A Year After

One year ago today was the worst night of my life. That was the evening that I had to tell my wife that her son, my stepson, had died. This the day after she lost her father. Remembering the soul-wrenching cry that she made still breaks my heart. It was the hardest, most terrible thing I’ve ever had to do to anyone. Did I say the worst night of my life? I should say our lives. My grief and heartache was but a shadow of what my wife felt. A mother’s love runs deep and so does her pain. She cried, his siblings cried. We all cried. It was a night of tears, the first of many.

Clint and I were unlike in a lot of ways. He was outgoing and gregarious. Full of life, with more friends than I could ever keep track of. He loved having a good time more than anything. Especially more than working or doing the hard things it takes to build a life. He wanted to be rich but he wanted there to be an easy path to get there. To say that he frustrated me at times is an understatement. In the end, there was a richness to his life. So many people he knew came to his funeral with stories about what a great friend he was. How he made people laugh, touched their lives or helped them during tough times. He was a good person with a good heart.

The most difficult two words in the English language are ‘should have’. I should have done something different. Should have seen the signs and gotten him help. Should have taken him hiking when he came back from Colorado with a love of the mountains and the trails. Should have talked with him more and lectured him less. Should have been a better parent. ‘Should have’ holds within it all the finality and powerlessness inherent in our limited and fragile existence. All the ways we get things wrong coupled with the fact that there are endings, oftentimes too soon to imagine.

Somehow, time passes quickly even as the worst days seem the longest. There is nothing good in the unexpected death of a loved one, especially a child. Only sadness and grief and wishing things had gone differently. No one makes it through life unscathed. But we are more resilient than we can imagine. We can find good in the aftermath. We can rebuild our lives one painful piece at a time and try to remember the good times more than the bad. I’m not sure any of us makes it through life without regrets. But, if we try to learn from our ‘should haves’, we can be better people and build better lives. Our time is finite and the world uncertain. It is up to us to make the most of it.

In the days after losing him, I wrote the following for my family. It seems right to include it here. We love you Clint. And we miss you.