Wednesday, March 18
Pictured: My husband Nate skating with our 3-year-old son Owen
One of the most beautiful things I ever read was the eulogy given by Steve Jobs’ sister Mona Simpson at his funeral. If you haven’t had a chance to see it, the text is published on The New York Times and I highly recommend reading it. There was one thing in particular that Mona said that has always stayed with me.
“We all — in the end — die in medias res. In the middle of a story. Of many stories.”
In the context of Mona’s eulogy, she was talking about how, even though they knew they would lose Steve to cancer, his death was still unexpected. That is a powerful sentiment and she phrased it perfectly. No matter the age or circumstance, death always comes in the middle of a story, in fact many stories.
Just one week ago today a 19-year-old young man I knew took his own life here in Carlsbad. I didn’t know him really well, but I knew him well enough to know what a kind, friendly, and great kid he was. He comes from a large family that is now grieving a loss that I cannot begin to comprehend.
The day after Klay died, a few friends and I delivered a bunch of supplies to the family – drinks, snacks, breakfast and lunch foods, paper plates, etc. We texted beforehand and told them they could just open the garage and pretend we weren’t even there. Of course we did see some of the family members and talked a bit with Klay’s amazing mother. I won’t go into details, but spending those few moments with that family so soon after their loss has changed me. I can’t quite put into words what that change is, but it is real and profound.
Klay suffered from depression and his depression won the battle. Almost exactly five years ago our dear friends’ nephew Brian also took his own life, also at 19 years old. Brian suffered from severe schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and lost a similar battle to Klay’s.
As I sat through Klay’s funeral yesterday, I couldn’t help but think of Brian’s funeral five years ago and the heartbreaking similarities between the two. I couldn’t help but think of loved ones in my life suffering from similar struggles. I couldn’t help but feel heartbroken for these two wonderful young men that have touched my life. And I couldn’t help but feel incredible sadness for their families and loved ones.
I also walked away from yesterday’s funeral knowing that Klay was loved unconditionally by many, many people, that Klay left behind beautiful memories, from making music to diving to skateboarding to simply being who he was day to day. Klay’s father’s words painted a picture of a life with his son that was familiar to me because it is so similar to the life I see my husband experiencing with my son.
As happens every time I witness or experience a loss, I thought of Mona’s words. Death always comes in the middle of the story. Sometimes the stories are shorter than we had hoped, but the good, even glorious, news is that there was a story. A beautiful if sometimes painful story. The trick is to appreciate the stories we are given, the stories that we get to be a part of, even when we are aching so desperately for more.
These experiences always give me perspective, but this week in particular has been especially poignant. And, while I’ve always lived a life that tries to savor each day, I am now really trying to focus on the stories of which I am a part, appreciating my life’s stories even though I know they will not last as long as I want, and loving them even more for that fact.
Thursday, September 25
Right now Owen’s birthday cake is in the oven. I will be attempting to shape it into Ripslinger from Planes a little later today. (Heaven help me.) Owen is sitting at the counter playing with a few of his Thomas trains while we wait for the cake to bake, chatting merrily away to himself, creating stories of near misses at the countertop’s edge. I am feeling beyond grateful for this moment.
Three years ago Owen was born on my birthday. Without a doubt it was my best birthday ever and Owen was the greatest birthday gift I could ever have dreamed of. Three years ago was also, without a doubt, the most traumatic day of my life. After a calm morning of labor, suddenly things changed. And, before we knew it, Nate was alone in the labor and delivery room and I was in an operating room being put under general anesthesia. Neither of us would witness Owen’s birth. Nate met him 15 minutes later. I met my son 2 hours after his birth.
I will never forget every last detail of that day. For nearly a year I would cry just at the slightest thought of those events. Now I just cry once in a while, usually when I least expect it. I always cry on my birthday, though. I can’t help it. I am just so grateful, it’s overwhelming. Grateful to have this greatest-of-all birthday presents in my life, playing with trains and asking me to play the Planes soundtrack yet again.
When I was being wheeled from the delivery room to the OR, I was a complete basket case. My anesthesiologist was a saint who talked me through the whole experience, with a calm and loving voice. The thing I was so fixated on was that I would not see Owen born like I had the girls. I couldn’t stop saying that over and over. As I look back it almost makes me laugh. There was so much on the line in those 6 minutes between discovering the problem (prolapse cord) and Owen’s birth. And the only thing I could think about was that I wouldn’t get the happy birth moment I had envisioned and experienced before. I didn’t think once about Owen’s mortality and, honestly, I am so grateful my neurotic brain didn’t go there, that I was protecting myself from those thoughts. I’m even more grateful that everything turned out okay in the end. We were so lucky.
I joke with people that Owen ruined my birthday. Not only did he steal it from me, but he turned it into my #1 PTSD trigger! Seriously, though, I love sharing my birthday with this amazing kid and I know that it is miraculous.
Life is good. It does not always go as planned. Sometimes it is more than we can bear. But it is always beautiful.
Happy Birthday, Owen.