18 Months Without Caleb: The Cornerstone
On February 12, 2021, the 18 month anniversary since Caleb went to Heaven, my husband and I drove 6 hours to Barry, Illinois to attend a ‘While We’re Waiting’ retreat for bereaved parents. While I was desperately hopeful that the retreat and experience were going be beneficial and helpful to us, I was absolutely horrified that we fit in with this group of strangers who know the devastating pain of losing a child. I was really grateful for the opportunity to spend time with other parents who knew exactly how I was feeling, but the whole weekend I couldn’t stop thinking, “How did we get here?”
As we listened and learned about each child and their story, I was moved beyond belief at how courageous each of these parents were and what I was learning from them. It was an out of body experience as I shared who Caleb is and what happened that awful Monday night. We made connections and new friendships were started from the retreat that we are incredibly grateful for. Being in a club of bereaved parents is not where any parent ever wants to be but because of this retreat and ministry, we are now part of a family that we can lean on and learn from. A family that knows exactly how we feel and how hard everything is after the death of your child.
The 12th of each month brings immense sadness as it’s the day in August 2019 that I saw my son alive for the last time. The 18 month anniversary of the worst day of my life didn’t just last for a day, it lingered for nearly a month. I was having a very, very hard time pushing through the reality that it had been that long since I had seen him, hugged him or talked to him. 18 months had a grip on me and it wouldn’t let go. I was lost in the depths of my grief and was really struggling to find my way out. I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t want to live without him anymore. I had been there before, but it was heavier this time. I couldn’t see how I had even survived this long without him. I did reach out to my support system for help and was able to use their encouragement, support, prayers and love to fuel me into each new day. I held on tight and focused on making it to our Spring Break vacation. It came to be, that the vacation is what pulled me into the other side of the 18 month mountain I was stuck on.
I needed to get away to see clearly. To hear clearly. I needed a change of scenery, sounds and noise. I needed breathing room from the depths of grief. I needed to see that it was possible to really enjoy being alive again. The sand, the stars, the sun rising and setting, the ocean and the crashing waves were each a little hug for my heart.
As I stood in front of the endless ocean, I was reminded of God’s sovereignty. Some of the waves were big, some were small. Some crashed against the shore loudly and others quietly. When I’m in the depths of grief, it’s so easy to forget everything I have leaned on, everything I’ve learned and the truths I have rested in because the pain of loss is so overpowering. I needed those moments in front of the sea by myself to be reminded that I am not alone and that I have a beautiful life worth living.
Caleb was powerless over where life would take him, and I was powerless at being able to control the decisions he made. I never imagined my precious Caleb would or could die by suicide. It’s 100% unexplainable and incomprehensible, but the cornerstone must be laid so I can rebuild from the ruins his death has caused. I’ve laid it down before, but I have picked it up every time. I must stop picking it up because it is dragging me down. It is too heavy to carry! I want to focus on honoring him, carrying on his love, light, life and legacy. I want to focus on my girls and the direction our family is heading. I want to live life forward-facing again! I can’t miss out on who my girls are becoming because I’m so burdened at figuring out how Caleb got to the point of ending his life that evening. I need to rest in the fact that I know who he is and I know where he is! I threw all my questions, my anger and my confusion out to the Sea. They will creep back in time and time again, but I believe it will be easier to push them back out of my mind just like a wave comes onto the shore, and then goes back to the sea.
This memorial reads, “… That with the help of God and a dedicated people we can still build from ruins.” As I read these words, God spoke to my heart and said, “You ARE building from ruins” and the cornerstone has just been laid.
Cornerstone: an important quality or feature on which a particular thing depends or is based. The cornerstone is the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation. All other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determine the position of the entire structure.
If you would like information on attending a ‘While We’re Waiting’ retreat for Bereaved Parents or learning about the ministry, please visit: http://www.whilewerewaiting.org