China.

Her given name is Zhu Hai Ping. That is somewhat like Jane Doe where we live.

We do not have the whole story straight. The orphanage told us one thing, but as Audrey learned English, we learned a story far different. It was not what any parent wants to hear. The simple English words she spoke over time pieced together a puzzle that was broke. Tiny pieces are missing and a few rather tattered and torn. Our daughter from China had lived a life a typical kid here in our town could never imagine nor would we want them to I am afraid.

La Sa Po, A girl in a trash can, was her nickname at school. That was our Audrey Hai Pings beginning. Abandoned in a trash can at an early age. We think three or four but will never know. She carried on in the orphanage until the day we showed up at the door.

 

You would think life would be fine after that. A new life in the States. Parents who love her every way. Siblings to share the day to day. The tale goes on to one of perseverance and hard work. This Chinese gift came to us with no prior knowledge of anything but her life in the orphanage. She did not even understand the concept of planet Earth. Bodies of water or a land mass on a map. Over time as English slowly came, we realized there might be more going on. Determination was her game, while her siblings finished up their spelling words and reading time each night Audrey remained at the dining room table for hours studying hard to try and gain anything she could.

Her working memory is low; she does not process the way she should to keep up with her peers. Her challenges are great. There is more, but I think you may now understand the chance of what is considered normal would always be difficult for her.

That never stopped this girl of mine. She worked at her level the best that she could. Our schools as a whole at a loss on how to best handle her academics. Individual teachers and administration stepped in and gave her all that they could over time. The personal level of dedication to teaching our beautiful daughter was gifted by educators, whom I believe are superior and talented in skill and heart beyond what most parents see.

They are the kind of administration and teachers that should be awarded each day for the individual time and care they put into our kids. I am overwhelmed with love and gratitude for them especially the few that had Audrey day in and day out the last four years.

Her ELL teachers, Counselor, and principal never gave up on her dream of fitting in. Working hard to always treat her with respect and gave her the time she needed to do her best.

Tomorrow, this girl is walking across a stage in a cap and gown. She will not have awards or high academic praise. Instead, she has years of life experience far above most kids her age. She graduates with a degree in Perseverance and Tenacity. I have never felt as proud as I do right now thinking of the accomplishments she has made.

 

The other teen you may already know.  A beautiful boy wanted in every way.

He was given the best, provided for by a hard working and loving dad.  A mom who kissed and hugged him whenever she could. Staying home while he was young to give him a traditional and dedicated upbringing. This boy with a mop of blond waves and blue eyes had a depth into a thoughtful and giving soul in so many ways. He felt deeply and loved deeper. Sensitive and gentle in heart.

Ethan had almost everything a child could want it seems. Nothing lacking in his day one would think. Weekends spent on the family boat at the cottage across the state. Spring break vacations in warm spots. Far away family that lived for the day they could spend time with this boy and his siblings. School years with friends and playmates. A neighborhood where people care about each other and kids play ball on the street. Times came that were hard for this boy. Parents who divorced, anxiety about internal things and stress that lived inside that made new things seem like they were monsters in the dark.

 

Over time the monsters grew into the enemies of depression and anxiety.

They came in and battled my boy. Some days the monsters would go and leave him alone, and all was right. We would see the Ethan we knew and loved with all of our heart. Those days would go on it seems, and nothing was going to stop this teen from the good life ahead. WMU waited just before him, a degree in accounting was what he wanted. He loved to work hard and had ideas and dreams he loved to debate. He was goofy and funny and the most amazing brother one could be.

The tale of two teens, one had everything from the start. The other had nothing but hurt and pain. Their lives came together in family and love. They are brother and sister. They are my seniors graduating tomorrow. They both had monsters to battle and fight. One teen lost when his disease blinded him; one teen still struggles to find her normal in the day to day mostly with a smile on her face.

 

These teens are two of my children. God gifted them both to me in different ways. There is never a time I am not proud to be their mother.  Overcome in fact, with gratitude to God. We focus on their accomplishments and the good in them.

The days of school gone for both. My heart hurt continues. The most bittersweet of celebrations about to begin. That awful squeeze in my insides, wrapping my heart in painful loneliness for what once was.

 

Six weeks ago I would have said, I do not want to let it end. I do not want to walk away from this time in their lives. Hashtag  Freeze time my constant sign.  For those parents who are feeling the same, graduation hours away with our kids moving on to the next chapter in life. Embrace the change and encourage growth. Life is so fragile and unknown.

No, I cannot say I want to freeze time any longer, a thing I used to voice. That just happened to our boy.

Frozen now forever in time at eighteen, his life too short.

 

Tomorrow, the tale of two teens continue.  They walk the stage together in spirit. Audrey in cap and gown, carrying Ethan’s picture in hand, wearing his Gold Cords around her neck. Proudly displaying her joy at all, she has done, honoring the brother she loves so much.

Ethan, a memory of an amazing son who was going to go on to Western, years of walking the halls of Howell Schools as a friend, classmate, and student. Both of my graduating seniors whether in spirit or life are my proud accomplishments.  Despite the disabilities they fought they are forever my Highlander Pride.

I believe Ethan and Audrey both deserve caps flying high for their accomplishments as students and life.

Tomorrow, no doubt the tears will come as they often do. I will look out over the sea of green gowns and find my heart broken at my missing son. I will cry tears of pride as I watch my daughter get her dream of fitting in with her peers one last time. I will cry tears of joy for each senior who grew up with my kids as they cross that stage. I will celebrate the accomplishments of all of these seniors, praying for success and happiness in their next stage of life.

I will find hope in their future as they move on and make a difference in this world.

 

The Dark Side of the Force – Part II

 

Part 2

If you have not read part one you can find it here – (Part I is here)

 

My words, all in my heart, all I write is for LIGHT, the light of Christ. To the love of helping others who cannot see out of where they are at this moment. To the mothers who are confused on what is before them. To those who do not understand the disease, we lived within the day to day.  Maybe even for those who see a bit of Ethan in themselves.

My words meant for light…for hope.

Time is clearing the fog. The hurt is not going away but the veil of fog lifts little by little and with it comes clarity on awareness. My prayer today is that I can bring awareness to Teen Suicide. I want the Stigma of it to go away. Ethan was being treated for anxiety, marijuana use, and ADHD. We knew these things. We did not see the signs of depression and they were there. We did not understand the depth of Ethan’s pain. We could have if we would have had a plan.

 

In the past, he had reached out to us for help. The fact that he was eighteen and as parents, we had no rights any longer complicated things. Another factor I will address, the lack of treatment options we struggled to find. He was on medication and working with therapists on a regular basis but it  seemed we could never get his care  right. Never the right place, the right doctor, the right understanding of his issues.

I had taken him to U of M for EMERGENCY mental health help on January 20th. They sent us home hours later. They said he was not a threat to himself. He was given an appointment in a CRISIS center, three weeks later. That was the first CRISIS appointment available to him. He followed up with his local therapist on his own as I was not allowed to intercede now that he was eighteen. That was an ugly fighting match with the receptionist that day….scared mama battles the world’s ways. I lost. They would not let me have anything to do with his therapy. Not even to schedule his appointments.

At every stop, we were told he was not a risk.

Even after Ethan gave written permission for me to help him schedule appointments the new therapist he was seeing would not take my calls. At a minimum I wanted her to have a clear history on Ethan. When she called back after me begging her to via voice mail. She coldly told me my son was 18 and I had no place in his therapy. Not to call back. I will never know how much history he gave her.

That therapist did not last long, and by March, Ethan had a new therapist to talk with in addition to the long-term therapist he saw in Northville.

Ethan could not get in to see the doctor until his medication ran out.  The Doctor was who he needed to see. We believe now that his medication added to his depression.  Qualified doctors only want to see people for minutes while they dole out pills and then they refer patients to ill-trained therapists who do not have enough training in suicide and depression to talk the rest out. We have tried doctors from Howell to Farmington Hills down to Ann Arbor. I won’t even bgin to expalin the insurance complications with mental health. That is a book in it self.

The system failed us. It failed my Son.  Ethan Slipped through the cracks.

To be fair, there are good doctors, therapists and those willing to help. They are limited and spread out across our county and state. We were just not in the right place at the right time it seems. I would do it differently if I could, but I cannot. I will never stop running the “what ifs” through my head.  These are some of the very issues I believe I am to bring awareness to by sharing our story. I can not change Ethan’s outcome, but I want to yell out to all what we should have done. If even one person listens and it makes a difference, our story is with sharing as painful as it is.

Several weeks ago I attended a  Panel Discussion on Suicide Awareness.  Just days after Ethan died I had the chance to ask a U of M doctor who has dedicated his life to Suicide Prevention. In front of an auditorium filled with suicide survivors and families I stood up and said:

“My son Ethan died 16 days ago; we tried to get help for him, What do I tell others who may one day be in the same position?”

He came off the stage, in front of that crowd and gave me a hug. He said he was “sorry for my loss and that we said we have to be the voice of PREVENTION and AWARENESS. We have to talk out loud; there can no longer be the stigma of failure behind this disease. Once we do, MORE training and funding must be made available to mental health professionals. We also need our young people to step up and choose mental health as a career choice to stop this disease There needs to be more of us willing to help.”

 

 Ethan’s coping mechanism of using WAX and JUICE to calm himself covered his moods and made it difficult to see what was going on.

If you are not sure of the terms, I just used…..Ask your kids, google it, just don’t hide from these realities or pretend they would never concern your family. I didn’t know these terms. DAB, WAX, JUICE, We were so nieve  and with out a clue to these words.  To many he “seemed” average. His peers saw him as a great guy; he was. There were a select few that had discovered his issues and just did not know what to do; they distanced themselves. Some spoke truth to him, encouraging him and offering to support him in stopping his habits. There were even some who enabled him without realizing the underlying trouble. How could anyone know that pot and vaping nicotine could cover an underlying issue so big? Sevearl therapists even told us that this is normal teenage behavior. Are you kidding me? The confusion in what is normal and what is not is hard as a parent . Drugs are not and we have to make it stop.  There are parents, who maybe felt Ethan was a bad influence on their kids. I get this part…..I have done the same. I get all of it; I do not write to blame. I write to consider the next kid….the one who still lives. The one that as a Village we can change.

 

Then there is me. I will only speak for myself as Ethan’s dad and I are divorced and although I admire the father he is and the everyday role he plays In the kid’s life it would be unfair for me to speak on his behalf.

 

I HID.

As my children became older and we left the safety net of elementary school, I hid away our issues because it seemed like I was failing if I did not have a PINTEREST family. I stopped sharing much with anyone except my closest of friends because with discouraging times came the feeling that I was not enough for my kids. When every other parent seemed to have it together, I felt some days like I did not.

Amazon sent a steady stream of parenting books, workbooks on anxiety, drugs and how to talk. Listening more, boundaries, trust. The more I read, the more confused I was. The more the disease progressed, the harder to fix, the farther from perfect we seemed.

 

We live in a ridiculous world of perfection and instant gratification. My kids are square pegs living in a round world. We may even beat to a different pace. What once upon a time  I embraced as gifts in their personalities became different from our friends and neighbors kids,  I felt like I was failing if my kid had problems and perceived yours to not.

The world’s ways……..not Gods, is how I started to think.

I never dreamed of posting on FB “Who is your child’s mental health professional”? , Or “Hey Mom, of teens, Are any of you dealing with pot smoking in your house”?

 

I was sure the coffee club and the PTO moms, as well as my neighbors down the street, would judge. The irony is, I did not want to be the talk of the town.  I was sure my church group just could not handle the truth. Their kids appear so perfect after all, hardly a fault. One church friend asked me one day while I never brought my older kids to our group…..the truth is, I was afraid of what they might see. They had younger kids for the most part. Mine were a few years ahead and had started in on bad habits. Instead, I prayed silently for Ethan to be free of this disease. Once in a while it would get so bad I would ask for help….and yes, they would pray and hear my mama heart. Mostly, I felt that I wanted to protect my babies from the world of judgment. The truth:  judgment is what we often do. Even me. Even to myself.

 

I would have died a slow death to share our family’s weaknesses with you just a few short weeks ago…..instead, my Ethan did.

He died by suicide. If we survivors of suicide (the loved ones of one who died by suicide) and the people who feel they have no way out could talk freely about this disease depression, and it is sister anxiety, we may find hope in a future of Prevention and Awareness. I truly believe there is an opportunity for life in the dark if we can focus on shedding light on these topics.

 

So someday you will get a wide open book. The chapters each an issue I just hashed out. Nothing perfect you will see. You will get our struggles with teen depression and anxiety. More people than you can image have reached out to me these last weeks. My facebook and email flooded with people I never expected to see and those who found me through someone else.

I am acutely aware that I was not alone after all. The very community I was hiding from lifted us up, reached out and has encouraged all the way.

There are more parents, more teens, more families dealing with something close to what we were, even what we are dealing with  that it is worth coming out of our comfort zone. It is  worth writing our story for . If you are not like us, then I am thankful. I pray you can be an encourager, a leader, a friend, a believer in someone who needs your acceptance and strength.

You will see the Dark side of the Force. What is has done to our family.

I hope in the end…..its light and we can look back and see.

The light of a smiling Jedi in Heaven who would want us to fight the battle of Anxiety and Depression and self medication in this world God gifts us each day.