I am struggling….pure and simple. I am taking a nosedive and if I don’t pull out of it, there is going to be a horrific mess to have to sort through with millions of tiny pieces to try to figure out how to put back together. How I hate to admit my struggle….my inability to “rise above,” “move forward,” “let go and let God.”
I had lunch recently with Tracy, my “Seattle Sister of the Heart” and she looked me straight in the eyes and told me I needed to get back on Lexapro, immediately! Tracy is a straight shooter, she pulls no punches and yet her ability to communicate the right message in a non-offensive way is brilliant. Is it the British accent? Well, that probably doesn’t hurt, but I am going with Tracy’s immense capacity for kindness, impeccable timing and divine intuition. I guess God anticipated the deep sorrow and void Ryan’s death would leave, and so she blessed me with amazing friends who have stood beside me, cried with me, held me, kicked my butt, motivated and inspired me and who just sense when I need them most. And that is when the phone calls start, or the cards show up, or the trips are planned….God does work in mysterious ways and for me, God’s most impressive work has show up in the love and support of my precious friends.
I long for balance, joy, lightheartedness and there are moments when I get a glimpse of those long-ago feelings, however fleeting. But my reality is more like being in the middle of a store and seeing a sign that reads, “Happiness is a choice,” and wanting to scream at the top of my lungs, “Oh really! Really! Well, walk a mile in my shoes and see just how happy you are!” Or better yet, realizing that you have a “Life is Good” t-shirt on in the midst of a meltdown and literally ripping it off of you because you know that in that moment, life is not anywhere close to “good” and wearing something that states that it is feels hypocritical.
After lunch, Tracy and I chose to explore the healing powers of gem stones. After the very convincing and knowledgeable owner of our local gem stone store explained the various healing properties of certain gem stones, I loaded up on stones that were believed to have the ability to heal, calm and cleanse my heart along with the anxiety and heavy burden of grief. I am carrying around a stone of jade in my pocket and have heart shaped stones of jade, red jasper, and rose quartz, all carrying promise of heart health and relief, now in a bowl on my coffee table. To insure the efficacy of my new gem stones, I placed them on my chest, right over my heart, and left them there for about an hour as I meditated on their healing properties while simultaneously rubbing the jade “worry stone” and praying for peace, guidance and direction. I actually slept with my jade worry stone last night resting in the palm of my hand and at various times during the night, placed it upon my heart. For whatever reason, it comforted me and for now, that is good enough.
And that is not all….I pray, read books on spirituality, I have faith, I believe, I put on a happy face and know that sometimes you have to “fake it until you can make it” and I understand that you have to “feel it to heal it,” and yet, the sorrow is now so pervasive that I find myself unable to catch my breath between each wave of grief. It’s like swimming underwater in a lake and needing to come up for a breath of fresh air. I can see the surface and yet there is a barrier, something holding my head under water, preventing me from reaching the surface and taking a cleansing breath. I am drowning, I know it, I feel it and yet I am powerless to prevent it. It feels terrible, frightening at times and when I am at my lowest, I feel ashamed that I am not able to be stronger, more faithful, more hopeful, more courageous. To put it bluntly, it sucks.
It is not just the reality of Ryan’s death that is so difficult to come to terms with, but rather the circumstances. Death by suicide! Suicide! How is that possible? How can a young man so loved, so adored, so intelligent, so full of promise and hope….a son, brother, father, friend….how could this have happened?
It is my answer to this question that is most troubling, leaving me with a feeling of hopelessness at the seemingly insurmountable obstacles obscuring our society’s vision, willingness and determination to transform our world into a peaceful, tolerant, kind and loving society. How can our society create and allow violence, poverty, hunger, illiteracy, disease? We could change all of that in an instant, just by deciding that those things are no longer acceptable. Apathy, indifference, fear….these are the enemies of creativity, compassion, tolerance and peace. They are the root causes of violence, poverty, and illness.
There were so many opportunities for Ryan to get the help he needed and deserved. I was so relieved and grateful when Ryan came home from Iraq. I thanked God over and over for keeping Ryan safe and whole and we were all overjoyed to have him back home. I had no idea that Ryan was in more danger once he got home than he ever was in Iraq. At least in Iraq, he had a known mission and objective and was surrounded by his “band of brothers” willing to stand beside him, fight and if necessary, die with or for him. Once home, Ryan lost the comfort of the camaraderie and belonging he felt on the battlefield. His sense of self and identity were skewed, he was being attacked and falsely accused by those who once professed to love him. Unemployment, financial and legal difficulties, these became Ryan’s realities.
What I struggle with the most is the fact that those with the position, power, knowledge and expertise to help Ryan, including a long list of doctors, psychiatrists, nurses, social workers, counselors, attorneys, the Veterans Administation in Atlanta and New Orleans, ….these are the very ones that decided to look the other way, to let Ryan slip through the cracks, to literally let him out of a car knowing he had no immediate support system , means or even capacity to take care of himself. I have often wondered what these same individuals would have done had Ryan been their son. I can assure you, the outcome would have been different. I am confident these same individuals would have made different choices. They would have done everything in their power to ensure Ryan was receiving the medical attention he so desperately needed and deserved had he been their son.
I will always believe that Ryan’s death was preventable….that had he received the proper treatment, he would have regained his life and we would have him with us today. Instead, Ryan slipped deeper and deeper into mental illness, isolating himself from his friends and family as his life slowly unraveled. The burden of guilt that I carry for not being able to fully understand, comprehend and take action that could have prevented Ryan’s death weighs heavy on my heart and is felt in every fiber of my being. It is a mother’s job to protect their children, and I failed to protect Ryan. How I wish I could go back in time and make different decision of my own…..hindsight is always 20/20, isn’t it?
It is interesting how each day brings new challenges and opportunities. What felt so horrible yesterday now seems tolerable in the light of a new day. It is for these little glimpses of light that I am so deeply grateful. Even in the midst of my darkest days, I have felt the love of God envelop me. I know my pleas for peace have been heard and are constantly being answered in every way imaginable. God is so very clever….”Okay, let’s see what we can do today to gently remind Monika that there is hope, that she is loved, important, needed, valued, guiltless. I know, let’s send a guardian angel into her life that will help her remember that there is so much good in this world, that people do care, that we can all make a difference, that happiness, love, tolerance, peace, and kindness really are choices. Let’s call these guardian angels Joan, Kristen, Kathy, Kathie, Amy, Tracy, Jeanne, Helen, Deb, Aaron, (just to name a few) …. let’s throw in a few complete strangers too, just for fun, who willingly, lovingly share their stories and listen with open hearts as grief and sorrow are exposed, examined and laid bare for all to witness. And then, I am going to really make Monika’s day by reminding her of the limitless beauty surrounding her….The beauty of nature should do the trick, so here is a rainbow, some shooting stars, and a cloud in the shape of a hand with the sun in the palm of the hand so brilliant and bright, shooting rays of sunlight as if to say. ”” It will all be okay, Monika, I know you are weary, but I’ve got you, Dear One, so relax, rest, recharge, take care of yourself, I’ve got you.” “
All of these things, and more, occurred on a recent drive to California to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends. One of the highlights of our trip was getting to meet Blake and Beckham, our newborn nephews, for the first time. It was such a joy and so healing to spend time with the two B’s, holding them, playing with them, feeding them and rocking them to sleep. I was in heaven! I LOVE babies, especially newborns and to have two at a time allowed me to have at least one of them in my arms at all times. I couldn’t help but wonder if Ryan’s soul convened with Blake and Beckham before their birth, sending them off with the advice to remember the source of pure love from which they were created and letting them know they were about to enter the lives of some amazing parents who would love, cherish and spoil them rotten as would the rest of the family. And I wonder if Ryan let Blake and Beckham know that they would be meeting me and that their tiny little souls and precious little smiles, coos and cries would be like a soothing salve on an exposed wound. “You are gonna dig my Mom, she loves babies! Just having you in her arms will be healing….so please, be patient because she won’t want to put you down. Peace out, guys, have fun down there!”
Today is a new day…..with new opportunities for both challenges and growth. I am shooting for growth, but will try to be kind to myself if the most I get out of the day is a shower. Sometimes a shower is as good as it gets, and sometimes that’s okay.
And so, the journey continues……..