When we boarded the plane, I burst into tears. With my sister’s tender physical state, I had not yet found a place quiet and alone enough. Whether I was ready or not, the tears spilled out right there.
The thought the Lord impressed upon me:
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Genesis 50:20 NIV
When we landed in Denver, Carlton met us at the airport. He grabbed me, and he held. Silently. We stood there for a time. Suddenly, I began to realize more than the pain we all shared. I remember greeting Kathy (Jamie’s mom) and her mother when we arrived at the house. He was really gone.
Where do you begin to comfort a fractured family?
I remember we all got ready to go to church where they had a Christian Counselor for all the church, the many youth who knew Jamie including some who had been at the camp when he hung himself. Although still in shock, I remember thinking the time spent together like that was profitable. That was on Sunday. Jamie died the day before early evening.
The following day, Monday, many more people came. Work needed to be done to accommodate visitors, so I just tried to keep busy which gives the mind a bit of a rest.
On Tuesday, Darrell and I went with Carlton and Kathy to the funeral home to help with those details. Carlton and Kathy also had to go pick out a plot at the cemetery. I remember picking out his casket. Who would have ever thought I’d pick out a casket for one of our grandchildren?
The body arrived on Wednesday. They (the funeral home) prepared the body for family viewing. We spent all afternoon at the mortuary.
The funeral was on Thursday, January 23, 1992. I cried. And I cried like I had never cried before. What a time- I felt sorry that I couldn’t be more of a help to my kids. I had never known grief to this extent before. By this time, I had already buried both my parents. But this was very different.
Why? Almost harder than losing Jamie has been watching Carlton and Kathy go thru all this grief, and knowing we can’t do anything to make it better. Standing by … helpless.
But, in the midst of it all… we got glimpses of The Good.
The initial response from Carlton and Kathy’s church, coworkers, and friends was outstanding. They brought in meals to serve 20 people everyday leading up to the funeral. I’ve never seen such a creative outpouring of love and ministry. They brought in paper goods like Kleenex, toilet tissue, paper plates, napkins. And because so many young people were coming and going, people generously shared pop by the cases. They really understood that no one feels like shopping, and they thought of everything we might need. From this church, I learned to take these kinds of things to other families when they grieve. There is a time of such shock that these thoughtful, generous gestures really do help so much.
Darrell and I stayed another week after the funeral to help. We helped write thank you notes. Taking the time to say thank you reminded us how many people did so many things to help lighten this heavy burden. We cleaned as we could and did the laundry and just about anything we could think to do to help the family get back to “normal”… which we already knew would never be completely the same with the obvious one forever missing.
Throughout it all, there was much searching for clues. Jamie wrote a lot of his thoughts down, so there were clues in notebooks, in letters, and his choice of music pointing to his struggle with depression. So many unanswered questions remain. A couple specific ones for me:
1.) But was it really more than most teens go through trying to finding their nitch?
2.) What happened to him at the local public high school that caused him to cry and plead not to have to go back there?
One thing that really helped is nothing was held back. The family shared everything that was found. Someone even made copies of all his notes and letters, so we could have copies to read through when we were ready. This helped us sort through our questions as well as sort through his belongings. I am grateful for that.
Although we only saw him about once a year, he was our first grandchild and we enjoyed him. We’re thankful he was part of our lives for 17 1/2 years. And we hurt. But Carlton and Kathy, he was their firstborn and their home felt so different without him. I ached for them and the kids, Michael and Holly. Oh how we prayed they’d each know The Good out of this awful situation.
They went through the motions of living. Michael had his sports and so many friends who kept him occupied. Holly was younger and at home more. I was more worried about her as she seemed to not realize he really wasn’t coming home. Initially, she seemed to have fun claiming the things of Jamie’s she wanted- I am not criticizing her. Maybe the items helped her feel he wasn’t so far away. I’m sharing to remind us that we do not all grieve the same or at the same time. I just think it took her a long time to reach the real acceptance of his absence and the real grieving process.
No two people sort through our grief alike. We draw our strength from the Lord. And He comforts and guides us so personally. He brings The Good out of everything. What do people ever do without Him?
I know some need quiet solitude. I needed to be busy. Even with all the work to catch up on when I got home, I knew leaving the family and going home would not be easy.