This post can be divided into three parts. Each meant for a different audience. First, on behalf of my family, I would like to address my brother, Lucas. Next, my family. Finally, to those friends and soon to be friends.
Lucas, I remember the day we were told we were going to have a new little brother. We were so full of excitement and joy. Clayton and I began making plans for you before you ever took your first breath. We envisioned moments at play and moments that would bind us together for life.
When you finally arrived, it was hard not to be consumed with happiness and a little jealously. It was hard for us to comprehend how much attention a new born child needs. We remember watching you crawl, take your first steps and break the bottom of your crib from jumping up and down with a fury. We remember the joy we felt watching you unwrap Christmas presents. We remember you every time we drive by a 7-11. I mean July 11th has to be the easiest birthday to remember in the world. We remember you wanting to hang with the big boys. We remember making movies in the backyard. We remember watching you learn to ride a bike. We remember watching you and Clinton grow close. We remember video games and countless hours watching movies spread out on pallets occupying the living room floor. We remember watching you and Clayton fight like cats and dogs. In fact, Mom and Dad love to tell a story of you in Clayton going at it in Los Angeles rush hour traffic. We remember the sense of joy as we watched you two grow close. We remember that disgusting thing you could do with your arm. We remember you graduating from high school. We remember being in Kentucky to watch Clayton graduate from basic training. We remember rallying together when we heard the news that our father has cancer. We remember how you cared for Mom and Dad when we couldn't be there. We remember you being the greatest uncle. We will always remember how Miguel adored you. We remember your smile, your quiet, but calm nature.
See Lucas, we gathered in a funeral home in Frederick, OK to remember and if you can hear us, I need you to know we are not looking back in anger, judgment or regret. The pain we feel is bearable, because we know you are no longer feeling pain. Instead, we are looking back recalling the blessing your life was. We were honored to have known you. As we move forward in our lives, know there will be everyday moments which will remind us of you. I will never be able to drive down main street without thinking about the first time I asked you to come ride around with me. I will never be able to watch a Thunder basketball game without remembering the smile on your face when I gave you your first pair of tickets.
Next to my family. There are 5 universal stages to grief; denial & isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Since Monday afternoon, I know we've been through all of these and myriad of other emotions. I don’t want you to deny yourself this process. It is important. Your disbelief that we are burying Lucas is important. Your anger at Lucas, yourself and environmental factors is important. Wishing it was you or you could have done something different is important. The overwhelming sense of loss is important. The stage of acceptance is the most important. It doesn't discount the other stages nor does it take any value away from the relationship you possessed with Lucas.
At this stage, I think we can grow and learn. I think we can begin to pay tribute to Lucas’ life. We can begin to do simple things. We can move past social media as a lone tool of connection. This moment in time can facilitate communication on a deeper level. We can get back to calling each other more often. We can be present for birthdays and anniversaries. We can commit our presence for the big moments in life and those of a more mundane nature. We can get back to family reunions outside of weddings and funerals. We can display Lucas’ love by rallying together. We can pay tribute to him by deepening our connection and love for each other.
Finally to friends and soon to be friends, I like using that, because the Oklahoma saying of, “I’ve never met a stranger” is still true.
The decision to end one’s own life is not a cowardly act nor is it a sign of bravery. It isn't selfish nor is it selfless. It isn't a temporary fix nor is it the permanent solution. It isn't rational nor is it irrational. It isn't methodical nor is it haphazard. It operates somewhere in the middle; somewhere in the gray. It is defined by ambiguity. Which is something most of us human beings have a hard time understanding. We are not built to hold moments of cognitive dissonance. We like answers. We crave certainty, but the decision lying around such a fatal choice is never that easy. When coupled with substance abuse and depression, the answers get even more complicated.
But, we have a choice as we leave here today. Today and the events that led us here can be a clarion call. They can be a call to love more deeply. They can be call to love unconditionally. They can be a call to cast aside judgments and preconceived notions. Far too often, we focus on what divides us. Gay, straight, black, white, liberal, conservative, male, female. These are just names given to things; behind them is the human condition. No matter what separates, love should always guide us to a place of sympathy and when/if possible empathy.
So, that is my call to you today. Love. Let’s spend more time celebrating love. Let’s pick up the phone more often. Let’s visit with our parents for a little longer. Let’s spend more time celebrating life’s major milestones and let’s give proper pause to the moments that aren't so grand. This is how we can honor the life of my brother. We can show him that we hear his lesson and we promise to apply it to our everyday lives. Not just for the weeks ahead, but with each and every breath we take.
I would like to close this post on a point of personal privilege. When I was 18, I couldn't wait to leave Frederick. I wanted to move onto bigger and better opportunities. I wanted to be where the action is and was. I wanted a life consumed with all the things that are loud; the exact opposite of the quiet small town life of my youth. But there is something to be said of communities such as these. I now live in Seattle. I live in an apartment complex. I went almost a year without knowing the names of the family next door. I walk down city streets where people avert their eyes. Not because they are unfriendly, but they are responding to a fear of violating other’s space. In moments of grief though, small town life shines. In the past few days, the people of this community have responded valiantly. You have been guardian angels and we have felt the wrapping of your wings around us. For that, my family and I are eternally grateful.
I also have some friends from Edmond and Oklahoma City who made the trip. People who only met Lucas once or twice or knew of him vicariously through me. I can only assume my family members had people there in the same position. We thank you too. We thank you deeply for your support. As I close today, I would like to end with some words provided to me by one of those friends. On Tuesday, she shared with me the words of Rev. Warren Stephens. To me, they are powerful and I can think of no better way to close.
"Our friend died on his own battlefield. He was killed in action fighting a civil war. He fought against adversaries that were as real to him as his casket is real to us. They were powerful adversaries. They took toll of his energies and endurance. They exhausted the last vestiges of his courage and strength. At last these adversaries overwhelmed him. And it appeared that he lost the war. But did he? I see a host of victories that he has won!
For one thing -- he has won our admiration -- because even if he lost the war, we give him credit for his bravery on the battlefield. And we give him credit for the courage and pride and hope that he used as his weapons as long as he could. We shall remember not his death, but his daily victories gained through his kindnesses and thoughtfulness, through his love for family and friends, for animals and books and music, for all things beautiful, lovely and honorable. We shall remember the many days that he was victorious over overwhelming odds. We shall remember not the years we thought he had left, but the intensity with which he lived the years he had!
Only God knows what this child of His suffered in the silent skirmishes that took place in his soul. But our consolation is that God does know and understands!"
Thanks for entering my world,