-Dwight David Eisenhower
You can look at that quote one way or another way. Harsh. Or soothing. I find it soothing because of its bare, un-filtered truth, it's raw honesty. But I also find it to be true not just about a child, but about anyone whom you have loved who passes away. Life SHOULDN'T be the same, ever, after someone dear to you is lost.
Thought I would share with you some images...these are scans of the folded pamphlet that the family of Lincoln Wheatley provided at his viewing, held last night at the Schoedinger Worthington Chapel.
I'm not even sure if 'viewing' is the proper term anymore, it's been a long time since I have been to one, and I did not attend last night.
The excuses are, of course, miles long.
I didn't really know the parents all that well. They are probably going to have tons of folks there and I'm sort of on the fringe anyway, I'd just be in the way. Only certain people should go to something like that. I need to stay back and watch the kids. Oh no, absolutely not I don't want to put anybody out and ask someone to watch the kids so I can attend. That would just be wrong, because anybody I would ask certainly knows Kelly and Zach and Lincoln far, far better than I do. They deserve to be there more than me.
But you knew that already, didn't you?
Of course you did...you're one smart reader.
The fact is that I DON'T really know Kelly and Zach all that well. My connection with them IS through my wife and my wife's sister. I'd never even MET Lincoln before.
But does that matter? Should it? I can't say I know the answer to that from a 'proper etiquette' point of view. No one explains this kind of shit to you...there is no manual called How to Navigate Terrible Tragedies in Everyday Life.
You do the best you can, try and learn and keep going.
I think on a gut level that my 'defined relationship status' with them doesn't matter, that I should have made every attempt to go to the viewing and express my condolences anyway, share the moment, offer support. Not just for Kelly and Zach but for my wife, for my in-laws.
Kelly and Zach's pain was certainly tangible to me through those connections. I witnessed evidence of it all the time, seen through eyes familiar to me and heard through quivering voices whenever Jen or her family talked about what Zach, Kelly and Lincoln were going through these past few months.
But let's face it. At the end of the day, I was too scared shitless to go to the viewing. I was nothing more than a rather pathetic coward, hiding in my living room, while my wife, her family and her dear friends experienced a life-changing level of pain and heartache.
I'll never forget the look on Jen's face when she came home and walked through the front door. I don't even think I have the ability to describe it with words. She looked so...hollowed out. Like her skin was rice paper stretched to it's maximum capacity. She had clearly been riddled with emotional bullets, and I let her take every single one. Alone.
She talked about the experience. I listened. She cried some, though she'd already been drained of pretty much any tear reserves she had left. She talked about how strong Kelly and Zach were, how...noble I think was the term she used. She didn't know how they could do that, and questioned what her strength would be like if her time ever came.
She was ravaged, that was clear, and I felt so utterly guilty.
I'm sorry...I told her. I should have gone.
NO! She almost yelled this at me. She softened a little, realizing that her reaction was so intense. No...No, I'm glad you didn't. My Mom is glad you didn't. It would have been too much for you. Your 'tipping point' I think. It's good you did not go.
I don't know. Maybe she's right. Maybe she isn't. I guess now I'll never know.
In some ways, I do admire the fact that she understands on a much deeper level than I ever knew how some of the things I have experienced in my life have shaped me, and the battles I still fight to overcome their legacies. She knows how I fight so hard to beat back my demons, but she also knows that I lose more of those battles these days than I win. She sees how much weaker I have become since February, how emotionally brittle. Fragile.
Double-edged sword that. Recognition of the fact that your spouse loves you for who you really are, but who you really are is not the person you think she deserves.
So anyway, yeah...it was a tough night for her. And I did and still do feel like a jerk-off for not going with her. She forgives me, that's the easy part. Forgiving myself? That's never been an easy thing for me.
She told me something that kind of rattled me, something I did not realize.
Zach came up to Jen and told her that he regularly reads this blog, that he really likes it. I didn't know that. On the one hand...I'm flattered when anyone tells me that they enjoy what I write, that they get something from it, because I do put some effort into it, just like drawing, and I like knowing that sometimes that effort results in a thing that has an impact on a person. He even told Jen he has started to jot down some notes...not for public consumption, but so that he never forgets some of the things he feels and thinks during his life.
I kind of like that. It's a real honor, it seriously is, to hear something like that.
On the other hand, Zach...Kelly...yes I am talking to you...I am deeply embarrassed and ashamed...all my bitching and whining and moaning about this and that with Bennett, and yet at the end of the day my son is still here. I'm not suggesting I do not have the right to feel the way I do about Bennett's situation, don't get me wrong, but witnessing a loss like yours, even from a supposedly 'safe' distance, gives me pause to reflect, to think, to appreciate, to re-evaluate.
I can't imagine what you've been through. Well, I can imagine it, I just don't want to. I'm too scared quite frankly. And I'm too weak. But I am so very, very sorry for your loss, and I am so sorry that I did not have the courage to tell you that face to face. Your strength is unparalleled, you're inner beauty unmatched by anything I have seen in a long, long time.
Jen tells me that the two of you think about Bennett's journey all the time. That you've been praying for him, wishing him nothing but the best. The fact that you could do this while your own child was experiencing all that he has gone through...I'm just...well, flabbergasted by that, touched beyond measure. I have zero ability to adequately express the magnitude of what that means to me.
Thank you...and take good care of yourselves. Lincoln is a wonderful, special, beautiful boy whose memory will be treasured. Always.