I’ve been working on a chapbook of poetry for about seven months now, maybe a bit more. I’m almost finished, actually. I have one more piece to create. The title is “Hug Your Grandma, Hug Your Mother.” I used to say that to my son after visiting him at Anthony Correction Center. I wish I could say it now. Continue Reading →
My son’s suicide didn’t have to happen.
On Saturday August 24, 2013 Charleston, WV will host the 3rd Annual “Walk for Suicide Prevention”. The walk will take place at “Magic Island” and will be a leisurely (less than one mile) walk, which favors those who may have trouble walking long distances and is great for families with small children-even in strollers.
The “Walk for Suicide Prevention” benefits Messages For Hope, Inc. Messages For Hope Inc. was created to aid the survivors of a suicide loss by creating suicide response teams to help with the newly bereaved, to create a network of support groups throughout our state, to raise awareness of the mental health treatments that can prevent suicide, and to prevent suicide through education.
Register online HERE or starting at 10 AM, Magic Island, Charleston, WV.
I was asked, several times actually, how I managed following my son’s suicide. My initial response was, “You just do.” Reflecting on that response, I think – no I know – there is a better answer. Continue Reading →
My second son, and last of my children, was born May 1, 1989. He weighted 1 pound 9 ounces and spent 99 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. His first three years was filled with hospital stays, speech and physical therapy, and the struggle to catch-up to the other children his age.
The last three years of Bryan’s life were nearly as difficult as the first. As a minor, he was charged with a sex crime. Charged with no witness, no physical evidence, and charged nearly three years after the supposed incident. Charged, coincidentally, three days after an unrelated physical altercation I, his mother, had with the mother of the so-called victim.
He was held one-year in Boston, under the charge of enticing a minor. The judge said, due to the seriousness of the charge in WV (charges now, not conviction) he wanted to hold my son. Then, the Boston charges were dropped after a forensic exam of the intended “victim’s” computer hard-drive. Apparently, the girl had a habit of telling guys her parents abused her, then asking them to rescue her. She also told men she was a virgin, or pregnant, depending on her mood.
Once back in West Virginia, he took a plea deal on the original charge [against my counsel] to “get this over with” so he could “move on.”
Part of the plea deal required Bryan to attend the Anthony Correctional Center, in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. There, Bryan attended weekly counseling sessions, worked in the library, and took college classes. He completed his time there without incident. Well, without incidents according to the records. On at least one occasion, Bryan had a bruised face when I visited with him.
But, something wasn’t right. Almost four weeks to the day, after Bryan came home, he hanged himself. He left no note. He gave no sign to family. He texted a girl in Kentucky that he was in a very dark place, had everything he needed, but was afraid. Then, nothing.
Bryan was working for me, while he got back on his feet, and didn’t answer my texted asking if he was up and ready for work. My father walked to his place to rouse him, but instead, found him. My mother called me in a panic, screaming in the phone for me to get over there “RIGHT NOW!”
When I arrived, I went straight to Bryan’s door. My father had gone to get my older son, for help. It took less than a second for my brain to process what I saw. My son, hanging from a leather strap. His face was gray. His mouth swollen. His tongue protruding and dark. He had been dead for some time.
I read up on suicide by hanging. If done “correctly” the person doesn’t realize what’s happening. Once the blood flow is cut off, the person becomes unconscious quickly, and never knows anything else. There is no way to change your mind. It’s over in seconds.
The pain of suicide is felt by those left behind. Those who find the body. Those who must suddenly make funeral arrangements. If someone dies in an accident, you know it was something uncontrollable that caused it. If they die during an act of crime, you have that act to blame. But, with suicide, especially with no note, there is no understanding.
And the pain of grief is complicated by the pain of not understanding.
What is it that allows some people to move on, following a traumatic event, while others just shut down? How can two people witness the same tragedy and have two completely different reactions? I don’t know either. Whatever it is, I apparently have the stuff that allows me to move on.
I can’t say my childhood was traumatic. Oh, there were fights with neighbor kids, pets that died, parents arguing, and normal things like that. It wasn’t until I was in 10th grade that I experienced my first, true traumatic event. I saw my good friend get hit, and killed, by a car.
Kim was coming to the house to go to the high school football game. I think DuPont (us) played Charleston High that evening, October 17, 1981. I was in the band and my mother hauled equipment in our van. Kim was going to ride in the van so she didn’t have to pay to get in. She rode the KRT (city bus), and I met her at the four-lane. Instead of waiting for the bus to pull out, Kim walked around front, just like you do a school bus. A woman was speeding past and struck her.
Then, in 1982, I lost my first child, Victoria. I married my first husband, in May, when I was 17. That August, my first child was born, three months premature. My husband was in the Army. The Red Cross flew him home in time to see her. She passed after just a few hours. We buried her at Graceland, in Ruthlawn where so many of our family rest.
In 1984, we lost another child. This time we were at Fort Hood, Texas. He was in PLDC (Primary Leadership Development Course) and was not allowed to leave the campus. When the contractions became noticeable I was home, alone. I drove myself to the Army hospital. The ER refused me and said to wait till the OB-GYN Clinic opened, several hours later. By the time I was examined, the doctor was furious and shipped me straight to the Labor and Delivery floor.
The hospital wasn’t equipped to handle a premature child like Angela. She died within minutes. I made her funeral arraignments from my hospital bed, because her father wasn’t allowed off campus. We flew her home, so she could lie with her sister.
The next child, a son, managed to make it nearly full-term. It wasn’t without difficulties. My files were flagged as high-risk. At the first sign of trouble I was confined to the hospital, in bed. I would be fine for three or four days, then start contracting again. My cervix was sewn shut and I remained on medication to stop labor. Sometimes it didn’t work.
Eventually I was flown to San Antonio, Lackland Airforce Base, until I reached the point where my son would be OK. It was a three hour drive from Fort Hood, so I rarely saw my husband. I went home on a Friday in January, 1986. My son was born the following Monday, a healthy six pound two ounce squalling bundle.
In 1989, my younger son, and last child, was born at 24 weeks gestation. He was one pound nine ounces, thirteen inches long. He stayed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit 99 days. His first three years was mostly doctor visits and hospital stays. When he was about five, he seemed to turn a corner. He didn’t get sick as often. He was pretty well caught up, developmentally, with the other kids his age. Other than a mild eye-glass prescription, his eye-sight was good.
A few years ago, my younger son was accused of a crime. There were no witnesses, no evidence, just an accusation. But, the accusation cost him a position in the WV Air National Guard. It caused him to be held in a Boston jail for a year, just in case, for something he didn’t do. It took a forensic exam of someone’s hard drive to get him released and the charges dropped. In that time I traveled as often as I could to visit him.
After two years of court hoopla, he took a plea, telling me he just wanted to get it over. He spent nearly a year at the Anthony Correction Center in Greenbrier County. I visited him every two weeks. Then, four weeks after he came home, he hung himself.
I buried my third child.
It’s been almost a year to the day that we found him. I am still moving on. Slower, I’ll grant that. But I am still moving on. How? Hell, I don’t know.
I was told many years ago that G-d doesn’t put more on you than you can handle. And I know that Jesus said, “…if you have the faith of a mustard seed” you can move mountains. (Matthew 17:20) These things must be my mountains.
I know the physical and emotional pain are temporary. Like a significant injury, they will heal in time, often leaving scars. While I am not the greatest Christian on the planet, I have to trust in Christ and the Father that things will work out.