The day I chose to live was easily the worst day of my life. I guess it happens like that sometimes. Finding my son dead was a horrific experience that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Mr. Main (my husband) says that people don’t even like to hear or talk about losing a child, because they’re afraid if they do then it might happen to them as well. As if talking about it is inviting the devil in! So I don’t say much about that part of my grief. I keep the horror to myself most of the time.
Most things that happen in this world have a definable reason. Maybe the only thing that we can never get a full understanding of is death. One thing you do grasp rather quickly is the absolute FINALITY of it. And it’s that knowledge which forces you to confront your own mortality, whether you’re prepared for it or not. Then, at some point in the consideration of death and all that it means, you realize something that you may have never thought of before. You, as an individual who lives and breathes on this earth, have control of your own life. You can choose whether you can live with the loss or die yourself, alleviating all of your mortal suffering.
Losing Mikey was a deal breaker for me. I was finished. I looked at the world and what it held for me. I looked at my life as it was and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was not willing to be on this earth anymore. I had spent most of my life grieving anyway, and I was sad before that, as if somewhere in my innermost being I knew what was coming.
My entire childhood was spent longing for an elusive place that I called “Happiness.” I knew I couldn’t find it and thought somehow that if I did, all things would be made right. I wrote songs and poems from a very young age about death and suicide, even though I wasn’t consciously contemplating either one. It was a part of me from the beginning, this grief that I carried in my heart, like a foreshadowing of things to come.
So, when tragedy after tragedy struck, I wasn’t even surprised. It was as if I expected it. Like that was my life, and I better learn how to live with it. And I did okay with it, to a point. I won’t pretend that at any time I came to an understanding of death or even life. I didn’t know why I always seemed to be a target. I thought I must be receiving punishment from God for my sins or someone else’s.
The human mind is incapable of providing a rationale for death. It just is. We are broken people living in a broken world where we have no control of things as small as the actions of others or as big as death. We are only humans after all. We were forced out of the garden so that we could not eat from the tree of life, even though we could finally understand the existence of evil and how it seeks to destroy both the guilty and the innocent. How unfathomably unfair!
So, I looked at my future, and I could not accept what I was seeing. Life without my son was incomprehensible to me. I had already buried so many people—2 babies, my father, my precious aunt. How much could a heart take before it shattered completely, and for that matter, how much could a mind take before it did the same? Now God was asking this of me, to live my entire life without my child, and I said, “No.”
I woke up from a necessary drug-induced sleep and said the words aloud—to myself more than anyone else. Just to have them out there. Whether I said it to state my intention or my certainty, I don’t know. I just said it. “I don’t want to be here anymore.” And I knew I had made the decision to end my life. To not face the future without my son. It was over, and I was okay with that. I didn’t have to deal with death or life anymore. I was done.
But I didn’t consider the other people in the room. Of course, I didn’t! I was alone, locked inside myself with my pain and the loss that I knew there was no escaping. When I said the words, I wasn’t talking to anyone but myself. And maybe God.
But Nic heard me. Nic was my first son to take a breath as a living person in this world. I had a son before him, but he died before he was born. And when Mikey was 8 years old, I buried my second son, Samuel. Now three sons were gone, and Nic was in the room with me when I realized that I had reached the point of no return. So was my daughter, Tiffany. And my best friend, Martha.
And when I said, “I don’t want to be here anymore,” without hesitation, Nic said, “You go, I go.” Silence roared in my ears and all other noise stopped at that moment. I was in shock. There was nothing else in my life but that statement, and the realization that he meant every word of it.
Then Tiff said, “You go, I go,” and Martha said, “You go, I go.”
And I became angrier than I had ever been in my life. Angrier than the angry of losing my babies, and my father. Angrier than I was at God for taking them. Angry, because in that moment, everything changed. I was ready to die. I had no desire to stay.
But I had no choice. Not then, not now, not ever. And it hurts, but not near as much as it did that day, the worst day of my life.
That day, I chose to live.
It would be a long, long time before I chose to have a life. That day I was only capable of making one choice.
There is only one thing that trumps grief. Only one thing that’s bigger than the worst loss. One thing that is undeniably monumentally ENOUGH, even in the face of the most insurmountable tragedy ever to befall a Mama—the loss of her child. That one thing is LOVE.
The day I chose to live, I chose their lives over my own. Knowing that I would never smile again until I drew my last breath on earth, the time God set aside for me to die, I CHOSE LOVE. To choose love, I was forced to choose life. I chose to keep my remaining two babies alive on this earth for as long as it was humanly possible for me to do so. My selfishness was not bigger than my love for my two children and my friend. I was forced to make the choice to stay on this earth for them.
Regrets? NO. Not even one. Amazingly, life went on, and I did smile again. And I learned that even though happiness is temporary, joy is eternal. I learned to walk this road that God placed me on one step at a time.
For more of what I learned from grief, click here: https://moodyoops.com/12-surprising-things-that-grief-will-teach-you-that-you-actually-need-to-know/
Now, I look at the faces of those I love more than my own life and more than my own death, and I know I made the right choice.
And now my family has grown much larger than the three people it had suddenly become! There have been more losses, but also more births. It has also grown in other natural ways, by adding children and adults through marriage and through deep and abiding friendship.
No one can replace Mikey, nor anyone else who is lost to me, but no one needs to. Mikey had his own space in my heart, and it’s still occupied. He didn’t leave me forever. I will touch his face again.
But here on earth, I get to watch my grandbabies laugh and play. I get to teach them about life, and sadly, about death. Sometimes it’s a bittersweet joy and sometimes it’s a full-on beautiful, boundless joy that doesn’t exist because of my decision but despite my having to make it. And I enjoy more fully the moments that I have with all the ones I love, and those who love me back—especially the ones who love me enough to be willing to sacrifice their own lives if I cannot be in them.
When I wake now, sometimes I can’t help but to think about what I would have missed if I did not choose to live. When I look at my life, it is full of joy—and sadness too. One does not exist without the other. You can’t truly know the joy of life without experiencing the pain of death.
I don’t know what my childhood would have been like if I had known joy instead of the darkness of sorrow and depression. If I pass down anything to my children, I hope it’s not the despair that I was born with. I hope it will be a legacy of life. I hope I will have taught them to love as fully and deeply as possible for every single moment that God allows us. I pray that they will know always that He has a plan that ultimately leads to infinite joy. There’s no time to be searching for a place called “Happiness.” Life is way too short for that.
Happiness is a lie anyway. In this world, it’s fleeting and superficial. Joy, however, can be had now (even amid grief) and experienced eternally. If you are going to strive for anything, strive to find joy. If you are going to choose anything worthwhile, let it be life.
As for me, I am forever grateful for the lessons learned and blessings received because of the day I chose to live.