Saturday, October 27, 2012

Four Months (originally posted October 27, 2012)

Tomorrow is the 28th of the month.  It has been four months since Zach took his life on June 28th.  Tomorrow is All Saints' Sunday.  Or maybe it is the next Sunday.   In either case, we will honor the saints tomorrow.   In church we will pass the microphone around the sanctuary so people can name those who have died this past year and we will ring the singing bowl when each name is mentioned.    

In the afternoon, Lovely, Daughter, and I will sprinkle some of his ashes around a tree planted in his memory at Holston Camp.  Then on Monday I leave for Montana to visit my parents and extended family.  I haven't seen my parents since Zach died.   And yes, I will take the bus.  It's what I do.

I have been reading, My Son, My Son:  A Guide to Healing After Death, Loss, or Suicide by Iris Bolton.  She lost her son to suicide.  She was a counselor at a counseling center, "The Link."   A couple of board members had said after her son's death:
"If she couldn't help her own son, how can she expect to help anyone else?"
She goes on to say:
The funny thing is that I agreed.  So paralyzing is the combination of depression, guilt, and shock, that its victim is mentally reduced to a jackstraw, a hollow man, a cipher.  p. 36
I know that feeling.  How could/can I be a minister, preaching, teaching, and counseling when I failed my most important assignment?   Who in their right minds would listen to anything I have to say when in my primary role as a father I delivered to the world a corpse rather than a living, productive man? 

Iris Bolton faces the goblins and continues as a counselor.  She writes:
Some persons had declared openly that The Link was finished if I were to return.  But we continued to be busy.  Parents began to refer teenagers to me for help in preventing their suicides, and I was overwhelmed with the wonder of it.  How could they think that I might help them when I had failed to save my own son?  I was in awe of what seemed to be a miracle.  More than anything else, it helped me to begin to find some meaning in the meaninglessness of Mitch's death.  p. 40
At some point she decided to disagree with the voices outside (and more importantly inside) of her that said she was a failure.   She stuck it out.   I hope I can be that strong.

It isn't even so much "the job" as it is the existential feeling of failing.  I failed to give my son whatever it was he needed to keep going.   I also know that I did what I could given my human fallibility.   I know that if I were responsible for this death it wouldn't have happened.   But I don't know if that feeling of failure will ever go away.


  1. John,
    I don't know but it seems to me Zach made a quite exit to find the peace we all seek. His love for all of you made him want it that way, a quite, graceful exit in his own timing.

    But what do I know - I failed to show my son that his presence in our lives was the most valuable thing he could give us. I knew Kevin was fighting to find a safe place to stop running from all the demons that chased him, but he chose to pretend all was ok when he was with family.

    We all feel that we let Kevin down and let him make decisions that lead to the needless sad ending. I wonder if I will ever find a peace again... but then most of the time all I can stand to do is think about the joy he brought to our lives during those wonderful times when things were "better".

    Do we all struggle to put on the face we want others to see so we can hide the true emotions we feel? How can you love your child so much, and want only the best life can give them and still not know how to reach them where they are hiding?

    It has been 6 years and I still have no answers. I pray that you, Bev, and Katie all feel the healing much quicker and stronger than that. I hope this post doesn't sound too negative, it has been a moment for me to reach out. Your strength and outreach during the past few months have been an inspiration to me as you were during the time of our loss. Thank you John.

  2. Dear Beth,

    Thank you for these kind words and for your honesty. It appears that Zach and Kevin both worked very, very hard to mask their psychic pain.

  3. I think of you and your wife and daughter, and also of your son, often. I didn't know Zach, but the vividness of the memories you have shared has made me feel somehow as though I did. It sounds as though he was someone who felt things deeply. Many of the things you have shared about him remind me of my own little son.

    Peace and strength to you and your family--

    1. Dear Andrea,

      Thank you for your comment and for thinking about us. Thank you also for the wish of peace and strength. Yes, he did feel things deeply. I wish he could have been able to communicate those feelings, especially in later years. He was also bright and big-hearted. I am very proud of him. It is a joy to know your kids!