A high-school classmate of mine, K, lost her son to suicide earlier this year.
We had become Facebook connections, and in the immediate aftermath she reached out to me. Now that I think about it, she never asked me any “why?” questions. Or maybe she did once or twice and I’ve blanked it out. Mostly I told her how much I hurt for her, and how shitty and unfair it all is, and how anger is a reasonable response.
She and I have never been close. She reached out to me because I know about suicide attempts, having made one of my own.
We reconnected at my 25th high school reunion. I went on a whim, badgering one of my besties to also swing by because I suspected, rightly, that I would be the only one of my crew attending. I shook hands and reintroduced myself to many people I couldn’t remember. One said, “Oh, yeah, didn’t you have really long blonde hair?”
I suspect ‘long blonde hair’ is my high school memorial. That and being psych-hospitalized during February and March as we all got ready to graduate.
At the reunion, K was eager to talk, hungry to reconnect. She said she wished she’d been more willing to use her brains, and less interested in blending in. And how about following each other on Facebook? Sure, why not. It’s long been my conviction that Facebook provides the kind of connection that our high-school hallways once provided: both intimate and superficial, while always transitory.
But in that peculiar way digital life has, in this season I’ve been able to be intimate, transitory, and deep for K. My survival, I think, made me the safest of the safe for her, even though I’m standing on her son’s side of the window. It’s too horrible a place for platitudes, and I didn’t make her protect me from her grief. I knew she didn’t have the energy to, and I also knew what those tiny requests look like…the thousand ways other people show they don’t want to know there’s nothing that can be done to make your pain go away.
The best message I received in the hospital was, “I hurt. I care. I don’t know what to do.” To him, I said, “Send me some spring.”
Having gotten those gifts from him, I turned to K to say, “I hurt. I care. I will listen. And you and I will stay safe and whole in the wilderness of saying what’s true.”
LORD, our prayers rise to you like the smell of baking bread. Hold K in your warmth while she’s figuring out how to go on living–and how to continue to “do Christmas”–as she’s caught between her loss and the children and spouse that are still living alongside her. In the wholeness of the Holy Trinity, may it be so.