So here it is. The day whose retelling I’ve been dreading. I’m sitting in the Delta Club at Seatac, trying to write this while not bringing attention to myself as tears run down my face. I probably should have waited to start this post until I was in a hotel. I’m not known for my decision making ability.
I don’t remember much about the plane ride home from Norway. I know I had a short connection in Amsterdam but I have no recollection of changing flights. The only clear memories I have are trying to come up with a way to tell my kids. I repeated the hypothetical conversation over and over in my head.
Me: Kids, your mom loved you very much
Me: Guys, your mom has been sick for a long time
Me: Guess what? We’re alone! We’re all alone forever!
There was no good way to talk about it. My mom had discussed some ideas with a counselor friend of hers and suggested not to tell them upfront that she had taken her own life but wait for them to ask how it happened. OK?
My dad picked me up at the airport. In his usual awkward way he did what he could to comfort me but also told me things I didn’t want to hear. He told me he had told the kids he was going to pick me up from the airport and T had asked ‘Just Dad?’. He told me over and over again he couldn’t imagine how I felt.
People have told me that a lot. ‘I can’t imagine how you feel’. I mean, you can. You totally can. I felt sad, angry, so angry, so sad. I felt like it was all pretend. I felt totally alone.
That’s a theme. Loneliness. Losing one’s spouse is an absolutely crushing experience. Not just because you miss the person, but because you feel like a part of you was taken away. Something you relied on so much is just gone. You don’t have that person to plan the week with, to get annoyed at because they won’t stop that one little pet peeve. You don’t have that person to comfort you when you’re sick, to pick up the slack when you’re having a bad day. This is a hollow explanation. I wish I was better at expressing this feeling. More than anything else it’s absence of self despite still being present. I was part of Christine and she was a big part of me.
We arrived at my parents house. I told my dad to leave the luggage for now, I didn’t want him messing with it while I tried to talk to the kids. I had already told my parents I wanted them to leave me alone in the room with the kids so we could be together. I told her she could come in later.
Fuck. This is so painful. This is just so awfully painful to recount. This is how I took away my kid’s mom from them. It’s how they lost their innocence.
I knew that T had prepared a Mother’s Day gift for Christine. She had been texting me and telling me about a card she wrote and a picture she drew. T is a pleaser. She lives for the appreciation people show her for little acts of kindness and always goes out of her way to do thoughtful things for people. The first thing I saw when I walked into the room was the card, ‘Mom’ written across the front.
K saw me first. She smiled wide.
K: Oh hi!
I sat on the chair.
Me: Hey guys. I need to talk to you
E looked around the room wonderingly. He has a sixth sense about these things and could tell immediately something was up.
Me: Your mom has been sick for a very long time and last night it just became too much for her and she decided to take her own life.
K let out a surprised laugh. It sounded like a dog barking. It was involuntary and the result of shock. T and E looked confused then at once, almost as if they had been practicing for days their little faces broke in perfect synchronization. I crossed the room to them. I held them tight. I asked K to join us, she declined with a shake of her head, tears streaming down her confused face.
My mom came rushing into the room. Why is it so hard for people to follow direction? I wanted a little bit more time with them. It’s hard to remember good intent when you’re struggling with grief.
Me: I want you to know that before she passed away she asked me to tell you that she loves you. She loves you all so much. She has been so so sick and so sad. I’m sorry you guys.
We cried a lot. They asked me questions I didn’t have answers for. I gave them all presents we had bought for them in Norway and told them why their mom had felt these presents would be the right presents for them. What she thought of them. There was a fur headband she had picked out for T because she wanted them to match. There was a hat for E to match the one she had bought me. A pair of socks for K that was just so wacky and totally her. There was more.
Some people came over. My mom’s former pastor. Good guy. We talked. Her current pastor came over as well. She’s nice. Then a guy was there that told me about his uncle dying and then wanted to talk about running 5 minute miles. He talked over the kids and ignored the issue at hand. I hated him for it. We left. T later told me she wanted me to beat him up.
That night we did the same thing we had the night Christine had made her first attempt on her life. The night the police kicked in the bedroom door and dragged her through the living room in handcuffs.
We went and got ice cream and soda and pizza and candy. We hit up redbox. I bought the kids stuffed animals. We slept together in the living room, something we continued to do for several days. Our bedrooms all seemed too lonely.
My kids are strong. They are so much stronger than me. They’ve been watching me slowly fall apart, especially the past couple weeks, as I realized I hadn’t let myself experience Christine’s loss. They haven’t been judging me when I disappear to my room, when I put together some garbage dinner, when I leave the house for a couple hours with no explanation. I know they hurt too. I don’t know how to hurt with them. I wish so much they never experienced this life and I feel so terrible when I’m around them.
One thought on “The Worst Day of My Life”
Oh, Ben. You are, without question, one of the strongest people I know. Thank you for having the courage to tell your story. I love you.