Monday, May 25, 2009

Thoughts in the Wee Hours of Memorial Day 2009

Last night we watched the poignant, touching, and sad Memorial Day Concert on the Mall in Washington DC. It was a beautiful tribute to our fallen and wounded military men and women, and we all shed a lot of tears. I cried for all those who lost their lives in the service of our country, all those whose lives were changed forever by terrible injuries, and all of their families who have to bear the losses.

And, I realized that Leif was one of the wounded and fallen, too. In a very real sense, he never recovered from the damage his service in the army did to him, losing his health, his marriage and his career. He lost a lot, too, though it wasn't a flesh wound. He was and is not alone. There are so many who are wounded in their souls. So many, too many suicides.

I was asking yet again, for perhaps the ten thousandth time, why? Why, why, why? And although I will never stop asking it, I know there will never be an answer. Even if there were one, it wouldn't be satisfactory. It wouldn't bring him back, wouldn't lay all the questions to rest.

How could he have been carrying on a lively email and text conversation with several of us, then go out with friends and have a good time, seeming to be making plans for future events, seeming normal, and then, in the wee hours of the morning when he was alone, use his new gun to take his own life?

I know there is no logic in it. I know that suicidal people come to believe that their family and friends will be "better off without them." They believe it is a solution. In some cases, like in terminal illnesses, it is, and perhaps in others that we can't fathom, the pain of living is too great to bear, but if they knew what heartache and loss they left behind, the years of misery and longing they create, would they do it? Would they go through with it? Do they think they are expendable, that their families and friends will just get over it and go on? They are wrong. The pain, the loss, the questions, permeate our lives. They don't go away. Missing them doesn't go away.

Later today I will go to the cemetery. My Leif is not there, just the last of his earthly remains. His dad tells me that, and I know it is true. I tell him I go there because it is symbolic, a way to honor him, even if he doesn't know it. I do it for me.

Leif was loved. He will always be loved. I hope he knew that.

This photo was on one of those strips of four photos taken in a photo booth. I don't remember taking them. Luckily, I had written on the back of the photo that it was taken in Ansbach, Germany in the fall of 1979. Leif would have been four-and-a-half years old. I loved the expression on his face. He was so expressive.

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