The Passing Years

purple flowersOver seven years have passed since that tragic day when I heard the words, “Barry is dead.”

How the years have flown by, yet at the same time dragged its weary feet. At times, I believed we wouldn’t make it through the turbulence. That was when the evil face of suicide tempted my elder son to join his brother; and later, it tried to seduce me. Yet, although the fight was sometimes hard, we stayed to live our lives.

Then there were the times when life almost felt normal — or as close as it was going to get to it, anyway. Smiles were easy to find, laughter was a second away. For those looking on, they would never guess our hearts were not quite as full as the smiles on our faces. But that’s okay. We have learned to carry on regardless. Only sharing our pain with each other.

And the pain is still there — buried beneath the surface.

As is the guilt!

For me, the only person who can relieve me of this burden is Barry. And Barry is not here to give me the answers I require.

Having said this, I do not dwell on it as often or as long as I once did. I have accepted that Barry is gone and no amount of wishing will bring him back. I also accept that we will never know, for sure, why he chose this path when other options did exist for him. To dwell on these things will only torture me further and will turn me into a bitter, old woman. I don’t want that.

Instead, I look at the photos I have of Barry and feel thankful that I knew him and loved him. Although I yearn to see him, to hear him, to hug him; I am grateful that our last words were “I love you”. And I cherish the memories we created together.

On bad days I will wonder what Barry would be doing right now, if he were still alive? Would he have a wife or children? Would he have joined the Army and made a career of it while seeing the world? But it is best not to dwell on these things for too long either. It only upsets me more. So I turn my thoughts to my older son who is a man in his own right now. He has a one-year-old daughter. She is a (good) reason why we must move onwards.

Time heals all wounds. And it does. There may be a scar, which will be a permanent reminder, but eventually the pain softens and the heart and mind allows us to live a life that is somewhat normal. And when the scar throbs more than usual, I find myself going back to the one thing that has always helped me through the grief — nature. I take long walks in parks, botanical gardens, animal parks, by the sea, in the mountains, beside rivers. Anywhere where I can see the sky, hear the birds, smell the flowers and feel relaxed.

I believe the worst is behind us. We cannot know what the future holds, but we intend to make it as good as we can … for us and for the new addition to the family.

Kindred Spirit

Two weeks ago I found a long, lost aunt. I had been searching for her for some time and was overjoyed when I saw her photo on a company website along with her contact details. I have since reunited her and my mum and it made me feel proud that I succeeded in doing that.

However, my efforts provided a reward for me that I never envisioned. You see, my aunt is only five years older than me and she lost a fifteen year old son to a drunk driver fifteen years ago.

I have mentioned him a couple of times on this website as his death was needless and a shock to the family. At the time of the accident, as a mother, I looked at my two young sons and thought I understood my aunt’s anguish. I felt for her and thought I could imagine what she was going through. It wasn’t until after 18 May 2006 that I realised I had no idea how she felt. No idea whatsoever. My imagination didn’t stretch far enough. How could it? Only those who have experienced the tragedy of losing a child could understand. I didn’t know that then and that’s why I can excuse those who think they understand now, when I know they don’t.

My aunt has walked the path I’m on now. In fact, she’s still on the path except much further along and I now have the benefit of her knowledge. She can tell me what to expect. She has already assured me that I’m not insane and that my thoughts and moods are normal. She said she still cries, she still gets angry, she still wonders what his life would have been like if he were still here, but she has mainly accepted what happened and moved on.

The one thing she said to me that I found incredible is…she claims that one day I’ll climb into bed and suddenly think to myself, “oh, I haven’t thought about Barry all day” and then another night I’ll think, “I haven’t thought of Barry for a few days” and then it will be a few months. She made it sound so natural, but I’m not at a stage where I can imagine that happening…but I guess it will sometime in the future.

Since Barry’s death I have been in contact with many people who are in a similar situation to me. Without even knowing those people personally, I felt a certain closeness with them that I wouldn’t normally feel. However, this contact is different. This woman is family. And she stood where I stand now. This makes that closeness more concrete. I started looking for her because I wanted to reunite sisters who had lost contact, but I found so much more than I expected. The search was definitely worth the time and effort.

Looking Back at Christmas Day 2007

My family has experienced a second Christmas without Barry. From my point of view, and that’s all I can really comment on, we did extremely well.

I deliberately changed the ways we do things this year. I invested in a new tree and decorations. I invited the family to join us for Christmas lunch – I haven’t done that in a decade. I purposefully didn’t leave the wrapping of Christmas presents until Christmas Eve as that would have tormented me and this time of year is meant to be happy.

This year, I did things differently, but I still included Barry in my own little ways. On Christmas Eve, Gary and I visited the cemetery. We removed the flowers in the tiny vase (which we will return in the New Year) and placed a festive decoration in there instead. We spent some time walking around the cemetery and then we wished Barry a merry Christmas and left.

Christmas Eve 2007

On Christmas day I had intended to light a “flame of life” while everyone opened their presents, but in the chaos I forgot. I did feel guilty about this later, but quickly told myself that it was OK. Not lighting a candle isn’t like forgetting Barry. He was with me all day. I wore a locket with his photo inside. I looked at the photos we have on the walls and shelves numerous times. Barry’s name came up in conversation several times too. Life goes on.

Gary’s grandson (aged 3) asked his mum who the drawing was of and I heard her say, “That’s your Uncle Barry.” She didn’t know I saw or heard this, but it felt good to know that Barry has not been forgotten or overlooked.

I feel we have made progress. We are mending. We are moving on. Barry would have wanted it this way. Barry would be pleased that we managed to enjoy Christmas.