I begin this post with two distinct thoughts that are related; the first, I can't believe that it has been four months since our beloved son has passed away and second, I am having a hard believing that Josh is really gone. My head know what our reality is now, but my heart is having a very hard time accepting it.
One would think that I should have moved on from the "denial" stage of the grieving process with the many reminders that happen, even on a daily basis. Within the past week, we've received several sympathy cards, letting us know that we are still in our friend's thoughts and prayers. Another day brought a package with a book on grieving from a thoughtful friend who lost her young son a few years ago.
It hits me when I come across items that have dates just prior to the fateful day of March 18th. An example would be finding a work-related email that I sent on March 17th. My first thought is, "Wow, when I sent this email, Josh was still alive and I had no idea that it would be my last day with him." My second thought is, "How can this be?" with tears.
I teach several indoor cycle classes at two gyms and in order to keep my music straight, I have a notecard for each playlist with the date/place of the class so that I don't inadvertently use the same songs in a short time period. I have come across one such card that references Sunday, March 15th and Monday, March 16th. I know that those two days, I played that play list in separate classes, completely oblivious to the fact that my world would be changed forever by Wednesday morning. And I think, "Is this really me?"
When I am out running errands at the grocery story, or the mall and see a group of boys, roughly Josh's age (17 - 18 yrs old), my breath catches, my throat constricts and tears come to my eyes as I understand that it is no use looking for his face in the crowd since he will absent from such groups forever.
I am being brutally honest with this next example, so please forgive me. When in NYC last month, riding the train, I saw a boy whose age was probably seventeen or eighteen sitting across the aisle. It was clear that he was emotionally and intellectually challenged and in an instant, I saw his life. If he went to a public high school where looks, talent, academic or athletic ability is paramount, this kid probably did not have many friends. Maybe he was ridiculed and/or bullied. At the very least, he might live so far in the background that he didn't register on most kid's social radar screen. Did he ever experience the heady feeling of a young girl's attention? I doubt it. Was he invited to parties and other social gatherings? Probably not. Did he have a loving and accepting family - I sincerely hoped so.
Sitting on the train, thinking about this kid and our son, and as I type my recollections now, my brow furrows in complete incomprehension. I don't how our son who had the looks, the girlfriend, the popularity, the intelligence, and the natural athletic ability could end his life when this kid, who on the surface had none of those things, was still alive.
This kid did not find his life so unbearable that he would end it himself. He still had some reasons to live - perhaps many reasons. Whatever obstacles were in his way, he was moving through them, or living through them. He was not experiencing such excruciating mental anguish that he would cross over to that place in the mind which would allow self-murder.
All of these thoughts running through my mind then/now and I end up at the same place - this is so unfair. Not that I wish circumstances to be reversed where his mother was the one grieving, and not me....it is more like if this kid could still be alive, why couldn't our Josh find a way to live too? He seemingly had so much more - why wasn't it enough? It is still so incomprehensible to me and therefore unbelievable.
We went to the fundraiser at the Buffalo Wings Factory for lunch and ate with two of Josh's friends. They both have been so good about keeping in touch with us; in fact, one of them had come over last week with another friend, just to hang out and talk. Apparently on the way home, these two boys talked about how sad and depressing it was for weeks after his death. Now, however, when they think about Josh, it is the happy memories that occupy their thoughts. I am glad it is this way for them and hopefully for all of Josh's other friends, but I cannot relate.
I think I will get there too but it is not that way for me now. Still, when I think of his death, I am overcome with sorrow, pain and anguish. It is still so hard for me and the tears can flow easily and freely - at any time, day or night, when I am by myself or with others.
One of the most difficult pictures to look at - of the many that are around our house now - is the one taken a few days before Christmas, the one sent out with our annual letter. I can remember that day so clearly. We have a tradition of wearing shirts of the school of choice for our newest college attendee. Gillian had decided to attend the University of Virginia so we were all wearing our UVA gear. It took a while to figure out what everyone was wearing and of course, there were issues with Josh's shirt. It was either too small or the wrong color and he had to wear another one. It was a chilly day and we were all outside waiting for him to come. Finally he did, we took a great picture and that was that.
Now I look at this picture on my fridge and think, "who would've thought at the time, that we only had another two months and three weeks with him." And once again, I can't believe it.
Yet, I have only to look at his empty room, or vacant place at the dinner table, or now, the new license plates on our cars to know that it is true - our beloved Josh is no longer here.
Please continue to keep the Anderson family in your thoughts and prayers.