White Star Magnolia Tree in Full Bloom in Spring
White Star Magnolia in Full Bloom

“My Forever Son”

In the beginning, I had no words. I couldn’t speak. My voice was stilled. I lost my only child, my 20-year-old son, to suicide on June 25, 2012.

In the beginning, who I was went away. What I did for a living went away. My professional life came to a grinding halt, my professional writing ceased, and my teaching career ended. Just like that.

All of me gone with all of my son. Voice, breath, and music so interwoven in my life (and in Dylan’s life) that without my son, I had no words. Keening and weeping, I entered deep grief.

That was 10 years ago. A decade of grieving. A decade of reinventing myself. The first 5 years spent trying to find a grasp on my world. And in small increments, finding hope along the way. My writing returned and in writing, I find healing.

“My Forever Son” began as my journal entries woven into a blog. That blog has grown and changed as I’ve grown, changed, and healed (to the extent that one can “heal” a heart broken by losing a child).

Writing poetry, photographing nature, writing music, and writing pieces for “My Forever Son” provides a richness to my life that in the beginning, I thought I’d never see or have again. I’ve learned to carry the pain of losing Dylan the same way I’ve carried love for my son all these years.

A Poem of Love, Loss, and Losing a Child

“If Earth Were Sky (And Sky Above)”

If earth were sky and sky above
Then heart could hold this ache of love,
Suspended, like rain, in clouds wanting to fall,
But bound to sun’s joy because heart touches all.

I fall ‘ere so slowly most cannot yet tell
My pain lives so deep and my heart goes through hell.
I crawl more than walk through days such as these
Heavy with sorrow, wanting only ache relieved.

And yet truly what is can’t be undone,
I’ve lost my life in the loss of my son.
For seven years counting this marking of time
Having lost in him life, both his then and mine.

I stay hollow inside though try as I might
Come to from the damage of my now soiled life.
I’d rather be still with my son by my side
My heart filled with love and my joy still alive.

For Dylan, Always for Dylan

©Beth Brown, 2022

“My Forever Son” Backstory

Out of a Deep Sleep

The pounding on my front door continues. Am I dreaming? Bam, bam, bam. I open my eyes enough to see the clock on the nightstand: 4:08 a.m. Groggy and disoriented, I stumble down the hallway on my way to the front door. I can hear men’s voices.

I glance in Dylan’s bedroom where our Gordon Setter is whoofling her low, deep growl. Dylan’s bed is still made. Terror grips me. What’s going on? I turn the corner to the landing, I freeze. Something’s at my front door. The porch light illuminates three men. Shadow shapes, their thickness and size, even dim in the yellow porch light, rise stark against the darkness of the night.

“Open up! Deputy Sheriff,” the tallest shadow in the middle of three shadows yelled. “Open up!” “Open up!”

The night sky still casts darkness everywhere-except on the shadow shapes. No moon and not yet sun rising. A deep dark lacking stars and sun, moon and morning’s dawn.

Terrified and fully awake, I realize Dylan has not yet come home. Pizza, a movie with his friends, home from his freshman year of college for summer break. Dylan will move back into his dorm room in the fall. It is June 25th, 2012.

Into the Shadows

All I know of my life lives on my side of the door. A teenage son. Big, floppy-eared dog. English papers to be graded. Dylan. And on the outside of my door?

Cautiously, I open the door. A tall, towering man in the middle holds a plastic bag with Dylan’s Samsung phone and Fossil leather wallet. Even in the shadows, I know the shape of my son’s things.

“We need to come in to talk to you about your son.”

Towering man in the middle announces he is the Deputy Sheriff. The other two men stand stiffly. (If they told me who they were, I can’t remember. Don’t want to remember.) I can’t remember anything beyond what the deputy sheriff man said next. He spoke flat and monotone:

A Terrible Truth

“Your son had some convulsions. He didn’t make it.” He lay the plastic Ziptop bag containing Dylan’s phone and wallet on the sideboard near the front door. “There’s no need to identify his body. The ID’s been made.”

And just like that, my son reduced to what remained and could be reclaimed from all that was his life-his Samsung phone and his brown, tri-fold Fossil wallet I had given him for Christmas. My 19-year-old son’s things in a hospital-issue plastic bag.

Outside my door, the shadow shapes disappeared into the night. Three men whose names remain unbeknownst to me had come only to deliver a terrible truth. I collapsed into an armchair. To this day, nearly a decade after June 25, 2012, I still feel the piercing of my heart.

Losing my son shattered all that I was, all that I knew, all that I would (or could) be ever again. The outside-my-door world had taken my son. From the inside-my-home world, the one I had made with Dylan for 19 years, I felt the cold delivery of my only child’s death draining the lifeblood from me.

A Trail of Tears Where Life Used to Be

I couldn’t breathe. I collapsed into an armchair, the one with the beautiful gold and burgundy brocade, the one where I sit to grade papers and read books, the one where Dylan tosses his books and backpack from school.

This was the end of my world as I knew it. In complete shock, I started calling those closest to Dylan, his many friends and my family.

“Mom, Dylan’s dead.” She shrieked as she dropped her phone. “We’re coming over.”

That’s the last thing I remember. All of me went numb. Suspended animation. Disbelief rallying against and yet fully aware of a hellish reality. A thick fog encased me. I could see but I could not be. I was with Dylan, because how could I not be? I was still alive, but I went away. It would be a long time before I would (and could) live again.

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