One year ago today my son Ivan was in the last hours of his life. Although his body was not found immediately, I know in my bones he chose the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. Five hours away as I write this.
Today has been full of enough distractions tied to my departure for a cruise assignment that some of the sharp edges haven’t cut as deep as they might have. I have spent my day trying not to think of what his last hours were like, but what the message of his life is for me, and what the one overarching message was that I gave to him.
It is really quite simple. All love, all the time.
Today on my electronic photo frame a picture showed up of me beaming as I held him on the day he was born. His innocent face, puzzled by light and sound and the feel of air on his skin was heartbreaking, and I said aloud how sorry I was that life hadn’t turned out the way every mother dreams it will.
The strongest consolation I have is that so many years were wonderful. It isn’t only about “how it worked out in the end,” as we all are so tempted to see as the only important thing. Wow, if that were really true, we would spend our whole lives in a fog, not knowing how to interpret anything. I haven’t yet found anything really important that has a clear end.
Many other photos tell such a different story than the one taking place in his apartment last year, a true hellhole from a long bout with pain from a serious injury, on top of the utter horror of uncontrolled bipolar illness. I look at one after another of the happy boy-faces of my two sons on my photo frame, and I hear their boy-voices making sense of their world in the most meltingly wonderful way children do.
I was on the other side of the camera experiencing the truest joy of my life.
I couldn’t protect them from the world, or the toxic mix of genetic heritage and marital dysfunction that took down my world and made their futures so much harder to navigate. But I loved them unconditionally. I look at their faces looking back at me behind the camera and know they loved me the same way.
Would I bring them into the world if I knew how both their lives would end in the way they did?That has got to be the hardest question the mother of a child who took his or her own life ever has to face. And I have to ask it twice. More than twice. I ask it all the time, and every time is a new reckoning. The best I can do is remind myself of all the love that wouldn’t have been in this world if I weren’t me and they were not their beautiful selves.
All love all the time.
Never hold back. Love can bring you to your knees, make you breathless with pain, but it is the very thing that can bring you through the worst darkness into a life that you can keep living abundantly. Love makes whatever happens survivable. Love is the only thing in the end that makes any sense to me.
May 2024 bring many opportunities to love more deeply, broadly, and lastingly. Happy New Year!