Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Why Did He Have to Die? Searching For Meaning

I remembered to feed my house dogs last night.

I'm not sure if anyone fed them the two days before or not. Maybe my husband mentioned it. Although my hens and outside dogs all are part of a routine that I've stumbled through blindly this week, the three little dogs who cuddle around me when I sit down are used to having food dropped in their bowls whenever they are empty. I honestly hadn't even looked at their bowls.

Of course, Monday I didn't even remember to eat until someone from my Sunday school class came with a box of food. I had started a pot of soup, because I knew in my head that we would need to eat. I had even forced my granddaughters to sit down and eat at lunch time, but food wasn't something that I wanted.

Once upon a time the death of a family member would have filled a home with visitors and food. Not too long ago, the phone would have carried the word from place to place. People would have stepped forward to make sure you ate and do what needed doing. Now I can't even think of what I might need when people do call or ask. There's no drawing together because life is so demanding that if you're not the one blindsided by the loss, it's hard to pull yourself free to do more than express condolences.

Now it's this glowing box that draws me like a moth each morning. Not long after I received word, it was Facebook where I turned to let my friends know. It's this blog where I poured out my feelings in an effort to find healing for myself and to try and wrap my head around the the way my life had suddenly changed. It's Facebook where I've found my friends and Ethan's friends reaching out and sometimes sharing memories, pictures, their pain and their prayers for us all. It's my infernal cell phone that I struggle to keep charged because of the texts and calls.

I've had so many people tell me I'm strong, but I don't feel strong. I get up in the morning and heat a cup of coffee, then sit by my computer for as long as I can stand. I write -- not everyone's response to what I'm going through, but what I feel like I have to do -- and I read and I cry. I do the same thing again at night after the children leave and my husband goes to bed. Those are the times when the house is absolutely quite except for the hum of the electric heater in this room and the click of the computer keys.

Part of me wants to stop the blog. Part of me says it's my lifeline. And then every day I look at the statistics on it and wonder if I've helped just one of the people reading it. Sometimes a stranger sends me a comment that makes me know I have and as I search for some kind of purpose in what God has chosen to work in the lives of my son, and I and all of our family and friends, some part of me believes this is it.

I prayed for so long that he would find sobriety. I realized it was not a gift I could give him, or something I could force on him either, so I prayed that God would do it. Every time he stumbled down another long hole that I never expected him to live in -- months in jail, a month in the hospital, months in physical rehabilitation, living in a homeless shelter -- I prayed that someone he might not have otherwise met would be able to say the words he needed to hear and show him the way to another life.

I pleaded with God, argued with God, tried to accept that there was a reason that he had to suffer so much. Although Ethan sometimes argued that he was happy with his life, with his drugs and addiction, there was often pain in his voice, his body was damaged from the drugs and accidents. He could never see it was his choices or seem to see a way to change, despite months of sober living, support groups, the kindness of strangers, and the deep well of love of his family and friends that as often as not he would turn his back on.

When he died, I asked why. Not why was he dead, because lately there had been so much pain in him that I had prayed for peace if not sobriety. Peace was what he was finally given. It wasn't the answer I wanted, but it was one I felt I could accept. Instead I asked why it took so long. Why did he have to hurt so long? Why didn't he die one of the times he was hauled to the ER unresponsive from an overdose? Why did he survive an accident that should have killed him? Why did he have to keep hurting?

The answer is that I don't know. I don't know how his experiences changed his soul. While he couldn't escape his addiction, he also couldn't escape his salvation, and perhaps there were things he learned about himself and his God in those months that he had no way to share with us.

Perhaps while he stumbled through a life that was destined to end too soon, he was the tool that changed someone else's life, if not in how he lived, then in how he died. Perhaps the people who helped him, or who tried to, learned something from the experience that will make them better at helping someone else. Maybe his friends who are still stunned and wondering what happened to the wonderful kid they grew up with will remember the path he took and not only avoid it themselves, but watch for those signs of danger in their friends, siblings, and their own children.

I don't believe that his life or his pain, or mine for that matter, were in vain, even though I may never understand it. Not in this life, anyway. And when the time comes that I could gain that understanding, it won't matter any more. I'll be able to put aside this pain and anger and leave it all behind, and if understanding comes, it will only be as a brief ah-ha moment when we're together again with our Savior and celebrating freedom from this world that is not our home.

So I sit at my computer, because while God gave him pain and addiction, for years he has given me words. This process is my therapy, but maybe someone else's as well. Just as I originally committed to writing every day just to get in the habit, now I'm committed to writing because there may be someone else who needs this as badly as I do. I know that grief consumes me now, that maybe it hurts as badly to read it as it does to write it some days, and that many people will never understand why I do it. And that doesn't matter.

I know in some bright, sunny future time I can hardly imagine now while I'm cloaked in this dark blanket of grief, the things that make my day once again will be lighthearted and the ups and downs that I once knew. But through it there will still wind a thread of pain and loss that I've got to learn how to live with and accept. Thanks to this blog and my inability to be less than honest, I know there are so many other parents and families struggling with that same fate and I'm going to be here so they know they're not alone.


  1. Long before you and I ever met I loved reading your "words" in the newspaper. I looked for them every day wanting to know what you were going to write about each day. My children are older than your's but I so enjoyed reading about the "Drama Queen" and "Sk8ter Boy"! Your words about feeding the birds, watching the squirrels and your adventures in the woods while walking with your dogs. Your writing about your experiences in life are so real to me and I always understand totally your raw and honest feelings. I believe God chose to give you this awesome gift so that others like me can take a moment from this whirlwind world and read, reflect, learn, grow, share and just feel better. I also believe that this connection is why once we did meet, that we have become close friends. Your "words" the last few days have brought more tears than smiles and I'm praying that your hurt will lessen each day and that what will be left are your happy memories of your children. And please know you are not alone, my heart breaks for you and I would be more than glad to come feed your pets or anything else you may need while you are coming to grips with this tragic loss. Again, thank you for sharing and you know how to reach me for whatever you need. Love you much, Wanda

  2. Praying for your peace... As a mother of two myself I cannot imagine what you are going through. I know your words have touched me and my heart goes out to you and so many other parents that seem to be going through the same thing. Please keep your blog going for I feel that it will touch the hearts of many. God Bless...

  3. When I read the last several blogs, I feel punch in my stomach. The ache for you. I've dealt with this same battle for a while and stay terrified. Prayers are all I have and I pray for them daily. I pray for you during this time. So sorry for your loss.