Last week Steve referred to a friend of his who chose ‘Brave’ as their word for 2016. I am that friend. You all know Steve - he thinks big, looks ahead, and is always aiming for the best. So I thought that I too would pick a word. My family discussed a word for the year at dinner on December 30th. Shelly was deciding between ‘grow’ and ‘grace’. Cole said his word was going to be ‘eat’ (and judging by what he has been doing over Christmas break he is true to his word!). I chose ‘BRAVE’. I would find out 4 days later that it was chosen FOR me. On Sunday January 3rd I was informed that my beautiful, brilliant, sweet 21 year old son, Jack, had taken his own life. There were some warning signs over the last 8 or 9 months (difficulty organizing thoughts, not responding to calls or texts, lethargy, withdrawing from a summer class, etc.), all very non-specific. I actually told my wife a few months back that he might be doing drugs or be schizophrenic. I had hoped it was drugs, and I went into denial about the latter as it has few effective treatment options and a poor prognosis. Of course, we will never “officially” know. As his father, I know in my heart. I had met with a therapist about this in November, and he said that if it were schizophrenia it would become obvious. Jack got the jump on me. This pre-med scholar with a 3.9 GPA in biochemistry finished with a 0.0 this semester. I wouldn’t find this out until it was too late, not that it would have mattered. I think he was smart enough to know that what was causing him so much angst and pain would be a chronic battle, and it robbed him of hope. I believe this mental illness caused his wires to cross and what he decided to do was a result of an innate ‘survival instinct’ gone wrong. What do I know? I’m just a grieving Dad.
The funeral was Saturday. I can actually say “funeral” now (denial is a bitch). It was beautiful and special. It was the true start of healing for those of us left behind. It was in my hometown (Omaha). Many friends from DSM made the trip. As many as 30 of Jack’s fraternity brothers attended. Jack’s last text to me was a song, “Wasteland” by NEEDTOBREATHE. Lyrics include, “If God is for us, who can be against?” Guess what the reading (not chosen by us) at the funeral was? A little kiss from Jack. Afterward, we had a reception at my brother’s house. It lasted nine hours! Fun broke out. We had a pizza party and a push-up contest (Shelly won, of course). Jack brought us all together.
I want to thank all of you who have reached out to me and all who would like to, but feel weird. It’s OK, I understand. God Bless you all! I will be OK. I am thankful for everything. My wife and children (Grace, Cole, Hunter and Grant) are my EVERYTHING. We are so blessed. I resolve to be more patient and compassionate. I resolve to live in the present. I already appreciate everything more. My wife has been my ROCK! Wow. She is truly my gift from heaven! She leads with integrity and love. I will try to be more like her. “BRAVE” and the man upstairs who sent me the word will help me. Not just to survive, but to grow and to thrive.
I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they’ll ‘say something about it’ or not. I hate it if they do and if they don’t. - CS Lewis - A Grief Observed