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Of Light and Shadows
Holidays, Losing a Child

Of Light and Shadows

Dear Zack,

It has been 5 1/2 months. It seems like forever. It is hard for me to remember not feeling this way. It is now November, and everyone has been doing those 30 days of Thankfulness. I am not. Of course, I could find something to be thankful for each day: your sister, brother, brother-in-law, nephews, and your dad – but it reminds me too much of what I do not have – what I have lost.

But I will write on this 28th day of November that I am grateful for you. You are my son, and you were here for almost 25 years. I think back over the years, though it is still hard for me.

I think of your energy. You had such zest for life! You were always in a hurry. It was hard to slow you down. You were always running ahead and jumping off things before I could even catch up to you. I think of the letter I still have that you wrote at age 10 to Sting, to say you were his biggest fan and would make a great partner for him!

I think of your music. Of you playing guitar in the school talent show and everyone standing and clapping wildly as you put the guitar behind your head and played the Star-Spangled Banner just like Jimi Hendrix. Of you in Battle of the Bands, your awesome hair flying as you played Metallica. Out of all the memories of your music, I cherish most the many, many nights that we would go sit out on our front porch. You would play your classical guitar for me as your little brother caught fireflies. It is one of the happiest memories in my heart.

I think of how close you and your sister were right from the start. She read to you each night, holding the book upside down and telling you stories the best she could remember –  how you loved that. I think of you playing dress up and playing Harriet the Spy with her. I am grateful for the concern and the love you shared with her when she was fighting cancer: helping me wash her hair after her surgery. You were so scared and yet so brave for her.

I am grateful for you being not only a big brother to your younger brother, but his friend too. He looks up to you so much. I remember when he “borrowed” something from your room, and the look on your face when he said he was sorry, then the look on your face when you found he had spray painted it gold. So I am grateful that you both were able to find humor in gold spray paint over the years.

I am grateful for the love you have for the man who started out as a stepdad and became your Dad, as you grew and realized how much he loves you. How the two of you shared a sense of humor of ‘Steelers and Bengals,’ and of course pink princess gift bags. I remember birthdays and Christmases, spending Christmas Eve setting up wrestlers, building Legos, putting bikes together, etc. just to make it perfect on Christmas morning. How you taped/wrapped everything, especially the guitar you gave your little brother for Christmas, it took him forever to get it unwrapped.

I think of how much you loved your dog. Of course, I remember the hard things too and words said by others that left scars on you. But I also remember you fighting through it. I am grateful for the many Saturdays we spent together in front of the fireplace, glued to a marathon of Law and Order or movies.

I remember teaching you how to draw, how to look at light and shadows. I remember telling you countless times to stop drawing on your homework and on yourself. I think of how you fell in love with the art of tattooing. How much you respected Tony, how much he taught you. I loved hearing the stories when you came home and watching you become a great artist. I am especially grateful for the tattoo you did on me. It is a part of you that will always be with me.

I am grateful for your humor and laughter! You were so funny, always making everyone laugh. I am so grateful I have some of your laughter on video. I remember every time you saw me you hugged me and told me you loved me! Unconditional love that I am sure I do not deserve, but you always loved me. I am grateful that I know you still do! I know that you loved with all that you had.

This could go on for pages, but I just wanted to say on this Thanksgiving Day that I am thankful, for singing you to sleep, for tracing your face, for playing games and having time for you always. Even though you have yet again run ahead of us, I know we will be together again. Every day, you show me more about life and that you are not gone. I am so grateful for you, my son. Thank you so much!

Love, Mom

About the Author

Wisdom From Our Community

"Wisdom From Our Community" posts originally appeared on the Alliance of Hope Forum for Suicide Loss Survivors and are reprinted with the permission of the authors. Our online forum transcends time and distance, offering a culture of kindness, hope, and understanding to people who have lost loved ones to suicide. Operating like a 24/7 support group, our forum is supervised by a mental health professional and moderated by a trained team of loss survivors. Members can read and comment, share their stories, and connect with other suicide loss survivors.Read More »