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the worst luck possible

December 5, 2013

Twelve weeks ago Jude flew to the Bay Area to see her two sons, Jin and Nathan.  Jin, aged 25, had been in crisis since June.  Jude hoped to help him sort out his options.  The visit went well at first, but Jin’s anxiety escalated again.  On Friday the 13th, he drove to the Golden Gate Bridge, walked to mid-span and jumped.

Jude stayed a few days to be with Nathan, then headed home.  To reach the San Francisco airport, she had to ride a bus over the bridge.  She kept her eyes closed well before and well after that stretch.  She then had to fly back over it, but sat on the side of the plane where she couldn’t see it.

I met her at a small airport near Comox, B.C.  I grabbed her just as soon as I could without making the security guards nervous.  We hugged and wept, effectively blocking the entrance to the men’s washroom.

Losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to a human.  Period.  When my sister died unexpectedly at age 47, it devastated my parents.  My mother was half-crazy at the funeral, repeatedly saying “it’s not supposed to be this way”.  I had never seen my father shed a tear.  It was unsettling to see him sob.

I dearly loved my sister.  The loss of her was like having my soul ripped open, then sandpapered.

It was the same with Jin’s death.  I wasn’t nearly as close to him, but Jude’s incalculable grief engulfed me.  It was like searing heat at first, as we struggled with questions that couldn’t be answered.  Nothing made sense.  Our days were “left foot, right foot, repeat if you can”.

Getting the word out was crucial but painful.  I sat stunned for several hours after Jude told me, then called my kids.  Then I realized that I needed to let a neighbour know right away because he was going to come over the next day to watch the Seahawks – 49ers game.  He wasn’t home, so I told his wife, a very classy lady.  She said, succinctly, “well, shit!”

Shit, indeed.

He did come over for the game, during which another neighbour called and said “what’s up?”  “Do you really want to know?”, I said.  She did.  Shortly after we talked, a friend called with a question for Jude.  I told her, too.  I hoped that the neighbour and friend would tell others.  I was running out of energy.  I’d be goddamned if I was going to share it on Facebook.

I did e-mail three old friends in the states who are like brothers to me, but asked them not to call for awhile.  There’s much to be said to repeating your story — the talking cure, Freud said — but I had to pace myself.

Jude took time off from work.  The next few weeks were incredibly intimate.  We connected in new ways and strengthened our old ways.  We hugged more than usual.  We didn’t sweat the small or medium-sized stuff.  We found solace in a Breaking Bad marathon, of all things.

We held a memorial service for Jin on our back deck, the setting for so much joy over the years.  Jude made a poster of photos of him, centered around the last shot we took of him.  He visited us in August of last year and we had a wonderful time.  It was the happiest we had ever seen him.  He really seemed to be figuring out adulthood.

Our community, as usual, was supremely supportive.  They listened attentively to our stories, cried with us, then stayed around to do what we do best together: laugh.  That’s incredibly healing.

Jude and I are still struggling.  You already know this, but grief is one disruptive scoundrel.  It makes us clumsy.  It makes us dense.  It hits us head-on, then hides away to sideswipe us when we least suspect it: the sound of a baby crying, the thought of baking Christmas cookies, Friday the 13th.

But we’re going to outlast it.  We’ve got lots of life experiences to draw strength and understanding from.  We have plenty of folks to talk to or just be with.  And best, we’ve got love.

  1. goatbarnwitch permalink
    December 5, 2013 10:32 am

    I am so sorry for your loss.
    I was sent to your blog a while back by Kathy of Kitcheblogic and have been lurking ever since

    • December 6, 2013 11:10 am

      Thank you. We appreciate your concern. I’m certain you understand how much we’re anticipating the Return of the Light this year. Merry solstice, and please keep lurking.

  2. John Bozich permalink
    December 5, 2013 11:30 am

    wow…quoting Dave Garroway: “Peace”

    • December 6, 2013 11:12 am

      Hey, J.B. I miss Garroway and his co-anchor, J. Fred Muggs.

  3. December 5, 2013 9:57 pm

    I am sorry for your loss… I can’t imagine how hard it would be to lose a child….

    • December 6, 2013 11:15 am

      Beanie, how nice to hear from you again, despite the circumstances. Hold your family extra close this holiday for us.

  4. December 5, 2013 11:03 pm

    You and Jude are in my thoughts and I am so very sorry for your loss. No words can ever express the sorrow that I feel for you both. This has to be the hardest thing to overcome and yet you have loving and loyal friends to be with to talk and just listen. Knowing that your loved is the best gift in the world and I am sending my love to you and Jude in spades. I am so very sorry.

    • December 6, 2013 11:21 am

      Thanks for the love, Beth. I almost told you the details when we chatted the other day, but wasn’t quite ready. Jude and I were still working on the post then.

  5. December 6, 2013 7:55 am

    Oh God. I’m so very sorry. You and Jude are in my thoughts and prayers. If I had better words of comfort I’d offer them. Just… (((HUGS)))

  6. December 6, 2013 11:25 am

    We welcome the hugs, Tiff. Your words of comfort are just right. And please continue your noble work of keeping an eye on Arizona for the rest of us.

  7. Joan permalink
    December 6, 2013 11:48 am

    Parents hold their children’s hands for a while, their hearts forever.
    Peace to you both.

    • December 9, 2013 1:29 pm

      Thank you for these words of comfort, Joan. And peace be with you.

  8. December 6, 2013 7:34 pm

    I hope putting the words out have helped a little bit. I can not ever look at that bridge he same way again. My love to both of you.

    • December 9, 2013 1:32 pm

      Hey, Coach. It has been helpful to post about it. We appreciate the love and send it double back at ya as you contend with a particular challenging winter.

  9. ashley47 permalink
    December 7, 2013 9:42 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ll keep you both in my prayers.

    • December 9, 2013 1:35 pm

      Ashley, thank you for your sentiments. Yours and the kindness of others have really helped us.

  10. December 10, 2013 7:25 pm

    terrible tragedy.. we just lost an uncle, disbled, not a threat to anyone ever.. to a murder. he was transgender and i had no idea how much he had been living as a woman (this is my husbands uncle) until all of her friends came and talked of ‘him’ as her and by the female name that as now her legal name. these kind of deaths just carry their own weight.. sorry for your loss..

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