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August 3, 2001 is a date forever burned into my heart. This date is the day my 22 year old son, Larkin, took his own life.
Every year I tell myself I am not going to write a story about Larkin. I am not going to share my grief. I am not going to make people think I want sympathy. I am not going to open my heart to the pain by sharing. I am not going to face the overwhelming grief this day brings. I’m just not going to do it!
But, every year after I share my story, someone contacts me about how my story helped them or their family or friend. Last year, I said, “This is it. No more.” I ran into a lady several months after the article. I did not know this lady. She told me she had lost a child, and the article gave her strength and hope. I was shocked…not only to learn of this woman’s pain but to realize sometimes words do make a difference.
I have no idea if my words will touch anyone…maybe sharing helps me. I don’t really know. But sharing with you, my dear readers, is something that does not frighten me because I feel you accept me as I am.
The pain of grief
Grief is so impossibly painful, so akin to panic; that we must invent ways to defend against the emotional onslaught of suffering. There is a fear that we will give in fully to grief, we would be swept under—as a hugh tidal wave—never to surface to ordinary emotional states again. (Surviving Grief and Learning to Live Again by Dr. Catherine M Sanders)
We grieve because our loss hurts so deeply. When the police and Diane McPhail walked into the Magee Post Office where I was working on Friday morning, August 3, 2001, I had no idea my life and my sons’ lives were going to be flipped upside down. Breck was with me at the post office. When I looked at Diane, I said, “It is my mother?” (My mother had Alzheimer’s, and I always feared the day would come). “No,” Diane said, “it is Larkin.” Well, Breck and I were beyond shocked. “How,” I said, “what happened…was it drugs (to my knowledge Larkin did not take drugs…steroids one time and I knew they can cause erratic behavior)?” Diane told me no, Larkin had shot himself in the head. I looked at her and told her, “No way. Larkin is a chicken, and he doesn’t even like guns! “
The journey in grief began.
Because loss is so painful, denial can set it. I decided, in my mind, Larkin was at Ole Miss, and he would come home one day. I stayed in a form of shock for almost a year. I can only remember one or two things about life without Larkin for at least 6 months. I chose denial to survive. The danger in choosing denial is one day you come face to face with your greatest fears.
Grief is exhausting. I stayed exhausted all the time. I don’t think people realize the tremendous toll grief takes. Grief is like a physical injury.
I questioned God. I questioned everyone I knew. I questioned “Why me?” I questioned life.
My family and friends were and are the key to my survival. Their unwavering love for my family gave me strength. Reading the Bible gave me strength. Praying gave me strength….but very little gave me acceptance.
I read a book that actually helped me: Surviving Grief and Learning to Live Again by Dr. Catherine M Sanders (available on Amazon). The book does not deal with just suicide. The book talks of loss and how to live again! And…I wanted to live again.
(I hope you will purchase the book. I re-read it often.)
Let me tell you about Larkin!
Larkin was the middle child in all ways. He loved fiercely. He played sports fiercely. He was very smart, very well liked (except he drove most of his teachers nuts). In fact, Larkin drove almost everyone nuts. He lived in full throttle every day. What would make someone who had so many things going for them take their own life?
After graduation from SCA, Larkin went to Ole Miss on a baseball scholarship. He injured his arm earlier on in his college career and never recovered full use of his pitching arm. He left Ole Miss and went to Co-Lin with his brother and many of his Magee baseball friends. Upon graduation from Co-Lin, he headed back to what he called “God’s country”—Ole Miss. Larkin was a Chancellor Scholar while at Ole Miss and loved the Rebel life on schedule to graduate in 2002.
I have spent my life trying to figure out what led Larkin to suicide. He loved Dickey. He loved Breck. He loved me. He loved everyone. Mental illness is a sad reality of life.
I say one day I am going to write a book on Larkin’s life…and the why.
As a mother, the guilt from a child taking their life is overwhelming. I live constantly with the question of why didn’t I see what was happening. Why didn’t I reach out to my son? I have no answer.
As a continuing survivor of grief, I can tell you to be kind to yourself, reach out to your friends, allow your family and friends to take care of you. Look to the Lord for your guidance and strength. I feel grief groups are helpful. You have a new life…one you didn’t want…you need people to help you walk this path.
As a friend, don’t walk away from someone who is dealing with grief. They do not have an illness. Be willing to put up with their moods and actions…forgive and love them freely. They need you.
I would never have believed I would live to see Larkin dead for 19 years. Because I survived these 19 years, you can too. You can go forth. You can help others. You can make a life.
I didn’t want to be a different person…but I was. Following Larkin’s death, I never looked at life the same. I realized there are so few things that are really important. Your relationship with God. Your family and friends…and yourself. Push forward. Pray, pray, pray! God hears your prayers. I felt so guilty because I was furious with God…we have to have someone to blame! But, God never walked away from me. He did not stop loving and caring for me as I ranted. He will give you strength and courage.
Dickey and Breck loved their brother. I think often, I never really saw or acknowledged their pain. I was so deep in my pain. One thing I wish I could do is go back and hug my boys even tighter. I wish I had born Dickey and Breck’s grief better. Their brother’s death has had a profound affect on their lives.
Thank you for allowing me one more year to share my heart. My heart will never be the same. I have sealed my heart to so many things. We all do what we have to…to survive.
Great is Thy Faithfulness——God is the answer