Grief has taken on a new shape, a new face.  Time has passed and life has moved on without my son present.  His daughters continue to grow, his brother found love, his sisters have started families, his Dad has retired Fred’s favorite pickup.  For me, I take tiny steps.  I am cautious with my heart and with my family.  I work, play, laugh, cry….and am ready when there are signs of distress in my children.  As I have said before, I panic at the thought of someone being mean to one of my children and sending them down the hole my son was in.
Today I am going to call myself the protector.  The tattered wings of survival have been overlaid with new outlines of purpose.  I stand ready to help those I can, while it helps me as well.  I wait at the starting line for the signal.  I use my experience to educate.  I want those that contemplate taking their life to see how much widespread pain it causes.  I want those that are left behind to continue to live and not feel alone.
Today we are going to my youngest daughters house to help for the second day in row on the backyard.  We are taking our smoker, some meats, wood chips, weed eater, grass seed, my granddaughters (my lost son’s daughters), and a van full of love and support.  Our gardening and landscaping skills are limited and our tools are old and somewhat broken….but we are going try to make a difference.
It is hard to show people how much you love them, and almost impossible to find words to tell them.  For our family, the close 6 that became the ever closer 5, we will do everything in our power to continue and support unconditionally.   My son knew our love was unconditional.  We all fuck up in life and it never helps anyone to be disowned from a family for an individual or personal decision.  So we didn’t and don’t do that to our children.  I can recall a conversation between Chris and I, before our kids even started preschool, “These are 4 little people who will grow into 4 individuals with 4 different outlooks on life and different takes on the morals and values we have presented.  We are home base to each one, a safe place, a light in the dark.  We have to be supportive and open to whatever and whoever they become.”
We parented our children by that motto allowing each one to make individual decisions and have personal likes, dislikes, opinions, etc… away from what we thought.  We embraced the difference when it was not destructive, and if it was destructive we tried different parenting methods for everyone to overcome and make it back to home base.
Fred could not find home base.  He knew in his heart it was there.  But something in this world kept him from the tree in the yard, the light in the window, the voice on the phone.
I can only urge parents to be home base for their kids.  Maybe you think I am not a good example to follow, maybe you think I am a bad parent and that is why my son took his life.  But whatever you believe, and whatever you do….be a positive and supportive person to your child.  Be someone they can call on and someone they can talk to.
Fred’s tree lives in our yard.  It is a piece of him I will have forever.  He was drawn to that tree just as I am drawn to that tree today.  Sometimes I sit below it and envision my son playing hide and seek.  Blonde hair in the night that you could see, running through the grass and hiding from us.  I wish I could find him today.  I whisper, “Ready or not, here I come.”  I search…I wait for him to tag the tree, all in, home free.