1000 Days to Acceptance, Day 122

John when he went to hike Mt. Hood

John, on the West coast.

Today, July 9th, it has been 4 months since we lost our son. I have been told by my grief counselor that certain cultures recognize the passing of certain days after the death of someone as being milestones. The Japanese majority of Indonesia hold a small remembrance ceremony on the following days after the death: the fourth, the fortieth, the one hundred days, the anniversary of, and one-thousandth (1000 days after death), followed by an optional annual remembrance. We have past the fourth, and the fortieth and this is the 122nd day of my son’s untimely death on March 9, 2014. It is my understanding that by 1000 days, I should be able to accept this tragic loss. As a parent, I don’t think I will ever be able to accept this fate we have been dealt. You are not suppose to outlive your children.

In all the books that I have read in the past 4 months, and they are many, trying to cope with the loss, I have all the classic symptoms. Right now the anger comes and goes daily. The feeling of meaninglessness, sadness, irritability in everything, anxiousness, panic attacks, PTSD, helplessness and the list goes on and on. I wonder what is left for me. How will I continue? When is someone going to come and tell me that this horrible thing isn’t true. John was quiet and yet, I desperately want an apology and that wasn’t who he was anyway. Each day is very difficult. Nothing seems to distract my thoughts from it. It is always there. My son is gone. Where is my son? He isn’t coming back. How can this be? I worry about Herb. I worry about everything. Nothing helps. When will I feel normal again? I am lost….

John was 30 years old in January. He had married the love of his life and had a new job, his dream job, in a new state and had everything going his way. To watch your child grow into a responsible young man and embrace life to the fullest is every parents dream. He had finished his master’s degree in Forestry and we helped him move to Oregon with his dog, Jake. Erin, his wife, would soon follow, herself, starting a new job and a new life with my son. Things were perfect for them.

John was strong. He was athletic. He was handsome. He loved his kayak and to kayak in big water. It was incredibly dangerous, but he felt confident that he could stay safe. He was wrong. As a parent, you also watch your children do things that you wish they wouldn’t do and you have fears that they are taking risks. You encourage them to take on the world, even with the risks that are there. But, you hope they will see that their actions are within a safety net that you will not lose them to the forces of nature. Mother Nature swallowed up my son that day. He wasn’t that strong. He didn’t think it would happen. He didn’t mean to hurt us by dying on that cold spring day. But he did.

Now, we are hurting more than we ever have in our lives. Hoping to continue to live, but we wonder, some days, why. Why, are we left to continue and wonder why.  Not believing in a higher power, I think my son is now star dust and is just not here anymore. He is not here to laugh with, to watch him mellow as he ages, in a great marriage, to possibly have a child of his own. And, with a watchful eye, try to expose his own child to the world and the great wonders in it while protecting that child from harm.  We won’t see this happen.

What we did get to experience in the thirty years of his life, was his dry wit, his fun and playful ways, his love of the woods and the earth. He had a laid back style and very frugal ways, understanding that the important things are living a meaningful life and having experiences instead of things. He had a bit of me and a bit of his dad in him but, he was his own man and had a great pride in being a genuinely kind individual to all that knew him. In his short time in Oregon, he managed to plant 70 acres of trees. That is the ultimate in being a steward of the earth. What a legacy and a way to add meaning to the life he had.

I don’t see John living anywhere now but in our hearts. His widow is spreading his ashes in places that he loved the most. High mountains, rivers and trails all across the country.  I am sure John would want that and I think we can all use his example to live life to the maximum and to not take a minute of time for granted. We can try our best to add meaning to the world in ways that are helpful to the planet and to others. We are here for a short time and the impact that we leave on the planet and others lives is all we get. To me there is nothing after this. Nothing to look forward to but the memories we leave in the hearts and minds of others,  giving others an example of a life well lived so that we will be remembered for a while.  We need to be kind to others and have patience. John did this.

I miss him terribly. I can’t bring him back and I will never see or hear him again. I can hear his voice in my head, I can see his smile and I can love him, as best I can, but I can never sit beside him again or feel his presence here with me. It really makes me sad. I can only hope that in 1000 days I can accept that he is gone forever, except in my heart.

I love you, John Duncan Wilburn