A few posts ago, I mentioned how our friend, Alice, told Karen and me we were "just babes" in the world of grieving. I should explain, she was not talking about grieving in the most general sense, but the severe kind of grieving we are experiencing for the violent, unexpected loss of a child by suicide. And I was talking in that post about being "qualified" to speak about that level, that depth, of sorrow and pain and trauma and loss.
Not to minimize anyone's pain and loss of any kind, please understand!
Now, this is just a bit of self-indulgence. You can, if you choose, just stop reading right now and go on to something else to make the best use of your time (Go! RUN!! Save yourself while you still can! 😆)
But, for the record, if nothing else, I wanted to mention that I am actually not what you would call a novice when it comes to grieving IN GENERAL.
In fact, our friend, David Knapp (who wrote "I Didn't Know What to Say") and another, newer friend, writer/speaker Alexander Strauch (who wrote "Biblical Eldership") have helped me to recognize the fuller scope of grieving I have experienced, particularly in the past nine years.
If you'll indulge me, I won't go back earlier than 2008, EXCEPT to mention losing my two best buds in college, Pete Habercorn and Bill Scollard, who died within a couple years of each other before I saw my twenty-fifth birthday; Pete, in an accident involving drunk driving; Bill, taking his own life after being institutionalized for depression. Those were tough to get through, believe me. I had nightmares for weeks after Bill's death. I can still get melancholy just hearing James Taylor singing "Up On the Roof;" the song he loved and was learning on guitar last time I really spent time with him.
2008 was the year my Dad died of complications from lung cancer. This was HUGE, and really the beginning for me of a series of hard losses of adulthood.
2011, my eldest sister, Gail, died of cancer. Sadly, she had cut herself off from the family, and I didn't even know she was sick 'til the day I heard she died.
2012, my Mom passed away from congestive heart failure. This was especially hard for a number of reasons; one being the heartbreak of seeing my Mom stiffly refuse the gospel of grace (Romans 4:3-5) on her deathbed.
The same year (in fact, as soon as I got back from saying goodbye to my Mom) I was asked to give up teaching Romans at NTBI.
Now, I know it may sound silly to some, but that was a blow. I had taught Romans for sixteen years (started the year Levi was born), and would have been perfectly happy to die teaching Romans. I felt that accurately and thoroughly teaching Romans would quite possibly be the greatest contribution I would make to the eternally enduring missionary work of New Tribes Mission, and poured many, many hours into doing the very best job I could with it (a labor of love!)
The same year, I started experiencing the neurological condition called spasmodic dysphonia (if you've heard Robert Kennedy, Jr., speak, that's s.d.) Again, some may consider this trivial, or even vain, but I discovered a hefty part of my identity was wrapped up in my voice. I was once a professional radio announcer and had received compliments on the quality of my voice since ninth grade. (Actually, my friend and voice coach, Mrs. Carmen Schuett, has assured me our voice is a very personal part of everyone's identity. This is not unique to those who use their voices professionally). Caring friends put me in touch with Alex Strauch. Alex was a popular speaker in Plymouth Brethren circles until he lost his voice completely for nearly two years. That's when his career as a writer began. Alex assured me it was appropriate to grieve over the loss of one's voice. He told me he went through a very dark, melancholy period in those two years that he actually referred to and grieved as a "death."
Over the course of these years, several good, longtime friends passed. My two daughters got married and moved out of the house. Not only did this mean the onset of "the empty nest" syndrome, but these children of mine, in addition to being the adorable little ones I was "Daddy" to, happen to be, along with my wife, my very best friends.
In June, 2014, Karen's sister, Kelly, took her own life. Not my own sister, no, but we were close at one time. Kelly lived with us in our early years in Wisconsin. And the devastation to my wife, alone, affected me.
Then, in Spring, 2016, it was decided we would be moving on from the ministry we had devoted our lives to at New Tribes Bible Institute after 25 years. We would leave at the same time Levi would be graduating; in May, 2017.
I believe David Knapp would tell you ALL of these are fairly major epochs of real grieving in one's life.
And I will tell you, you could put them all on one side of the scale, and Levi, all by himself, on the other, and Levi would outweigh them all in terms of the effect on me.
PLEASE. That is not, IN ANY WAY, to diminish the importance, or worth, or quality, of any of these others I lost. Loved Dad, Mom, Gail and Kelly DEARLY. Each one was a wonderful, valuable person in their own right and certainly in the sight of God. I would never measure the significance or value of any one person against another.
They tell you in GriefShare it's not helpful to compare losses, and I accept that. Each person's loss is unique; highly individualized and personal. For instance, some may be closer to their parents than I, and so would be more affected by that loss. I cannot and would not say "my grief is greater than yours." I hope I would never be so arrogant or heartless.
All I know for sure is the loss of this son of mine; this child I used to rock to sleep and rescue from bad dreams, tips the scales for me.