"To remember is another way to love"
I have seen evidence recently of how much Josh is loved and continues to be - even almost 2 years later. Two days ago, there were almost 100 posts on his Facebook wall from friends wishing him "Happy Birthday" and sharing how much they loved and missed him. And not only on his birthday, but on high school graduation day, before going to college, during the holidays - friends posted throughout the year.
The tear spigots turn on as I read these posts - so sincere, so poignant, so genuine. I am moved by how his friends, despite everything going on in their lives, have not forgotten him. The uninhibitedness with which they express their love - this from both guys and girls. How could he not see how much he was loved? How many would be affected by his death?
The book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, is a moving memoir by Maya Angelou, who describes her life as a young black girl trying to understand why she is judged by her skin color when she feels as human as any white person. These words are towards the end of the book, when she speaks of the "coming of age" process. It really struck me.
To be left alone on the tightrope of youthful unknowing is to experience the excruciating beauty of full freedom and the threat of eternal indecision. Few, if any survive their teens. Most surrender to the vague but murderous pressure of adult conformity. It becomes easier to die and avoid conflicts than to maintain a constant battle with the superior forces of maturity.
I wrote in my journal:
For some reason, this rings true of Josh. Describes the vulnerable teen. What our young people face. Pressures from within, from their peers, from adults - parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches. Are there some kids, whose internal make-up need more time to mature and develop before asked to navigate the space between adolescence and adulthood?
Are there some kids, so adverse to conflict, that they would literally rather die?
We wanted Josh to grow up, be mature, be responsible, act his age. "Forty years ago," I'd say, "kids your age were going off to war with guns in their hands. Can you just PLEASE think about the consequences of your behavior before doing something really dumb?"
Our expectations obviously did not help him cope with life. Didn't help him with finding an alternative to suicide. Did we expect too much? More than he was emotionally ready for? It is a difficult question because we think, at times, that since he was the youngest and the baby of the family that we did too much. Maybe didn't allow his character to be tested enough. I vacillate back and forth - did we expect too much of him or not enough? Were we too strong or not strong enough? Did we push him too much or not enough?
I find myself on a mental merry-go-round with these thoughts. None of which will change the situation - the fact that he is gone. So it is futile, I know, but my mind doesn't want to let it go. It is a form of "guilt jail" built for myself so that no matter where I turn, as his mother, I am responsible. I was not good enough. I did not give him what he needed. I did not notice his fatal frame of mind. I missed something. I did not do enough or I did too much. I did not say enough, or I said too much.
Many times I tell myself, "You did the best you could," and sometimes, I believe it. But not always. And back in the "grief jail" I go - even twenty-two months later.