French toast tastes like love and safety. A few weeks ago, my husband and I made a trip to our hometown for a funeral. We talked all the way down there and all the way home. On the way home I had the best French toast I have ever had. We had the kind of conversation that heals deep wounds.
And then we hit traffic. Traffic was backed up for an hour, so we stopped to get a drink. Someone explained what happened. I had thought it was a bad wreck, but it was a suicide. Suddenly I felt like I was in a snow globe and everyone sounded like the lady on Charlie Brown. I knew what was happening, because it had happened before on the day that we found my oldest son Anthony dead by suicide in the garage.
I Did Not Want to Hear It
The clerk at the convenience store was talking to her co-worker. “Who would do something like that?” I had to ask her to please just cash me out and have that conversation some other time because my son had died by suicide and I did not want to hear it. I rarely ever freak out on people in public because I know the things people say, and that they say them out of ignorance and not malice.
I used to say the same things. I usually take the place of an educator and try to explain the complicated issue of suicide, but this time I just was a mom who was reliving her worst nightmare and I wanted this young woman to shut up.
I usually try to explain the complicated issue of suicide. This time I just was a mom who was reliving her worst nightmare and I wanted this young woman to shut up.
We drove off and at the light was a lady speaking to a police officer. She was crying and saying that morning she had seen the young woman who jumped off the bridge. She was going to stop and ask her if she was ok because she was crying. This lady was very upset. I saw something familiar in her face that I had not seen looking back in the mirror for a while.
I did not even notice when the “What could I have done to change this?” face was no longer looking back at me. When did I stop going over every moment of my son’s last day over and over in my head, trying to find the one thing that would change everything and bring him back to me? When did I stop seeing that face of a stranger who just wanted to go back and do things differently in the mirror when I brushed my teeth in the morning?
Grief is So Weird
I do not know. That day came and went and I never even marked the occasion. Grief is so weird.
It had been such a good day. In the snap of a finger, I was back in my garage trying to figure out if Anthony was really dead as I looked at his lifeless body. It was like the worst time machine ride ever. It happened so fast that I am sure I had some kind of mental whiplash.
We have no idea what someone is going through. We have no clue what the words being typed at us are being fueled by. When we become so suspicious of each other, we fail to see the pain and wounds instead of enemies. We see left and right and in between.
We judge people who love singing “On Eagle’s Wings,” rather than hear them tell us how that song makes them feel. We do not stop to consider that someone’s anger about racism could just be their depression making an appearance during an isolating time in the world.
Real Wounds in Real Life
That is how wounds show up in real life. They look like something totally different. They look like a girl walking on a cold morning crying. Nobody guessing that she was about to take her own life. Or like my son Anthony asking to use my car to see our priest when he was thinking about ending his.
This year we will all be dealing with some deep things. The loss of people, of memories, the loneliness of being at home day after day. Maybe we should all stop and ask others “Are you ok? What do you need?” instead of speaking out of pain, anger, and judgement.
Maybe we should all stop and ask others “Are you ok? What do you need?” instead of being defensive, angry, and speaking out of pain, anger, and judgement. Or we could always just not respond at all. Or ask them,“Tell me more about your opinion,” because maybe they just need someone to listen to them. I know that I need to do that more, rather than just add to my argument without regard of the person on the other side of the screen and what they are dealing with.
This year we will all be dealing with some deep things. The loss of people, of memories, the loneliness of being at home day after day. We are all collectively wearing “What could I have done differently?” faces.
We do not need presidents or congresspeople to encourage us to be there for one another. Especially not Christians. We have a leader who tells us that. In fact, He not only tells us and sets the example, He commands us to love one another. It is not always easy, it is not always fun, but it is always the way for a person who follows Jesus, even if nobody else is doing it.
In the first days of 2021, let us all pray for those struggling, and may we all make a commitment to stop and check on the girl walking down the road crying, even if she shows up in your life in the comment section.
Leticia Ochoa Adams writes from Texas, on life, death, grief, suicide, faith, motherhood, doubts and whatever (else) happens to be on her mind. She writes regularly for Chapter House.