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  • “One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” Andre Gide

    It was a Saturday morning, the opening day of fishing season, 1992. Since Jason could bait a hook, he and his buddies would gather at our house at 4 AM with poles, bait boxes and creels in hand to fish the freshly stocked Mill River. I would hear the knock on the door, their excited voices and the click of the latch as they hurried off. Jason was blessed with long-standing, close friendships and this group of boys, now in their early 20’s, had been engaging in this outdoorsman ritual together since grade school.

    On this Saturday, I heard the muffled voices and the knock on the door but no response from Jason. There were a few more knocks and then they were gone. Only the tick of the school house clock disturbed the silence that followed. I thought Jason must have gone to the garage to get his gear and met them outside so I drifted off to sleep again. About 8 AM I went to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee and noticed Jay’s work boots and camouflage jacket on the floor near the door. My heart sank.

    Jason had been diagnosed with Bipolar as a teenager. His first suicide attempt was at age 16. The family genetic history had been quite cruel to this beautiful, young soul. His father also suffered with Bipolar most of his short adult life and committed suicide right before turning 30, two days before Jason’s ninth birthday. They also shared an alcoholic history. Both my husband and my son found their only peace of mind in alcohol. It was the one thing that made getting through the day bearable, until it didn’t.
    After trying medication after medication, my husband said he could no longer handle the life of an emotional vegetable. As awful as the highs and lows were, at least he knew he was alive. Unfortunately, my son chose to identify with his dad by opting out of any drug therapies. At that point the alcohol was still “working.” Just as it did his father, that choice would cost him his life but not before a string of mental hospitals, rehabs and endless family counselors and therapists.

    Jason had been living in a half-way house, working a steady job and dealing with his demons. It was going so well that he was able to come home on weekends with the understanding that any slips into old behaviors would mean leaving the house and ending all visiting privileges. When I saw his jacket and boots I knew the only thing that could keep Jay from opening day had swallowed him whole and my son was once again in the belly of the beast. A few minutes later, the hung over, irritable, beast of addiction that had once been my gentle, funny, loving son, stumbled up the stairs, unshaven and reeking of vodka. There was no anger left in me only a profound sadness and one last desperate prayer to relieve him of his pain and to restore what was left of our family to wholeness. There was no sense in trying to talk sense to Jay. He was gone and only the addict remained. I knew from years of trying, that the addict had no intention of listening. I explained that he would have to leave, to return to the half-way house, there were no other options. But the addict refuses to take no for an answer and cleverly knows where your every fragile heart ache is hiding. How could I do this? It was Easter Sunday. We were supposed to go to his grandmother’s where he would see family for the first time in such a long while. One more night. He would do anything I asked. He loved me so much and was so sorry. Being able to be at home was all that was keeping him hanging on. Please, please... And then the anger, the rage. All I cared about was me and my precious image with the family. He knew what a liar I was. He knew the real me. If I cared he never would have been where he was, his father never would have died...And then the sobbing, the begging. If there is a hell, this was it and I was sharing it with my precious child who never asked for nor deserved any of what he was going through. Jason went to his room and I walked down the hall to call a friend for support.

    It was then that I heard the gun shot. Jason was a hunter but never was allowed to keep a gun in the house and certainly not loaded. I had no idea. I ran into his room but it was over. In that instant I sensed my boy curled up in my womb, innocent and at peace. In that instant my wavering faith told me my prayer had been heard and answered. There would be no more pain for him. It was only an instant followed by a despair so deep that the only explanation for my survival was the love of something outside of myself. It would be a long time before a core self returned.

    There was always that instant though, that flash of awareness that all had been made right again. For years, it was a whisper but always just loud enough to pull me back from the abyss. I don’t know what it is. I don’t suppose it matters. All I know is that there is something and it was merciful enough to take my son’s pain away and to keep me alive long enough to know a peace I’d never imagined possible.
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