What do you say when your neighbor from across the street sees you at church and she comes up to you and says, “My son, Jim took his own life on Monday down at the river. He was an addict.”
I walk on the river every day. Where? When? How? Why?
Being that this was the first time that my family and I have ever been at this church together, I wonder if our neighbor would have found the strength to walk across the street and share her sorrow with us?
He did not leave a note. He did not have the power to rise above the life that he had created for himself. He did not know how amazing he was. I believe that he was one of those highly sensitive, talented, gifted individual’s that could not recognize the wonder that he was. To think that he struggled with his life for the last twenty years, having turned 36 on Valentine’s day. I ache.
A memory that I have of Jim was one of the brief discussions that we had across the street from each other. One day as he standing on the curb in front of his mother’s home smoking. Taking a break from doing yard work. Contemplating life. I stood across the street and joked with him about coming to his mom’s house to work for shoes. The sad thing that is was close to the truth. He looked at me with such knowing.
“At some point in our lives” I said, “hopefully we come to know that we are the only ones whom walk in our own shoes. No one else does. Believe me some of us have some big shoes to fill. By taking responsibility for where we walk, the steps that we take, the life we live, is up to us.”
How did I know this barely his senior?
I looked down at my feet. Could I bless this passage of time? The steps that he had taken to end his own life. Deliberately.
We can say Jim is in a better place. A part of us may feel peace that he is no longer suffering. Deeper still we may feel relieved that we are not going to have to suffer anymore for his choices. Unless that is if we believe the lies and the guilt that is disguised in second guessing the days, the months, the years that we have felt broken and afraid not knowing what to do.
Perhaps not knowing to do anything. Feeling helpless. Somewhat betrayed. Afraid. Grieving now for the loss of his life until the pain lessens with the love that we feel.
We can hold each other up in our shared sorrow.
I do not know Jim like you do. I do not know the hours that you sat waiting to hear from him. I do not know what it was like wondering if he would be okay. I do not know the joyous memories that you hold dear. I do not know of the sorrow and anger that may bind your heart.
I only lived across the street the last seven years from his family where he came and went.
He leaves behind his magical spirit. His piercing blue eyes when we gaze out at the river. His heart that knew love. His genius mind with all his creations. He lives in our memories. When we remember his smile. When we see his son we know that we can give of our time.
Be more present. Encourage one another. Share with one another our sorrow.
I remember hearing the loud muffler of his truck drive up and down the street at all hours. I remember seeing him and his mother taking their dogs on walks down to the river.
I remember watching his step father help tie his canoe to the roof of his truck. I remember his beautiful sister visiting with him and laughing over a funny tale. I remember the adventures he took with his son Eli down at the river catching crawdads. I remember him tinkering on his truck, installing his stereo speakers, listening to music. I remember Eli swimming in our pool and eating hamburgers with lots of ketchup. I remember when Jim’s face would light up when I asked how his son, Eli was doing. I remember Eli telling me that his dad was really smart because he could knew all the mountains, places to hike and fish.
But the fondest memory I have of of Jim and Eli was one spring holiday the two of them together doing chalk art hour upon hours on end in their driveway while I watched from across the street as I was recovering from surgery. Bent over in deep concentration to capture the world in drawing a map of imagination, adventure and places to explore.
I remember his smile. I remember his energy. I remember his determination. I remember his darkness. I remember his deliberateness. I remember his spirit. I will remember his son, Eli.
I bless you Jim, for teaching me to be honorable…to myself first, then others.
To show up for people whom I care about even if it means being brutally honest. To be clear about what works for me in my relationships with others and set boundaries. To not be afraid of my darkness.
To always find a reason to trust. To have faith. To have courage. To have hope.
I believe that when we are going through hard, difficult and painful experiences, we feel that we are going through them alone. We feel so ashamed. So frightened. Scared as hell.
Hidden pain. Secrets long held amidst darkness.
A form of escape. A place of no hope.
The life. The loss…
of a man, a son, a brother, a father, a friend, a neighbor from across the street.
There is hope. There is strength in sharing our sorrow. Sometimes our brokenness can only be healed with the help of others.
May this day as we remember those whom we have lost, be a time when our despair turns into shared sorrow.
©2014 Te’ Werner
Photo ©2014 “Mourning of Solace” along the Columbia River, WA
A tribute to Jim, a fellow creative, highly sensitive soul and fellow river warrior!
I invite you to join my journey of writing https://www.facebook.com/tewernertriumph