Sunday, May 11, 2014

When the calls came, Part 3

Several things began to happen at once... My mom called to tell me that she and her husband would be driving out to be with me. They would drive to southern California first and my brother would drive them up to where we live and they would stay for a few days. We decided that we would hold a memorial service with my 6 children and family that could join us. Joseph had been attending youth group activities and church services with his friends at a small church nearby. The pastor, having gotten to know Joseph the past year, generously made the church available to us to meet. Rebekah, who worked in a printing center at an office supply store, had been notified by her boss that she was welcome to plan out a program and print them for free for the memorial.

All the while life was so painful to live. When I would lay down to sleep I would see Nathan riding his bike from his home down the hill towards the cliffs. I would try to focus on something else and then envision him going off the pier. I would get mental images of him drowning. I would wonder... was he in distress? Emotional pain? My mother's heart broke over and over and I wanted so badly to know if he realized how much I love him. Was there anything I could have done to prevent this? WHY? And if I left the house for any reason, I would worry about my sons. Where were they? What were they doing? Would they try to hurt themselves because the pain was too great? Would any of my children decide to follow Nathan? It was an incredibly painful fear to live with. If I mourned and cried in front of my children, would they think I loved Nathan more than them? If I laughed, smiled or seemed happy, would they think I didn't love Nathan enough?

My sister-in-law began to check in with me. She had lost my niece, who died in a car crash at the age 19. She could relate to what I was experiencing. She would text and check up on me and it was nice that between her and Karla I could express myself and feel supported and loved.

On the 18th I sent the following message to Karla: "Rebekah is on the phone with the press now as we speak.
they contacted her earlier today saying that they had been told by the coroners office that Nathan's death was determined to be suicide and they were asking the family for final comments as the do one last story on nathan and here I sit in my room... not having been contacted today at all...
I am ready to let the press know what I think of how an out of town MOM is not in the loop....
let them run a story on THAT
deep breath...."
It was painful to not be contacted right away with information. To have the press know before I knew. I mean, of course, official information. I "knew" in my heart things without being told.

I was able to give a statement to the press, and part of it was published in their last article on my son. Here is that statement:
"No one will fully understand what Nathan's final thoughts were. We do, as a family, have sentiments and messages from Nathan. Whether it's writings in his journal, our last conversations with him in person or by text, we do have a connection to him. For that, I am very grateful. There are no words that can adequately express the grief of a mother's loss. And in the same way, words also fall short when I hear myself say that I cherish every memory with my son... but I do. I will never say that I have six children now. I will always have seven. He will always be with us in our hearts."
I had finally been sent emails from the sheriff. He had not given me information on the case throughout the process for the only reason that he would have preferred to give that type of information in person. So, since I lived farther away, I did not know things that could have helped me during those days. There were other family members that did have the information and they were asked by investigators to NOT share the information with me. I really don't know what to say about that...

Sitting on the side of my bed I began to open attachments... A letter on Nathan's desktop announcing that by the time it was read, he would not longer be living. Pages of poems that were heartfelt and filled with longing. Messages that were his last communications from the computer... a statement made by him on who he was, where he went to school, that he did not drink or do drugs, neither did his friends and that he did not agree with his dad about some issues... his words stating that the stress of disagreeing had taken a physical, mental and emotional toll on him... and a letter to all of us. Although he mentioned the stress of life at his dad's he wrote with admiration to his father. He wrote to very close friends, his grandmother and uncle. He wrote to me that he loved with as much as there is space between the earth and the moon. THAT is what I needed. THAT is what the investigators could have shared that would have eased a bit of the agony I was living with. I shared each page with Nathan's brothers. Perhaps some day I will print out the pages for each of his siblings.

I was told that Nathan had not slept for 3 nights prior to his suicide. I don't feel that I can share much of his personal writing publicly, out of respect to his siblings, but I will share a few lines that show a glimpse into how he was doing. Perhaps it can help others. The follow quotes are just snippets from things Nathan wrote:
"How would you feel, knowing that there exists, someone who could fully understand every inch of you. Where you didn't have to hide behind an ego that only hurt you in the end...
"why do I always feel alone?
"Is there someone else around? To hear my thoughts; to say: it's okay to feel alone Because you wont always be that way, I wont let you be alone..."
"... Can I have a dream that isn't an illusion?"

For days on end I could not remember the last time I was with Nathan. I remember our last texts. I remember our last phone call. But I could not remember the last time I had seen him. The reason I couldn't wasn't because it had been too long, but because of the distress I was in. He had spent a week with us a couple of times over the summer. We had gone to Santa Cruz and spent the night at his grandmother's house and he had joined us. One weekend in October we had done that. He had to go home early in the morning and just he and I had got up. We drove together to his father's residence and had a fairly good connection. He had stayed up late the night prior talking with Joseph and he kept telling Joseph that he was doing great. In the car he was letting me know that all was well between he and I. The last I saw him, he was heading to the porch and the front door of the house. I drove away and that was the last time I saw him. As I mentioned, we did text after that and we did talk on the phone. He said he was re-thinking his life. From talks with his brothers and sisters, it really does seem like he had this planned out for a while and was connecting with each of us before leaving. He would call Victor and they would talk for some time. Nathan needed to know that Victor would be okay.

The day came for the memorial. My brother had arrived with my mom and step-dad. I will never forget the look on my brother's face when he lost his daughter and I hugged him. He may never forget that look on my face when I lost my son. I was glad that he was here. We had a special connection. He tells it this way... "When you lose a child, you join a secret club that you never knew existed and one you would never want to be a part of. Sometimes you meet other members of the club. You can relate to them. Other times you meet someone who says 'I know just how you feel' and you ask, 'Really? When did your child die?'"

I took the rocks that I had bought for Nathan for Christmas and made a tribute table to Nathan. I had also purchased a beautiful turtle journal for guests to write in. Sometime prior to the service I met with the pastor to share with him the circumstances and a bit of our family history so that he would have some understanding going into the service. Nathan had written another interesting "last note" before he died. In it he said that he needed to know what came after this life... that when it came to his death he wanted it understood that he chose this path because he wanted to know what was next. I believe he died searching for answers and that he met God. God is all knowing and knew his beautiful, lonely, longing heart.
Several of us shared stories about Nathan at the memorial. We laughed and cried. Rebekah had made a multi-media video with music and pictures and newsclips. One of the most endearing parts of the service was when my youngest son, Victor, went up to speak. It was unexpected. He took the microphone in hand and his chin quivered and he began to speak, but also began to cry. He tried to regain composure and Stephen stepped up beside him and behind him and gave him support. Victor shared how much Nathan meant to him, how he was always there for him to listen and give him advice and how much he would miss him. There were no dry eyes.

Relatives came and went, as did Christmas. We took a trip to Santa Cruz to pick up Nathan's remains. We had waiting until after Christmas to publicly post a link for people to give donations to cover the end of life expenses I was having to cover. It was truly one of the most amazing moments when in 3 hours after the link was posted, we had all the funds needed! I must share here that my daughter Zoey (given name is Julie) was the one who sat next to me while I processed how much money I would need in order to have my son's remains. She sat there and said, "Mom, we can do this! We can raise the money!" I believed her and many generous people took part. Rebekah went with Joseph, Victor and I to pick up Nathan's remains. Sometimes you don't know how important something will be until the time comes. It was great to have Rebekah there. I had papers to sign and information to process and all the while there was a heavy white box in a blue transparent bag sitting in front of me. I could read the label on the box, "Nathaniel Phillips". I could hardly see words on the papers I was supposed to sign. Rebekah was strong. She read the papers and made sure I would be able to understand "things" later. Tears kept rolling down my cheeks. I had to carry my son to the car. Where would I put him? (I do understand that my son is not here, but is now a part of eternity, but this was what was left, what I had) Later when I was at home, I took that box out of that blue bag and held it against my chest, weeping again. I held my son for a while.

We had also taken a trip to the pier. I took pictures of the path at top of the cliffs which looked like the place described by the sheriff as to the place my son left his bicycle. The sun was setting and the pier was closing, but an officer cleared the public, knowing that we were the family who had lost Nathan. There was a memorial set up at the end of the pier. Rebekah lit candles and we were allowed to stay for some time.

Joseph and Victor had to go to school again and I had to go back to work. Joseph was very sick in January and I worried about him a lot. He would not talk about or listen to anything about Nathan. He did have a physical for sports with his pediatrician and was ready for tennis season to start. We were able to talk about it a couple of times, but, as I knew would happen, Joseph was a changed person for life. We all were. We each fell apart at different times on different days and that was good because we could support each other. We still fall apart sometimes... meaning, we break down and cry our grieving cry. We will always wish this had not happened, but we will learn and grow and love each other endlessly.

1 comment:

Karla Marie said...

I love you, my dear. Your sharing your story, your families story makes a difference. Your testimony is hear twrenching, and heart warming at the same time. God is good. He takes what is meant for evil and brings life. Thank you for sharing. You are all in my prayers, still. :) <3