Death, In a Conversational Tone

[pullquote]I try very hard not to be like some bad Saturday Night Live sketch where all I mention is death; sort of a theodical Debby Downer.[/pullquote]This, I think, will be the title of the book I someday hope to write, compiled of all my reflections since Mack’s death. Yesterday marked the two year anniversary and we were so grateful for the many, many friends and family who sent us gracious notes, came by our (now) annual open house, and ran with us in the Resolution Run 5k for First Night State College. We have been strengthened and encouraged by your love, support, and prayers.

Someone told me once, or maybe I read it, that two years marks a change of intensity or experience. I don’t know, I will have to let you know 12 months from now. In many ways I don’t know that I want a change in the sense that it would feel like we were no longer missing Mack if somehow the pain subsided or faded. I know that is not true, of course, and it is important to say that for others who grieve. We who grieve simply need to experience it, not try and create or feel guilty for what we feel. Still, for our own sake we have to break in those unbearable shoes with which we are forced to walk on our journey.

The title of this post and perhaps a future book comes from an email exchange with a colleague from another university. We do not know each other well, we have been working on a review of a program at another university. He is an eminent anthropologist and yesterday I mentioned I would be away from the computer because we were remembering our son’s passing. He wrote in part this morning,

You only spoke once about your son’s death, in a conversational way, and I was a bit taken aback, not knowing how to respond.

"Forever Silent" by Dan Piraro
“Forever Silent” by Dan Piraro — Some find this offensive. Mack would think it hilarious, as do I.

Copying it in now I realize I have emended the text a bit, I think I prefer “tone” to “way.” (And he offered additional very kind and comforting words.) I replied that I did not mean to make him feel uncomfortable. In fact, Elizabeth and I often wonder about how to strike the right tone. I (and I think E as well, but I do not want to speak for her) have found that accepting it as part of my life and being open about it is the healthiest approach, at least for me. My children have been a significant part of my life since their arrival and Mack’s death is too. To ignore it would be to pretend a major part of my life and experience never happened. I try very hard not to be like some bad Saturday Night Live sketch where all I mention is death; sort of a theodical Debby Downer. I do recognize that any discussion of death puts off some people, but it is part of who we are now.

And so I tend to speak and write very openly and plainly about Mack, who he is and was and how his memory lives on, but also about how I am (or not) coping with the loss of our boy. It clearly is disarming to many and there have been those who have commented here and in person that they have appreciated our open and simple discussion of suffering and loss. Others are, clearly, taken aback. But I hope that too, upon reflection, will open a discourse.

So that is it. I just wanted to share a phrase, perhaps a title, and some thoughts on how we remember and discuss our son and life without him. I hope you do not find it too off-putting or offensive; that is certainly not my intent. I just need to be honest and speak in my own voice.

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