Moms Columns & Blogs

Archive-January-Part 6-Love Always, B & An Unexpected Call

“Love Always, B”

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  I am dancing along a tautly stretched tightrope spanning an immeasurable abyss, no safety net to catch me when (not if) I fall, only murky depths of despair and misery waiting to suck me down, a quicksand of sorrow from which there is no escape.    

Everyone gradually files out of the chapel, most staying to queue up for the lengthy trek to Forest Lawn East Cemetery.  The sheer number of cars and people here right now is mind-boggling (were they all inside?); yet there seems to be some sort of organization within the chaos.  Several good friends come over to personally extend their sympathy, lend comfort and to say good-bye; they cannot attend the graveside service as their children’s (Butler HS Class of 2008) graduation exercise is imminent.  I sense something else too…perhaps some misplaced guilt for leaving us and our solemn situation in order to attend this milestone within their own lives, a true occasion for celebration.  I honestly feel happy for each of them (to the extent that I can feel at all)…if anything I have my own strange sense of guilt that their special day has been tarnished by the tragedy of ours…  

I dash inside for a moment (powder room lock door quiet one moment regroup deep breaths here we go) only to be stunned senseless as I make my way back through the now empty hallway, heading for the caravan outside…my eyes deceive me temporarily…I mistake a young man (shaved dark hair skin coloring same height same build Lord have mercy) drinking from the water fountain for Brian…  Will I always be desperately looking around for him?  I cannot help it; part of me still feels that he is just off on a trip somewhere…  

Thank goodness…I didn’t see him being moved for the journey…it is time to leave…the interior of this limousine is so incredibly cold, I am turning to ice (maybe that’s best freeze up don’t feel anything else just numb).  We are on our way now…a long winding procession, headlights burning, all of us trailing Brian through Mint Hill, Matthews, into Union County…I imagine him looking down upon it all, smiling his infamous smile, saying “Wow, would you look at that, can you believe it, what a turnout!”  I take in the expressions of the drivers who have pulled over; I wonder what they are thinking as we go by (how sad hurry up who knows what).  We pass through many large intersections, traffic brought to a standstill by our police escorts from the many jurisdictions; each and every one, their lights flashing, sirens chirping as Brian goes past them (Lord please help me I just can’t stand it)…finally, we arrive at our destination.  John is barely breathing, overcome by what we are about to do here; leaving Brian again, this time for good, is suffocating him… This is so hard to reconcile…Brian is here but he’s gone; this is unbearable, impossible, inevitable…  

Our friend Sue suggested Forest Lawn East, having passed this way recently.  It seems ideal, close enough to visit easily, yet not on our daily route.  And it’s beautiful, rolling, wooded, reminiscent of our golf course at Pine Lake, where Brian enjoyed countless hours…peaceful (I could scream DON’T SCREAM ha peace not feeling it or calm or serene actually very extremely disturbed) …after all, this is where he will remain always, someday we will join him here…  

We watch from a short distance as his friends, these wonderful young men, carry our son to his final resting place, moving ever so slowly, stepping carefully, not an easy feat as there are at least ten of them.  The day is still so beautiful; the sky is sparkling clear, the mid-June heat shimmers, lush green trees and shrubs abound, the endless cycle of life is evident all around us.  We make our way across the grass, taking seats under the shaded cover of the awning.  Pastor Brey offers last words of consolation, “To everything there is a season…” from Ecclesiastes 3.  Each of us stand in turn, saying our own parting words to Brian as we leave, it’s so very difficult to go, struggling to let go, and depart from this place (come on follow me we must go I CANNOT WILL NOT stay for anything more we must leave here NOW), able only to carry him in our broken hearts, nothing more to be done…    

Walking away from him again…and beginning our walk through the valley of shadows and sorrow…love you always, B… 

“An Unexpected Call”

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  We slide back into the family car and pull away, leaving Forest Lawn East and our old existence behind.  I do not feel any sense of relief; instead I feel rather uneasy, uncertain, an undefined dread of what lies ahead.  While I suppose that I should be less anxious since the service is complete (no drama no displays), now I no longer have those details to focus (hide behind) upon.  What I have is this huge gaping void of space where Brian used to be; the principle of substitution does not apply, it is meaningless, useless to me, for what I have lost cannot possibly be replaced.  I fear the dark thoughts that I have been able to ignore until now…  

I find myself suppressing a bubble of inappropriate laughter.  The pace at which we are returning to the McEwen chapel is in stark contrast to that which brought us away.  I glance around, and observe that we are all trying to find something to hold on to as the driver whips along a vastly different route of back roads; I choke back a chuckle as John, feeling queasy, finally asks the driver to slow down, informing him that we are on the verge of losing the family members trying to follow us.  I cannot help but wonder, is this confirmation that I’m finally losing it?  I mean, really, what is funny about any of this?  

We collect our car and head home.  Home…not sure what that means anymore…I fear I will never feel safe here again…  

Our Pine Lake family has taken charge…they have catered in lunch for all of the funeral attendees (wow when who how thank you bless you).  I am so grateful…I never thought about a meal for everyone following the service.  Fortunately others are thinking for me right now… The old me would have been mortified at the mere idea of so many people seeing my house, with all of the disorganization and disarray; the new person I am becoming couldn’t care less about my messy, imperfect home; it is indicative of my life now.  I consider myself very fortunate and very blessed to have friends and family here looking after us, for it is so incredibly difficult for us to care about anything at all…   John and some of the family rest for a while, trying to regain some strength for later; I still cannot relax, I’ve got to keep busy (keep moving keep talking stay away no thinking dark places lurking waiting will get me pull me under).  The afternoon drifts along; some of our family departs, having paid their respects, busy lives to resume.  Our friends, our angels behind the scenes, also slip away, assured for the moment that we are settled, allowing us some privacy and time alone.  

The candlelight memorial is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Butler’s rock.   Should we go or just stay home now?  This is the teens’ tribute, part of their grief process, paying homage to their fallen friend; if we attend, will we be intruding?  If we don’t, what message are we sending?  That their efforts to honor Brian mean nothing to us?  I think we must go… it’s almost time for it to begin…  

Beth comes to me, visibly upset, holding the telephone…  I have hardly spoken on the phone for the last two days, only when I must.  She doesn’t want me to take the call; if I do, we will be late for the rock.  It is the driver of the second truck.  Without thinking twice, I reach for the handset, a quick prayer said for guidance and wisdom.  The conversation is awkward at first, neither of us knowing what to expect.  She is crying uncontrollably, apologizing, begging us to forgive her…  I am calm, speaking with a grace that is most certainly from the Lord.  She has a teenage daughter who will turn 16 next week.  Her pain is profound and unmistakable, her guilt…so intense and overpowering… I try to assure her that we do not harbor her any ill will or feel any hatred toward her; we are confident that she did everything she could possibly do.  I tell her that I’m so very sorry that this happened to her and to us, and that she had to watch it occur…  Truly, there is nothing for us to forgive… I try to reassure her that I am sincere; I share my beliefs: that everything happens for a reason, even if we cannot understand it; it was Brian’s time to go, his work here was done, and he was called home.  In that split second, his life was over…no suffering…  He was the happiest that he had ever been, he had a good life and he knew it, and he went out on top.  I end by asking her to do her best to try to put this horror behind her, and to believe that some good can come from this, as impossible as it seems right now; to forgive herself for whatever it is she feels she has done wrong, and lastly to please forgive Brian…and remember that I’ll be praying for her always…  

We arrive behind schedule at Butler.  The sky has begun to weep with us, a fine mist swirling around courtesy of the wind, repeatedly extinguishing our candles; the teens are resilient, unfazed by the elements.  I decide that it is actually Brian, blowing out the flickering flames and pestering everyone present, just like always…  They sing along with Lil Wayne, raising their voices and remembering ‘We good, B’ as only they can…  

I am so very tired…    

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