About six months ago at a district parent meeting, we were discussing teen suicide. Our schools are working hard to bring awareness and help to parents, kids and staff about signs of depression. The last week of school, a local high school (where Tobin is headed next year) had three suicides in a two-week period. Devastating is not even close to how this community has felt. How in the world could these young people decide that death is a better option that what they were facing in life?
My heart continues to keep coming back to the mamas of these babies. These mamas who tended their children, watching out for the perils of life, teaching and instructing them how to cross a street and stay away from strangers only to have their child take their life by their own hand.
I find myself walking in those mamas’ shoes. I have struggled with fear in such a real and tangible way.
I have a child who resides in two worlds–one side is a complete and total disregard for personal safety in the midst of rage and pain. The other side is a contrite and sorrowful heart, filled with remorse, shame and pain. As the mama of this child, I’m filled with angst and pain, wondering what the next moment will bring.
I have been pouring over Sue Klebold’s memoir – A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy. Sue is the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the two young men who killed many people at Columbine April 1999, then committing suicide. Columbine happened months after Matt and I married, just a 40 minute drive down the street. I remember being utterly shocked as I watched the images on tv, in complete disbelief that something like this could be imagined let alone carried out.
This book has been filling my soul with hope. This mama, Sue Klebold, shares the raw pain and grief, followed by anger and finally healing and a calling.
As I read her words, I was struck with how ordinary her life was BEFORE. BEFORE Columbine she was me, the mom who watched out for her kids, chose the best for them, wanted to protect them. BEFORE Columbine she was like you and me, walking and talking, working and doing. Then Columbine happened…
“Yesterday, my life entered the most abhorrent nightmare anyone could possibly imagine. I can’t even write.” Sue Klebold
I was broken as I read this book. Tears streaming down my face at times as Sue’s words came so very close to the deepest fears that reside in my heart. I have a child who still does not understand the absolute depth of love in my heart for them. There is constant questioning about their worth — is my love enough to keep my child safe from themself?
“Depression and other types of brain disorders do not strip someone of a moral compass, and yet these are potentially life-threatening diseases that can impair judgement and distort a person’s sense of reality. We must turn our attention to researching and raising awareness about these diseases–and to dispelling the myths that prevent us from helping those who most need it.” Sue Klebold
I find myself going back to the first moments I held this child in my arms. My love, surely, would be enough to help heal! Yet, here I am, years later wrestling with deep fears of the “what ifs” for my child. Just as a child with a terminal illness would receive medication and help, so should our children with brain illnesses. The same battle we would fight for a child with cancer should be the same fight for brain wholeness and wellness.
People like Sue Klebold show such courage sharing their stories of deep pain. They understand that “one thing is certain, when we can do a better job of helping people before their lives are in crisis, the world will become safer for all of us.”
Andrew Solomon says it so well in the prologue —
“Ovid delivered a famous injunction to ‘welcome this pain, for you will learn from it.’ But there is little choice about such pain; you do not have the option of not welcoming it. You can express displeasure as its arrival, but you cannot ask it to leave the house.”
I’m wrestling today, at the arrival of pain and how I’m going to allow it to make a home in my house while not defeating me. This, my friends, is a hard task. One that had you asked me years ago if I’d be willing to do, I would have wrestled with my yes. However, with great pain comes abundant joy. The depths of the valley show us, so very often, the heights of joy and healing. I’ve learned a lifetime of love with this child–and they’ve shown me the absolute depth of my love.
Thank you Sue Klebold, for courageously speaking your story, sharing the innermost parts of your thoughts and soul. Your words bring courage and hope to so many of us who have children who experience brain illness.