Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My First Real Cry

My First Real Cry.

“There it is,” said the dad. “Behind that stand of trees, in the shade.”

He and his daughter had finally found her husband’s truck parked near a mountainside lake, high enough to be semi-frozen in early November.

The husband had been missing for two days, and the discovery of his vehicle was filled with hope he was okay, and dread knowing he wasn’t. She started to cry. She knew.

Inside the truck was the ritualized scene of suicide. Tie and cuff links set neatly on the passenger seat; wallet, wedding band, and watch perfectly arranged on the console; a sparsely written note to no one and everyone. The serene ending of a tragically composed person’s life.

She sat, shaking and only staring forward through the windshield, as the dad held it all together for her sake, calmly dialing 911 when a signal found his cell phone in that grim November canyon. “Better bring divers,” he told them.

After the divers pulled the crumpled body from the bottom of the lake, one told the dad there were visible claw marks on the underside of the ice. Did he plunge through the ice, only to lose his resolve at the last second, or had it been an accident after all? The chilling detail of my sister’s husband clawing at the ice has haunted me ever since. I hope the two small children he chose to leave behind never hear this.

Sadness overwhelmed me that night when I got the phone call from my mother. Sis and her two kids deserved better; perhaps he did, too. I cried for their loss, and the needless loss of life, but only for a while, and not so deeply that I felt bruised inside.

Novembers were made by a cruel creator, just to let suicide mourners know their grief is understood, but nothing special, as everything around is also either dead or dying. November empathy lacks a certain measure of sympathy.

Half a year later the raw, jagged emotions had smoothed into a dull, lingering ache as her life, and the life of her half-orphaned children put one foot down and then the next, and pressed on.

I was with her on a gorgeous spring day, shopping for a baseball and glove for her 4-year-old son.

“Going home to throw the ball with your dad?” asked the cashier. She meant well.

“My dad’s in heaven with Jesus,” he told her.

The innocence of my fatherless nephew sliced me wide open, and fractured me. My heart broke in that moment, and by the look on the cashier’s face hers did, too.

My first real cry lasted three days, and left me so emotionally distraught my mother came to sit with me, perhaps to make sure I wouldn’t turn May into November.