I have been collecting all my writings from this past year into one long document that I keep on my computer desktop. It has a feature that counts the words, and with this post I’ll pass 65,000, not counting commentary on other people’s posts. It’s a lot of words. Nearly 140 pages worth including photographs and other art ‘borrowed’ from the infinite storehouse that is the internet. Not sure what it all means. Not one of those words has the power to return my son to me. Not one of those words has the power to undo the damage his death has done to this world. None of those thousands upon thousands of words can give me back my old life, or revoke the infinite sadness his departure has wrought. I rarely go back to read what I wrote weeks or months ago, but at the turn of the year, I did revisit some of my earlier writings. They are raw and full of pain, confusion, and anger. Railing at an unfair universe who took my beloved boy. The wind that blew my darling boy away. I am not sure why I did that. I cry every time I read them.
I started posting on Facebook almost every day nearly from the moment I learned of Jake’s passing. On January 21, exactly one year ago, I started this blog and put up my first post. As time went on, and I moved from Facebook to this forum, the writing became less descriptive, more . . . umm . . . analytical as I struggled to make sense of the senselessness. Of course, there is no sense to be made of such an occurrence. It merely is. One of the things I wrestle with is the “what ifs”. What if I did something different at each turn in Jake’s life. What if I had been more or less of this or that. What if I had done or not done this or that. Second guessing every decision over the past 24 years. Everyone does it, no matter what past circumstance we are “analyzing”. Beating ourselves up for what we perceive we did “wrong” that led to such a horrible conclusion. It is a futile and destructive exercise. At the time we made each decision, and I am speaking both of myself and anyone reading this, we evaluated the situation based on the facts we had at the time. We gathered information, we listened to other’s advice, we searched our soul, and made the best decision we could with the information we had at a specific moment.
Looking back, we tend to forget all the tiny details we used to arrive at that decision, can’t always remember what exact things we weighed to make our choice, and knowing the outcome, it is easy to say, “Oh, if only I had done, or not done __________ (you can fill in the blank), things would have turned out differently.” It isn’t true. We did what we did, for whatever reasons we thought would be best. No one says, “This seems like a bad idea, let’s do it.” It is always a good idea at the time. Perhaps if we had “done something differently”, things would have turned out better, maybe they would have been worse. Although it is difficult to imagine a worse outcome than the loss of your child. But you can’t play that game. At the risk of an oversimplified platitude, things turn out the way they do, and we have no more power to change the outcome than we have to reverse the spin of the planet. The other things that change over time are the circumstances. We use the circumstance of the “now” to judge the actions of the “then”, which is just as unfair. We have to make our choice based on the circumstance and the best information we have at the time, and live with it. That is the difficult part, living with it when it all goes to hell.
Something else to consider. Our children made decisions along the way too, based on whatever their criteria were at the moment, and couldn’t know how it would turn out either. With some exceptions. Oh yeah, if you jump off a 50 story building you will probably die, but barring the simplistic, the results of our decisions are far more complex. I used to tell Jake that every action has a consequence. Sometimes the action produces a consequence immediately, sometimes it may take days, months, or years for the path we chose to run its course. Of course, we can look back and say “oh, he/she shouldn’t have done that”, and even when they were alive, we might have known what they were doing was going to turn out badly. But part of the double-edged sword of parenthood is that we raise our children to be independent beings, and somewhere around the age of 13 or 14, we lose whatever authority we may have had over their thoughts and choices. They are going to do what they are going to do, no matter what we say and how bad we know that decision may be, based on our own experiences. It is their experience at work here. Unless we keep them under lock and key 24 hours a day, accompany them everywhere they go and physically prevent them from doing anything we don’t approve of (all of which are impossible), at some point we have to let them go. We can advise them, we can strive to educate them, we can counsel them, we can rail at them, we can try to impose our will on them, we can beg them, we can try to intervene, but ultimately it is their life and their decision for good or ill.
So here I am three score and five thousand words later, and what have all those words accomplished? No, they can’t change anything, can’t bring Jake back to us. There is little power in any single word. Perhaps taken as a whole, they have helped me get through this first horrible year. Perhaps someone else on this path took some comfort knowing they weren’t alone in what they were feeling, weren’t insane for feeling it. Some readers of these scribblings have told me as much; I don’t really know. I am still terribly sad beyond measure, still furious at the universe, still aching inside with a longing that won’t go away no matter how many thousands or millions or billions of words I may write.