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  • Becky Adams

The Compassionate Friendly Letter

The mission of The Compassionate Friends: When a child dies, at any age, the family suffers intense pain and may feel hopeless and isolated. The Compassionate Friends provides highly personal comfort, hope, and support to every family experiencing the death of a son or a daughter, a brother or a sister, or a grandchild, and helps others better assist the grieving family.

Dear Matt,

I’ve started going to a group for bereaved parents called Compassionate Friends. It has been amazingly helpful. The last meeting was only a few days after your 5th anniversary. I brought in a bunch of pictures of you, and all the group members looked intently at the pictures and asked me questions about you. They studied your face and they paid attention to how I described you. They really get it.

The group leader passed out a list of ways to cope with the upcoming Hallmark holidays of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. One of the suggestions was to write a letter to your child. You had to know I would like that suggestion, right??

The suggestion is to use the letter to discuss any unresolved issues you might have with your child. We don’t have any unresolved issues Matty. I know it was always very clear to you how much I love you. It was always clear to me how much you love me too. I know that your suicide was unplanned, and it was not meant to be a message that you didn’t love us. I know it was a split-second decision in a single moment of time. I know everything was over before you had even thought it through. I don’t hold it against you. There is nothing for me to forgive.

I know that you can’t be here to say it, but I know you forgive me for my shortcomings as a parent. I feel it. It would be ideal if you could say it, but I truly believe that you would if you could.

So much has changed since you’ve been gone. The one constant is how much I miss you. Your room doesn’t look the same, but sometimes it smells the same. I don’t catch myself starting to holler down the hall to ask you a question as much as I used to, but just because I have reconciled myself to the fact that you’re not here doesn’t mean that I don’t feel a constant ache in my bones of missing you. I love you so much!

Your sister has her own apartment with her boyfriend, and she has a great job. You will be delighted to hear that she “makes bank.” She is so competent and strong and smart--and so very witty. She incorporates you into her life the best way she knows how. She isn’t as weepy and sentimental as I am, but you know she misses you, don’t you. You know. You can still hear the private jokes she mutters to you under her breath. You just have to find other ways to snicker in her ear.

You will be so proud to hear that I went back to college and earned a business degree. I had no idea if I could learn new things. It really helped me to remember how you used to encourage me to do things I was nervous about. I can still hear you saying that I’m smart, that I’m not old.

Going back to school helped me understand why you wanted to go to college for business, and why you wanted to open your own business. One class required that we watch that movie The Big Short, about the mortgage crisis of 2007-9, and I watched it twice because I wasn’t sure I understood it. I imagined you sitting next to me on the couch saying, “Wait, WHAT?!” I knew you’d be as appalled as I was about those Wall Street bigshots making money while people lost their homes. I also knew that, like me, part of you was thinking, huh, so this is how they do it.

Here’s something wild: your 8th grade math teacher was in one of my classes! It was the weirdest feeling, but also so comforting. It was so reassuring to run into someone who knew you, to find someone I didn’t really know who remembered you. I’m sure you live on in lots of people’s minds, but sometimes I need to see tangible evidence.

Your high school football team has become exactly what you always hoped it would be. They actually won the superbowl this year! I suppose you already know that. I suppose you were right there with me in the stands. Your friend’s brother played in that game; she told me she was certain that you were present. I still think it’s something that I should include in a letter to you. I know it didn’t happen while you were playing on the team, but you were always a good sportsman, so I know you’re happy for them.

Even though the weather has been rotten, we’ve opened the pool a full month earlier than usual. This is because we have a NEW POOL!! Sort of. They jackhammered the old coating and tiles and sprayed on a new coating with beautiful new tiles. It’s going to take me some time to get used to the color. Honestly, I don’t think I like it. Maybe in time I will. Let’s face it, I have no choice; what’s done is done! You know me, I’ll make the best of it.

The pool is open early so we can finish getting the new coating ready. Apparently, I am supposed to “brush” the pool EVERY DAY. That is how the material cures. I feel as though for $24,000, the pool people should brush the damn thing. I hate that stupid pole with the brush on it. It’s like trying to wield a 10-foot-long piece of lead. Jeff says that I would not want to pay the pool people to come over every day and brush the pool. Because he is correct, I will reluctantly start brushing.

I stuck my hand in the pool yesterday and it didn’t even feel cold enough to hurt! This is not to say it was warm. But it’s getting pretty close to Matt&Mom temperature. I’ll be jumping in before you know it. I know you’d be jumping in with me too. Even though I’m swimming alone, I don’t feel completely alone.

Buster died, and now I have a new dog. His name is Archie and he is not mellow like Buster. Archie is super energetic and loves to go for a walk and run around the house and bark at the mailman. I think he would annoy you! He would be all up in your face. He would jump on your bed and lick you incessantly. His breath is not as bad as Buster’s, but it’s not good either. He is my trusty companion, however, and he makes me happy. I know you don’t begrudge me for liking dogs better than cats, even though it’s the one issue about which we were diametrically opposed.

Matt, it’s taken me five years, but I think I have finally figured out how to get to work on time without you. I get up three full hours before I need to be there, and it gives me plenty of time for all the distractions that plague me in the morning. I bet you are raising your eyebrows in incredulity, even as you shrug and say, “Whatever it takes, Mom.” Maybe you would have taught me a little differently, but I’m proud that I figured out a way to do it, and I bet you are too.

I’m bound and determined to end this letter on a positive note. I’m living a good life, just the way you would want me to. You always told me I could do anything I set my mind to. So, I am. I’m also picking up where you left off. I help people, I encourage people, and I make people feel welcome wherever I can. Don’t worry, I’m taking care of your sister and your cat. I will finish what you started, and I will make sure you are never forgotten.

Love, Mom

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