Reluctantly, I returned to the job I had once loved. The first people I saw that morning were two of the building's cleaning staff. These were particularly sweet ladies. I took one look at them and burst into tears. They ran to me, put their arms around me, and wept with me. We moved inside to my office where my secretary joined our circle of tears. They all held me and cried with me for a long time. I remember saying over and over, "I can't do this; I can't do this." The work that I had lived for, had striven so hard for was, all of a sudden, the most unimportant thing on earth.
It was a peculiar time. I remember looking around me and watching other people go about their daily routines as though nothing had happened. "How can it be," I wondered, "that the world hasn't stopped?" "How can everyone appear to be so normal?" It seemed somehow profane that all persons everywhere did not stop to acknowledge the passing of a girl so beautiful. The blessing of denial took over and I began to move from one day to another in a trance. I even allowed myself to pretend that everything was fine -- that my baby was still alive and well. Once, while driving to work I actually smiled to myself while thinking how odd it was that everyone was being so nice to me when absolutely nothing had happened.
A large insurance company owned the building that I had listed. When their representative saw me again, she remarked to my secretary that the "sparkle" had gone out of my eyes. My secretary assured her that I would get it back. But, not surprisingly, that sparkle was gone forever. I cried every day and frequently had to hide in the restroom or even a cleaning closet so I wouldn't be seen. The sales that had come so naturally for me started to drop. I lost that job after a few more months. They "fired" me in a cruel, callous way. I knew that our office was to be moved sometime in the future, but one day I went to work and the office had been moved -- all except for MY office and personal things. The insurance company representative picked her way, smiling, through the moving debris to my office to tell me that I had lost my job. I packed and left that day.
I went home and sank into an utter desolation that was worse than any hell I've ever been in. I shut my door and closed the window blinds and just existed. The only reason I kept on living was that I couldn't stop breathing. Sometimes with each breath I thought I would surely die. The only place I didn't stop going was to church. For some reason, I was able to do that. I went almost every Sunday morning. I was no longer able to pray or read the Bible, but I went to church and wept all the way through. I felt compelled to surround myself with things spiritual, and so I began listening to a Chicago Christian radio station. I never turned the radio off. It stayed on that station twenty-four long hours a day. At night, the only way I could lie down was with the Christian music playing loudly very close to my ear. With all my might, I tried to focus on the words being sung and preached. I had to try to drown out the torment that accompanied my every waking hour. Sleep rarely came until dawn, so the soft, soothing voice of an all-night Moody Broadcasting personality became my ally and my friend.
After attending church, I would pick up a few groceries on the way home and there I stayed till the next Sunday. (Two exceptions were that I went to The Compassionate Friends meetings and to a counselor.) Friends, and even relatives, began giving up on me. At first they would call and try to "cheer me up." One well meaning woman from my church would tell me every time she saw me that I was "getting better." I finally raged at her, "Don't you know that I'm NOT getting better! Don't you know that I don't WANT to get better? I only want to die." When I didn't "get better," or wouldn't be "cheered up," people didn't know what to do. They told me I had "changed." Dear God! Changed?! What did they think I would do -- stay the same ol' lighthearted Faye that I had been?
My son had been living with me and attending college when Lisa died. I have found that such tragic, unexpected losses as suicide can irrevocably change family dynamics. David and I had had our problems, but we had been close for the last few years. He struggled mightily with school when his sister died and finally had to drop out for the rest of the quarter. I suppose that he and I grieved differently and neither could understand the other's way. It seemed that he began to distance himself from me. I cried all the time, but he just withdrew. I craved for his arms to hold and comfort me, but instead he would leave the room when I cried. I felt that his detachment meant that he didn't care. Now, I think that this was probably the only way he could survive himself. He threw himself back into his college work and moved out just as soon as he graduated. He must have been miserable living with his crazy mother.
Over the years I have tried to get him to talk with me about it, but so far I haven't succeeded. He remains a bit aloof with me, silently critical of my continuing uphill struggles and my bungling mistakes. I wonder if I might not be better off if I had more of the stuff David is made of in me. He becomes more successful all the time, I'm glad to say. He has a high paid engineering career. He is happily married, with a precious baby daughter, and seems to do everything right. And here I am a wash-up in my career still trying to cope with life after Lisa.
I have one other child -- my oldest named Denise. She was living in Asheville at the time. How can I ever forget listening in on the phone when David called her to tell her about Lisa? I had lacked the courage to do it myself. He told her that Lisa had been shot, and then he stammered, "Denise, she didn't make it." I heard Denise disbelievingly shriek that most horrible of questions, "Is she dead?" On hearing the answer, her phone fell to the floor and all I could hear was her hysterical screaming on the other end. Thus began a time of intense mourning for Denise. Our relationship came to the forefront as well, and it took years for us to work through some painful issues that came up for her. But, work through them we did. We are now as close as a mother and daughter can be. I thank God for restoring our relationship and for giving me this warm, sweet, loving daughter.
Slowly, but surely, I lost almost all of the friends I had ever had. It must have been terribly morbid for them to be around me. I couldn't work; couldn't even think about work. When I tried to interview, inevitably they asked me about my children. Still unable to control my runaway emotions, I would burst into tears and the interview was over. I began using my savings and investments to live on. The insurance company didn't want to pay me for my last few sales at the condo, so I had to sue them. I won, too! I beat out a team of fancy New York corporate attorneys! But, of course, my attorney got almost as much as I did. I had to sue three different times to get the money I had earned. I won all three times. But, at the end of a year and a half my money had run out and I was destitute. I did not even file a tax return the year Lisa died, and now I had spent the money to pay my taxes with. And I didn't even care.
I longed for another type of job. Real estate, at best, is cutthroat, and I simply was not up to it anymore. It is a very emotional kind of sale. I've always said that when people buy or sell a home, they act like they are buying and selling their own children. Raw emotion takes over. At one time, I was able to take all the battering, but now I could not. Unfortunately, my job credentials and education did not allow for the kind of job I would like to have. I began working for a temp agency just to bring in an income; and occasionally I would sell a house as a Buyer's Broker. But, still I floundered.
Almost exactly fourteen months after Lisa, I met the man who would become my second husband. The story of our first meeting is kind of funny, and also very sweet. David and I had been in a car wreck and because I had stopped wearing my seat belt, I sustained many injuries. I was on my way to a hospital for physical therapy one morning at 7:30. Because I didn't care if I wrecked again or not, I was driving over 70 mph in a 40 mph zone. I looked in my rear view mirror to see the dreaded blue light whirling on a white motorcycle directly behind me. I pulled over and a tall, polite police officer walked over and asked for my driver's license and proof of insurance. I handed him the driver's license, and then started digging for the insurance card. Nothing was in its proper place anymore. I couldn't find it. I started crying -- one more speeding ticket. I would probably lose my license altogether.
I told the policeman to just write the tickets and let me go. But, said he in a kind voice, "Ma'am, I can't let you drive while you're so upset. It's not safe." This made me mad. I just wanted to get out of there. I grabbed the handy-dandy bottle of tranquilizers that I kept in the car, popped one in my mouth, and said, "Now I'll be okay. Let me go." He politely cleared his throat and said, "Ma'am, may I see what you just took?" Knowing I had dug myself in even deeper, I handed him the bottle of pills. Again, just as politely, he said, "Ma'am, it says here that you shouldn't drive while taking this medication." Oh, I could have strangled him!
Long story short, he called another police officer with a car to come to my aid. He knew I needed to get to my appointment. They spoke briefly and then he walked back to my car. "Scoot over, Ma'am," he said, "I'm going to drive you to your appointment." That officer got into the car beside me, and with the other policeman following, drove me to the hospital. On the way there, I told him why I was so crazy. He listened attentively, and then he said the right thing. He told me that he had not lost a child, and could not imagine the pain I felt. He then proceeded to tell me about the court fight he'd had to try to get custody of his own little daughter from her unfit mother. Wow! Here was a person who didn't try to tell me they "knew" how I felt. He acknowledged my pain and then shared his own. He asked if I was getting help, and I told him I was and that I was going to a TCF meeting the next night. He expressed an interest in attending the meeting since there were times that he had to deliver the horrible news to parents. To my surprise, he showed up, and the rest is history. We married in August of 1996, four years after we met.
His little daughter was three years old when we met. Melissa is now eleven and we have sole custody. I am a mother again. I had been a divorced Mom raising my three children alone. Lisa knew that I wanted to love and marry again, and I believe that she sent this wonderful man to me. He has supported and loved me through all my ups and downs, and it is because of him that I can be "almost" normal. The child's name, "Melissa," is a derivative of the name "Lisa." Both she and Lisa were born in the month of September. I am older than my husband, old enough to be Melissa's grandmother. And yet I have been given a chance to be the mother of another little girl. What are the odds of this happening? Thanks, Lisa! We have our problems, but I think Melissa knows that I will always be there for her. She calls me "Mommy," and that word is music to my ears.
The road is still hard. But, I have the love of a good man, and security, and a home. I still operate my little business, Cornerstone Realty, but it is now in a bedroom of our home. I sell as a Buyer's Broker once in a while, enough to contribute a little. My precious husband is aware of where I've been and he understands what high stress levels do to me. (And he loves me anyway -- can you imagine?) He doesn't want me to work full-time and that is okay with me.
I am about as "over" losing my child as I will ever be. I can function on a day-to-day basis, but I am grateful for the antidepressants that kept a chemically depleted brain at operating level. A relative once told me that antidepressants were a crutch. Well, I reasoned, if I had lost a leg I would need a crutch, and what I lost was far greater than the loss of a mere limb. I would give a leg; no, both legs and both arms, if I could have my Lisa back. Thankfully, all-natural products with even better results have replaced the antidepressants.
This is the first time I have told the story of my life after my daughter passed. To those of you who have read this long epistle, I thank you, and I pray God's blessings on you as you struggle through your own Valley of the Shadow of Death. All I can say is to keep on putting one foot in front of the other. Believe in yourself and hang on! The dark clouds of grief will one day give way to rays of bright sunshine with "intermittent" clouds. You WILL make it!
I dedicate the poem below to all the bereaved parents who read this. We can
be and be better because our beloved children existed.
Love and peace,
Mother of Lisa
God's Little Lamb ^j^
9/23/65 - 4/22/91
In Memory of Lisa Elaine Mewbourne
When Great Souls Die
When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down in tall grasses,
and even elephants lumber after safety.
When great trees fall in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses eroded beyond fear.
When great souls die, the air around us
becomes light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly. Our eyes, briefly,
see with a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines, gnaws on kind words unsaid,
promised walks never taken.
Great souls die and our reality
bound to them, takes leave of us.
Our souls, dependent upon their nurture,
now shrink, wizened. Our minds,
formed and informed by their radiance,
fall away. We are not so much
maddened as reduced to the unutterable
ignorance of dark, cold caves.
And when great souls die, after a
period peace blooms, slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill with a kind
of soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never to be the same,
whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be better.
For they existed.