Please use this blog to help us remember Joshua Lee Anderson, who made the tragic and fatal decision to take his life on Wednesday, March 18, 2009. Please post any memories or thoughts you may have in the comments.

Friday, January 18, 2013

3 Years and 10 Months Later: Hippolytus by Euripides

There is much in this ancient Greek tragedy which resonates with me on this anniversary month.

First, some background of the story:  Handsome, strong, athletic, virile Hippolytus whole-heartedly worships Artemis, virgin Goddess of the Hunt.  He has absolutely no romantic interest in women and has gone so far as to call Aphrodite the "vilest of the Gods in Heaven."  Because of this, the vain Goddess of Love determines to punish Hippolytus by causing his step-mother, Phaedra to fall hopelessly in love with him.  In keeping these incestuous feelings a secret, Phaedra suffers mightily; becoming depressed and suicidal.

Phaedra speaks of the power of shame:
Then there is shame that thwarts us.  Shame is of two kinds.  The one is harmless, but the other a plague.
This "plague" fills her body and mind, leading her thoughts towards death.
Then I believed that I could conquer love,
conquer it with discretion and good sense.
And when that too failed me, I resolved to die.
And death is the best plan of them all.  Let none of you
dispute that. 
A haunting description of Phaedra's suicidal ideation:
For she would willingly bring her life to anchor
at the end of its voyage - the gloomy harbor of death. 
When the awful deed is done, the chorus says:
Woman unhappy, tortured,
your suffering, your death,
has shaken this house to its foundations. 
You were daring, you who died in violence and guilt.
Here was a wrestling: your own hand against your life. 
Who can have cast a shadow on your life? 
Her husband Theseus' words echo perfectly what I felt 46 months ago, on that horrible, unspeakable day.  (My edits are in parenthesis).
O city, city! Bitterness of sorrow!
Extremest sorrow that a [mother] can suffer!
Fate, you have ground me and my house to dust,
fate in the form of some ineffable
pollution, some grim spirit of revenge.
The file has whittled away my life until
it is a life no more.
I am like a swimmer that falls into a great sea:
I cannot cross this towering wave I see before me. 
My [son]!  I cannot think
of anything said or done to drive you to this horrible death.
You are like bird that has vanished out of my hand.
You have made a quick leap out of my arms
into the land of Death.
I have no doubt that "pre-Josh", these gut-wrenching words of sorrow and woe would have gone in one ear and out the other, bouncing off my naive heart.  Instead, they have pierced and penetrated my death-initiated soul with arrows of truth.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Happy 21st Birthday Josh - January 16, 2013 - updated with original poem

Josh - You would be 21 years old today!  To commemorate this momentous birthday, I've listed twenty-one things that you liked in your short seventeen years of life.  Your siblings helped with the list.

1.  Barney

2.  Yellow Blanket

3.  Legos

4. Drawing - you did such a good job with the Cat in the Hat!

5. Dragonball-Z

6. Yu-gi-oh
7. Pokemon

8.  Buddy
9.  Benji

11.  Food - Bulgogi, Ramen noodles
10.  Back scratch (just like Grandpa)
12.  Video Games:  Zelda, Gears of War, Guitar Hero, Halo
13. Football and lacrosse

14. Sleeping

15.  Shades

16. Listening to your iPod (Bob Marley, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Slightly Stoopid, Sublime, All American Rejects)

17. Texting on cell phone

18. Girls

19. Girlfriend

20.  Best friends

21. Being silly

RIP Josh.

We love and miss you on your big (legal) birthday!

May 27, 2013 update
Reading and writing poetry has become a small but significant part of my grief journey.  At the coffee shop yesterday, after my weekly visit to his gravesite, I was re-reading a short poem written at the beginning of the year, a couple of weeks before Josh's 21st birthday and immediately and unexpectedly started to cry.

Sue Anderson

I see him, in my mind's eye:
     twenty-one year old.

He looks good:
     formidable shoulders
     lean waist
     mop hair
     trademark smirk.

Mirage looks so real! 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Poem: "Shadows" by D. H. Lawrence

It continues to be my regular practice to visit Josh on Saturday's, clean his stone marker, untangle the chimes on his tree and write a weekly letter to him.  A newly added ritual is to stop at a local coffee shop and spend some undistracted time reading.  It was here, armed with a lite caramel latte, amidst a lively morning weekend crowd, that unexpectedly, tears began to fall as this poignant section of Lawrence's poem ploughed deep into my fragile, recovering soul.  (The edits in parenthesis are mine.)
And if, in the changing phases of (a mother's) life
I fall in sickness and in misery
my wrists seem broken and my heart seems dead
and strength is gone, and my life
is only the leavings of a life: 
and still, among it all, snatches of lovely oblivion,
and snatches of renewal
odd, wintry flowers upon the withered stem,
yet new, strange flowers
such as my life has not brought forth before,
new blossoms of me -  
then I must know that still
I am in the hands of an unknown God,
he is breaking me down to his oblivion
to send me forth on a new morning,
a new (woman).
The "changing phase" of my life has dealt what could be an unrecoverable blow - the suicide death of a beloved seventeen-year old son.  Indeed the aftermath, as aptly described by the poet, is shattered bones, a dead heart and deep fatigue from shouldering such grief, guilt and remorse, leaving only a mere shadow or "leavings" of the former naive life.

On the outside, I may look the same as the "pre-Josh" days but internally, nothing is the same.  I am not the same person; I am irrevocably changed.  Before reading this poem, I thought the difference was because of the Josh-shaped vacuum in my heart.  I have also described it as an internal amputation; the instant I found him, and my brain registered what happened, a piece of me was brutally hacked off.  So the focus was on what I didn't have, what was missing, what was lost and gone - never to return.

These words made me realize and acknowledge that even in the midst of death and destruction, loss and misery, the"withered stem" can give birth to "odd, strange, wintry flowers" that have never been seen before.  And that these are new bits or "blossoms"of me.  Writing very openly on a public blog is a new blossom.  Reading new genres and authors over the past 3+ years - also new blossoms.  The fact that I ran a half-marathon a year later to help raise money for the foundation in Josh's name (I despise running) is a big blossom.  My perspective on life is different; another new blossom.

The poet says this is evidence of the tender work of God.  And that despite it all, I am still in the palm of His hand.  I believe it.  This realization filled me with such solace that tears flowed.