Dear Rich

With Rich & Grauntie, 2012.

Dear Rich,

You would have been 40 today.

It’s been almost four years since you decided to take your life, and I still wrestle with your decision often. I haven’t written much, but words and incomplete sentences have been churning in my head for a long long time. I have vacillated between anger and sadness, deep guilt and doses of understanding, and from apathy to compassion. More than anything, I miss you.

The first year, I was a mess. Hailey has said that those twelve months were the most emotionally closed off I’ve ever been. She didn’t know how to help. I wouldn’t let her. To be honest, I didn’t know how. The only thing that helped was long bike rides. I’d cry. I’d yell at God. Then, one day, it hurt to sit on my bike. I went to the doctor and was told I was “carrying anxiety and tension” in my pelvis. Grieving your death sent me to a year’s worth of some of the most painful physical therapy of my life. You’d probably laugh at what I went through. Thanks.

When your mom died later that year, I was still numb. I couldn’t believe it was real. Your mom’s death didn’t haunt me the way yours did and I was angry because you robbed me of the ability to properly grieve. I felt guilty for being a pastor, and not being able to be present when people I loved hurt. Now, with hindsight and hopefully a bit of growth, I can say there was a season where it was really easy to blame my inadequacies on you. I’m sorry.

You didn’t get to meet all my kids. Sometimes, when I think of you and them, I am paralyzed by fear. I want to talk to you about parenthood and mental illness, but can’t. I weep for them and you, all at once.

I’m grateful you met our oldest. She’s not quite as stubborn as you were, but definitely carries that oldest child trait. She loves building legos. Every Christmas I tell her about when we were kids, and how excited I’d be to show you my new set. Thanks for bringing moments of joy to the annoying little cousin that I’m sure I was at times.

I tell my son about you often. It’s silly, but when you first died, I was angry that you “left me” with Sarah and Liz. I was “the only male of this generation” left in our family (yes, I know. Sarah and Liz are plenty capable. And, had you lived, we’d be taking care of you at some point anyway…). “T-Man” knows what it’s like to be the only male in a generation (so far). He’s goofy, and I’m sure you’d crack up at his antics with the rest of us.

Our youngest will hear the stories just like her older siblings. She’ll hear about surfing till dusk in PB while our family gathered on the beach around the bonfire, about our trip to Costa Rica, and about working together at the wholesale tropical fish store. When she gets old enough she’ll also hear of your struggle (as will her siblings), and will know from an early age that there is always a place to turn for help.

I’m sorry you fought the demons you did for so long, and I’m sorry for not really understanding. I’m also grateful to have had a cousin to look up to and to learn from for so long. Thanks for the adventures, and thanks for the lessons you continue to teach. Happy Birthday, Rich.