Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Finally - Hope at Last!!

Finally – Hope At Last!!
by Gary E. Freeman

My last post related to how long it had been since we lost Joshua and how I didn’t feel like I had really made it through the experience of having lost a son to suicide.  It is with a great sense of relief and gratitude that I finally can say that I feel like life (at least for me) is mostly back to normal.  I still have this place in my heart where pain dwells and where, if I am not careful, I can be swallowed up by what might have been and what should have been or what could happen.  This latest change in my life occurred in early May – just a few days short of 3 years and 10 months from the date of our son’s suicide.  I had one of those feelings come to me like I used to get – that all was right in the way my life was moving at the moment.  The feeling that things were going as they should be and that life was moving forward on a track that is right for me.  It was one of those feelings that you want to enjoy when it comes.  It came twice – two days in a row - I think as confirmation.

It was a long struggle to find the faith necessary to trust in a loving God to put things right and to have faith in His plan for us.  Once you gain faith then you can have hope.  I have worn a t-shirt as a pajama top for almost 4 years that says simply “Peace”.  That is what I have sought for the last four years – peace.  Peace in my soul that all is well and that my life and my son’s are moving forward as best we can.  That peace coupled with hope and joy is the feeling that has finally arrived!

This feeling should certainly not be confused with a feeling that I was (or am) doing everything right – that was definitely not the feeling I received!  Frankly it has been a long time since I had one of those feelings that all was right with my world.  I have had them at various points in my life and when you have them it is a wonderful thing.  Part of it is knowing you are moving forward in accordance with what should be happening in your life.  It had been some time before Joshua’s decision since I had one that I can remember.  Since then it has been mostly a long stretch of trying to work through the feelings of loss and trying to endure until I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I kept hoping that when the light came it wouldn’t be another freight train running me down and leaving me wounded and broken along the track.

One of the things that helped me take this latest step toward healing was a discussion with a dear friend who had lost his daughter in a motorcycle accident a few years before we lost Joshua.  He explained how he had finally come to the conclusion that, as a father, we feel like we are supposed to be in charge of protecting our families but in reality we have no control over what happens to them – at least in the major things that happen.  We can guide them, counsel them, and pray for them but they get to make their own choices – as do others that can have a huge impact in our lives and in the lives of those we love.  We only get to make choices for ourselves.  We don’t have any control over others decisions – we just get to experience the ride in the car with someone else driving or perhaps on the roller coaster without any control of what is coming next or when to get on or off.  Thus we are supposed to protect our children from harm but, in reality, are often unable to do so.  

In my experience when we come face to face with this fact it instills fear in the deepest part of our souls – we understand that we are in reality powerless to protect those we love.  We are supposed to train and protect our families but in reality while we can train them, we have very little power to protect them from the consequences of their decisions, the decisions of others, and from accidents.  
In reality it is the same with our Heavenly Father – He put us here and gave us our agency.  We can choose the good or the bad and we get to learn the consequences for our choices.  He has the same dilemma.  He gets to watch us do things that He knows will bring us sorrow and heartache – or worse.  I suppose, now that I think about it, that He is in much the same position as we are.  He knows the consequences better than we do but, because we have our agency – the ability to choose what we will do – He has to watch and not intervene while we do stupid things and hurtful things to ourselves and others.  

We as His children have to learn to trust that a higher power knows best and when bad things happen – like accidents or choices that bring disastrous results both physically or spiritually – and that He knows how to make it right.  Our Heavenly Father has provided a way for it to be OK through the Savior’s atonement for our sins and bad choices.  We have to accept that even though we are nominally in charge, another in reality has all of our destinies in His hands and that all things will work together for our good.  This is the concept that freed my dear friend from his bondage at losing his daughter and played a large part in my finally accepting that another Father is in charge – one who really can protect us from the things we fear in this life – loss of family members to death or sin.  He has provided a path back to Him by sacrificing His Son for us so that our mistakes and poor choices can be fixed and forgotten if we will chose to do so.  In reality faith in our Heavenly Father and our Savior are the only way to salvation and happiness in this life and the next.  

It is only in exercising this faith that our Father who knows all and loves us all equally has a plan for us that allows us to each learn the lessons necessary for our growth and understanding in this life and in the next.  By accepting that this Higher Power can make things right in the next life we can then accept what has happened to our children or loved ones in this life and move on with our lives here.  Based on my experiences, if we can’t accept this truth in this life and exercise our faith that He can fix it, we will have an extremely hard time putting the fear and hurt behind us in this life.  There is a great deal to be grateful for and I am grateful for the growth that has occurred in my life as a result of the loss of Joshua from this life.  I am just as grateful for the knowledge that we will see our son in the next life.

I wrote a long poem about Joshua and my feelings at his loss at about the deepest of the sorrow and at the depth of the deepest pit I ever want to experience.  I would note that he was born in Mali, West Africa in a mud brick home to give the poem some background.  This poem was an expression of the sorrow we were feeling as well as the hope and belief that someday we would have our son in our arms again for one of those famous Freeman Hugs.  It is also an expression of the joy we will have when again we all meet on the other side of the veil that separates us from him. 

Oh Won’t That Day Be Just Like Heaven?
(Ode to a Son)

Josh was born there, in that dusty, lovely mud brick home
Some thought it was just a mansion, others though it just a dive.
In a land so far, far away, where mud and dirt and sand,
Continue now as they did then, unfazed by time or cares
Where the time has seemed to ponder, to stop and simply stare
The people come, the people go, only the faces change
Most without a small awareness, that a woeful change
Tragedy, in human measures, came to others’ doors.
Only then and at that moment, having traveled far,
That it reaches oh so silent, inside our private doors,
Then we finally take a notice - take the time to slow.
Time, it stops its onward progress and only space exists,
Space made empty by his distance, suddenly he was gone.

As our hearts’ foundations crack, and with our poor hearts quivering there,
It’s our own hearts that now a quaver – turning here to mush
Our hearts now growing oh so faint – hoping it’s not really happened
As our worlds collapse around us – we recoil – shocked to the core
Just like a perfect mirror there - shattered by a rock
We are left here to assemble, the pieces of our lives
Like the pieces of the mirror, shattered on the ground
One precious piece by precious piece - just one piece at a time –
So slowly, slowly day by day - looking for the good,
Keeping all the precious moments, looking for the past
But the pieces, precious pieces, some are now held back
By the Master, in His wisdom, withholding from our view,
Waiting for that future hour, on that distant shore
When our joy will be unmeasured, like it was before.

But for now - we only go on – going forth to build anew
Another picture not so big, different from before,
Still, with a space for our loved ones, who have gone before.
But wait – there’s a hole, there’s a void, something always missing
Not forgotten or uncared for, only distant for a while –
Then – the moment, only hoped for, by our longing hearts,
When he stands there right before us, all arisen and so joyous
And we get the hug we’ve hungered, given there to us again!

Oh what joy, will then o’rwhelm us, even more than before
When we see right there before us, that his death should not distress us!
It is only for a moment – Death could not at length defeat us,
But only scare in the chorus, not the body of the song,
Only part us for a moment – not that long after all.
Death itself will be forgotten, when we pass right through its door
In the joy that comes before us – on that distant shore – how joyous!
All the pain and separation - will wash away like sand before us,
It will seem but as an instant since we last held him near
Perhaps that time – this little instant will be as though a dream!
Won’t he then, there rush to greet us, to tell us of his love?
With the love and hugs we’ve missed here, won’t we have them there?
Won’t he then so gladly join us, and in joy we’ll join in chorus
To make up for those moments when, we missed him badly here?

Oh won’t that day be just like Heaven?  Won’t we then forgive
All the times here when we missed him, that we thought so long,
No sorrow then will be remembered – when we have our son!
Oh won’t our tears then be the drier, won’t our hearts be healed?
Won’t we be forever grateful to the One who saved us here?
He who said “It won’t be easy, but follow to our Father’s Home”
He who waits us as we do wait, for our own dear son’s return?

Let us be forever grateful, for our Savior’s love,
And for our Father, Who in Heaven, loves us every one!
He is still right up there waiting, awaiting OUR return.
We are still here - here a wand’ring, here upon this sphere,
Where we spend - but a short moment, trying out our wings,
Seeing if we’re really worthy, if our aim is true.
Here we are directing our course, drifting here and there.
He stands ever watching o’r us mindful of our errors.
But He guides us if we listen, give heed and obey.
We make wrong turns, sometimes deadly, as we wend our way.

He will always, always help us if we turn to pray,
If we let Him, He’ll correct them, all those things we didn’t say.
All those things that hurt another, caused them pain and tears,
He can always still correct them and bring us home again,
Into the arms of our Father, and our Brother there,
To a Mother who will give us, hugs that we recall,
As all we ever really want’d, since we left that sphere.

We shall stand right there together, arm in arm in arm,
Where the Saints shall all shout praises to their Lord and King
Thanks for caring all about us, and correcting all our err’rs,
With eternal understanding of how our hearts would break
If we could not go back to Him, with our sons and with our daughters,
To those blessed courts on High, where our parents still will love us
Where our family there awaits us - and right there - where we all belong.

October 19, 2008
Gary E. Freeman
Copyright 2008

It is my witness that the light can come back into our lives – even after the loss of a child to suicide.  It is not the end.  Life continues for those who have gone on ahead of us and should for those of us left behind.  We should not despair for those who have left us before we what we thought was their time.  Our Heavenly Father who knows all of us better than we know ourselves, laid out a plan for each of us – knowing how we would each respond to the challenges we would face.  

Our personal plan prepared for us in this life includes opportunities to grow that come as a result of great pain and sacrifice in our each of our lives.  We are the children of a loving God who is concerned about each of us and has given us the exact challenges that we need in order to understand one another and learn kindness and love for others.  The key to our happiness here and there will be learning to love one another and helping each other.  When we get there we will not be asked if we completed all of the tasks on our list of things to do or how important or rich we were.  We will be judged on our care for those around us, our kindness, and our love for others.  Those will be the key things in our lives that need to be the most important in our lives here.  

We need to rise to the occasion – reassess our faith and understand that while we have the responsibility for our families here, He who actually has the power to save us is in charge and we should have faith in Him and in His Son, Jesus Christ. If you would like to discuss our experiences in more detail please let us know.  We would be happy to help you through this process as others have helped us.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

We Need Your Help!

Daniel has done all the writing to date about our Institute. I (Gary) have started to write several times but have stopped after being unable to decide what it was I wanted to say here. We started the Institute with the idea that it would be a non-profit to help families but the IRS rules require us to give control to a Board of Directors that are not involved in the Institute's day to day activities. This requires us to give control of the Institute to outsiders - something we are reluctant to do. Since we have not been willing to do this and we will soon reform the Institute as a for (very small) profit organization in order to retain control of the Institute.

I have been wanting to write something about how to survive the loss of a family member to suicide for about a year. Every time I start to write I slip back into that black hole where depression (and sometimes despair) come so easily. It's hard to feel confident writing about how to survive a family suicide when you are not at all sure you have, as yet, survived it yourself. After 3 and 1/2 years you would think it would be time that one could be mostly healed and move on but so far that is not the case. This is not to say that I'm not better than I was 3 years ago, a year ago, or even a couple of months ago. I have come a long ways towards healing and am doing tremendously better than I have in the past. I am making progress but it is a long road - some days it seems like a very, very long road. My greatest progress has come as I have tried to help others who have experienced the same loss. As the Master has said - we can find ourselves only when we lose ourselves in service to others. The longer we spend searching for ourselves the harder it is to find us. We need to be in service to our fellow man in order to find out who we are. Nothing else will give us the peace we seek.

This brings me to my request. At the Institute we are seeking the stories of those who feel they are far enough along in their recovery that they would like to share the story of how they have survived (or if not survived at least dealt with) the loss of a family member to suicide. We would hope to use the stories (anonymously if desired) to help us and others learn more about the path that others have trodden. Questions that we have include: 1) What feelings have you dealt with - fear, anger, a feeling of loss of control of your life, depression, etc; 2) What has helped you in your recovery/survival; 3) What would you recommend to aid in the recovery process; 4) What has been most helpful to you; and 4) any other recommendations you might have for coping or recovering that have worked for you or others. In your stories you might, if you desire, touch on what happened to your loved one but primarily we want to focus on the healing aspect and how you are moving forward. We hope that this knowledge of how others have been impacted and survived this trauma will help all of us better understand the path and how to continue to move forward.

I have come to suspect that this process can take a lifetime - we certainly know our lives will probably never be the same as they were before. It is readily apparent that our priorities are different, our views are different, our hopes, and our dreams are all different. Our life is distinctly divided into two parts - before and after. I want to write about my experience but before I taint the waters, as it were, I want to hear from others about what they have experienced on this path.

If you could send your stories to us at survival@r2d-eng.com we would appreciate it. You can also call us at (480) 275-5077 if you want to talk with us prior to sending your story (or if you want us to help you with your story).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What Determines Life?

"...Life is not determined by the changes within us that make our presence possible, but rather by the changes made possible by our presence..." 

-Granite Waterfall-

These words come from a young adult that I spent some time with over the summer. Though often quiet he spoke from the heart and had a gift for expression through in word. He wrote some beautiful things, one of which I wish to share with you today. As he contemplated his life during a free write he engaged in he wrote the words that follow hereafter. There is much in these words which can be taken and applied directly into our lives. I now leave these words with you for your contemplation and consideration in your own journey.

"These hills are alive. They do not breathe, they do not move, they do not speak, yet they are alive. How does one know this? How does one determine that which lives from that which does not live? I have met people of ripe old age who've said they've only started living the day before. Before today this puzzled me - now I could laugh at how blind I've been. Life is not determined by the changes within us that make our presence possible, but rather by the changes made possible by our presence. In being here, I have been changed... In this, the hills and rocks around me have shown themselves to live. From this day forward, one of the deepest desires of my heart, is to live as such - to effect change in others, rather than observing them. For to be passive is to be dead, and I have had quite enough of death for this lifetime."

-Granite Waterfall-