I jinxed myself when I said I was going to have a simple Christmas. I jinxed myself when I said I knew which topics I was going to write about. Sometimes life will dictate what you will write about. My last blog post was a distraction really. I received a message from my daughter late in the evening, “So sorry mom. I love you.” I was a little baffled so I returned the text, “I love you too. Sorry for what?” Than…no response.
Earlier the next morning, my son said, “Mom, Mandi has been trying to get a hold of you, she said it’s important.” Okay now I was worried. Why would my other daughter be trying to get a hold of me in the middle of the night from Hawaii? I sent her a message…”Mandi what is going on? Your sister said she’s sorry for something…and you’re trying to call me in the middle of the night? Please respond. You are starting to scare me.” I went to another window and wrote last week’s blog post.
After I hit publish, I checked my messenger. There were two messages from my sister and I only caught the second half of the last one but it told me enough. I read, “All I know is they found him last night around ten.” My heart immediately started racing and I scrolled up to see the name, and in that moment when I caught the name, my heart burst, and I just started sobbing. I then heard my daughter come into the house, “MOM?…MOM? Are you okay?” This was December 20th.
Today is December 26th, and tomorrow I have a funeral. What is that topic I have not wanted to blog about? What is that topic that keeps creeping so desperately into the basement of my life? Keeping tabs and keeping score are futile. I’m just going to say it. This will be my EIGHTH family related suicide in the last few years. Granted, one was a horrible scenario that took five at once. Another was by a family member who was a minor who had been bullied at school, another family member was found dead in a trailer, and now this? I can’t even wrap my mind around all of it.
This is starting to feel like the normal way for a person to die and this is so NOT normal. I’ve noticed that the people around me who have suffered from anxiety, depression, and addiction are the ones who are taking it the hardest. It’s as if they are asking themselves, “If they could not save themselves, how can I save myself? If nothing was stopping them, what’s to stop me?” These are all scary questions.
Some people Get It. Some people don’t. Some people see the superficiality of a man who made bad choices, or whose last act before leaving this earth was one of complete selfishness. Who does that at Christmas? I don’t see it that way. I don’t see it as “a selfish moment.” It was a series of moments over a lifetime. All I could think initially was, “I’m not mad. I just am so very, very, sad that I am never going to see you again.” I see it as a battle lost, and not one that was lost easily. I see a man who tried so desperately to save his own life and who believed in a higher power. I see a man who knew he could not pull this off on his own. It is a loss, but it was a hard fought loss. That is what makes this such a tragedy.
The biggest oversight I feel that was made by many is that we believed he was doing better. He was a man who had been through some shit, and what a beacon of hope he was. It was a conversation we’d had among ourselves so many times. “I’m proud of him. Look how far he has come.” We were so amazed by this man’s strength despite all the adversity. It almost seemed too good to be true…and it was.
This was the lesson for me: Most people don’t go through some heavy stuff and just do better. There are peaks and valleys. Check in on them often.
This was the second portion of my big cry after the shock hit me. I kept thinking, “But he was doing better…He was SO MUCH better!” This was day one. The crying hit in waves. I burned my face because I put conditioner on it instead of moisturizer by mistake…The second day I just cried in the morning. Than it was Christmas! Christmas! We’ve still got to do Christmas. The idea was, “We are going to deal with this AFTER Christmas.” He would want us to celebrate Christmas.
My family room was torn up and my husband gets so incredibly annoyed by unfinished projects. His ambitions were not matching my mood. I helped him paint and could not stop thinking about the movie Karate Kid and the simple act of moving the paintbrush up and down. I went to the store on December 23rd and watched the people go crazy. A trip to the grocer’s felt like I was in some type of medieval obstacle course. I just wanted to yell, “FREEZE! EVERYONE STOP. Look at what you are all doing!”
I received a few messages, “What can I do? What can I do for you and your family?” I finally sent out a message. “JUST go out. Find the lost. The Lonely. The broken. Reach out to them now, especially now, because it could mean their lives.” It was too late for us, but it may not have been for someone else. I could only hope that maybe this radiated out to one person over the holidays and that this all wasn’t for nothing.
I had a few tender mercies over the holidays. One of my friends took it as a sign to reach out to me. She knew how incredibly agonizing it was to go out into public watching people go crazy over stuff that didn’t seem to matter. She brought me a box of tinfoil wrapped potatoes, rolls, some roast beef, bananas, tomatoes, peppers, and an avocado. A bless-ed avocado. It was the first thing that even tasted good. I cried when I opened the door and saw her holding that box. I remember thinking, “THIS is Christmas.” This is what everyone should be rushing to do over the holidays.
I had moments over the holidays that were tender. My grandmother had a full house and I remember her saying, “my house has not felt like this in years.” She was completely surrounded by her loved ones. I saw people convening in a room that I thought I would never see together. I saw tender mercies. I saw people behaving in ways I did not expect. I felt love from those I didn’t expect, and apathy from those I thought would harbor love.
I sat across from two former drug addicts at the Christmas table and remember how Christ taught that we should sit with the broken. I saw a gleam in one of whom’s eyes who told me he just started teaching Sunday school. I thought, “Why not? Why not him?” We are all teachers in this game of life.
Christmas evening and Christmas morning were a blurb. A mad dash to wrap, bake, cook Christmas breakfast, go to this house, and then to that one. I remember after coming home from the last house, my family went downstairs to watch a movie and I sat with the cat upstairs on the couch and watched the sun go down. I thought. I’m alone now. The facade is over. I CAN GRIEVE.
I was SO HAPPY to watch the sun go down. Christmas 2018 took something SO VERY PRECIOUS from me. I remember thinking that it was SO NOT WORTH it. I could see the pictures of the joy and the Christmas jammies and all the holiday fanfare blowing up all over the internet, and I thought if I could just put that entire Genie back in the bottle I would. Watching the sun go down was a tender mercy. Yet, I was reminded of another tender mercy that hit me as I walked away from the glass doors with the sunset at my back. “God has always had a way of turning the most horrible tragedies, our WORST human errors, into something beautiful.”
We as humans break everything. We are sometimes victims of life and all its agonizing imperfections. I just have to trust that the sun does set, and that something unfathomable is on the horizon. It’s not something grand, but it is OH SO grand. Something that will take me by surprise and just ponder for a moment that it is NOT all meaningless. It was not all for nothing.
This Christmas was a broken hallelujah. Yet, it was a hallelujah just the same.