Thursday, February 24, 2011

For our daddy, son, brother, cousin, nephew and friend.

In Memory of
Michael John McRae
November 21, 1978 - February 25, 2010

Where has the year gone?
It has slipped away.
Such a beautiful soul Michael; your smile lit up a room,
the sound of your laughter was infectious.
When we close our eyes, we see you with a ball glove
over your mouth and nose.
You loved the smell of the leather of your glove.
We remember the red socks
you used to wear on the ball diamond. 
We remember the twinkle in your left eye;
We remember how you could never tell us a fib
and get away with it because your face gave you away;
We remember how in awe you were of your daughter
when she was born and we knew you understood
the love of a parent for his child.
Our lives are better for having you in it and
they changed forever that awful night,
But when our days are difficult, we remember
your beautiful smile and if we listen hard
We'll hear your voice for awhile.
God has you in his keeping, Michael.
We have your in our hearts.
Life will go on but will never be the same,

We miss you so much
We remember you with love in our hearts and
thank God for the time we had together.

Always and forever,
Your family

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

From Michael's camera.

Just five minutes

Last night I dreamt about Michael.  He didn't visit me in my dreams; I couldn't talk to him, he was just there.  Today I can't remember too much about the dream other than in my dream he was young.  I wish I could remember more.  Today I have been playing through the file folder in my brain in which are stored my last pictures of Michael.  They aren't great pictures but this week I am not going to block them. 

One of Michael's friends wrote on his memory page that he wishes he could have just five minutes with him again, and I started to wonder what I would do if I was given five minutes with him.  What would I say?There would be the understanding with  God that I was only getting five minutes and then he would be gone again.  Would I take that five minutes, only to lose him again? Would I want to go through it all over?  I've put lots of thought into this and the answer is yes, I would.  If God would give him back to me just for the five minutes I would hold him, rock him, tell him I loved him. My deal with God would be that after my five minutes, God would just gently take Michael's soul and he would be gone.  I would never relive the reality of that terrible night. I wouldn't want my son to go through what he did in order to find peace.  But just to hold him for a little while, to see his beautiful eyes one more time, to assure him that we would remember him always with love, yes, I would make the deal with God.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

More about memories

5:30 am.  My husband has just gone to work and I've climbed back under the covers to keep my feet warm.  It's the 15th of February, so 10 days until "the anniversary".  Today I must write the memorial tribute for the newspaper.  I've added writting a memorial to your child to my list of "things no one should have to do". What do I say in a memorial for my son?

I started to work on this last week but had to walk away because the words appearing on the screen in front of me were sad words, words asking God to grant us one wish, words telling Michael how empty our lives feel without him.  These are facts, but these aren't things I want people to read because these seem to be about us.  I want people to remember Michael, to remember his handsome face and beautiful smile, his incredible laughter. I would love them to close their eyes and see him pitching a ball, throwing one in from the fenceline of center field to homeplate, playing on the floor with his daughter, carousing with his dogs.  There are so many faces of Michael I want people to remember. 

We have chosen a picture to put with whatever words I can put together.  The picture was taken at one of his best friend's wedding and he was so happy.  It was a good day.  Oh to go back to those days, pre-2008, such a short time ago.  Is it possible life has changed so much in such a short time?  Of course it is.  Even though we ask ourselves this question almost daily, we know that in life every second of every day is important because no one knows what the next second will bring. 

I have a close friend whose son took his own life five years ago.  These boys grew up together in the same little town and left this earth for the same reason.  We talked on the phone yesterday for a very long time about what the kids went through in their struggle to keep themselves alive and I realized that although their battle was with an illness of the mind, a battle with depression, a battle with messed up neuro-transmitters, it was a battle no different really to any with a physical illness. Ultimately, our boys suicides were the the end of their desperate attempts to live healthy, normal, happy lives. 

Sunday, our minister's sermon had an analogy of a young man's death to cancer to the story of David and Goliath but in this case, Goliath (cancer) won.  My belief is that there is no difference in dying of cancer ore heart disease or any other physical illness  or dying of depression or mood disorders or mental health issues.  A death is a death and no one is better for the loss of a life despite the individual circumstance.

When I write Michael's memorial tribute I want him remembered as Michael, who is gone from us forever, not Michael who took his own life: Michael who filled our lives with joy, not Michael who suffered so for the last couple of years of his life.  I want Michael to look down and know that for the short time he was with us he changed our lives forever and that we will always honour his memory and remember him with nothing but love. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

in remembrance.

This has been such a sad week.  On Thursday we lost another young man from our small community in a worksite accident.  He was my granddaughter's cousin, just 19, with the promise of a long life ahead of him.  Gone.  I haven't written since then because it just wasn't my time, but this morning I realized that there is something I need to say.

When I heard of D.'s passing, I panicked.  The reaction was a kind of gut reaction, completely out of my control. We both cried most most of the night reliving our loss last year (although through different circumstances) and knowing what his parents and family were going through. I spoke to friends who have also lost children and found we were all going through the same type of thing, such profound sadness.  We cried for our little granddaughter, who at four years old has lost both her daddy and a cousin who had been living with them for two years. 

Without yattering on I guess all I want to say here is that this last couple of days I found a strength inside me that I didn't know was there.  Our grief, even after nearly a year is still very raw but it wasn't until this terrible event that I saw that inside me there has been a strength slowly building and I felt able to reach out, if only to offer a hug or to listen.  There are so many days when I still feel very fragile, days when I don't want to have to be strong.  Strength came unbidden.  Is this healing? Maybe it has always been there, I don't know. 

We are so very saddened at the loss of this young man.  Michael really liked him and I know even where Michael is he will be sad to be joined, less than a year after his own leaving, by someone so full of life.

Rest peacefully boys.    We love you.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011



What do YOU think when you see that word? What kind of feelings come into your head?

When Michael first passed away friends, family, acquaintances, and even strangers who heard of his passing shared their thoughts with us. Shock and disbelief, grief and anger were all shared with us in a huge outpouring of caring and support.  Today I want to talk about the anger. 

We have been asked "Are you not angry that Michael did what he did?".  "Doesn't it make you angry that he ended his life at home?".  We know that these two issues really are hard for some people....but they aren't or ever will be issues for us.  Yes, I wish my son hadn't taken his own life, but he was suffering terribly.  Emotionally healthy people generally do not take their own lives.  So, does it make sense to be angry at someone whose suffering was so severe that he saw leaving this world as his only option?  Michael did not want to die.  He just wanted the emotional pain to stop.  His suicide note told us he had "surpassed is capability to cope with.." his life.

He was not a coward, he didn't opt for 'the easy way out', but he did know that there was no help available for him. 

This is where I channel my anger; there aren't the resources to help people like my son.
But never, ever, will I be angry with Michael. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011


When my sister and I were young we went to a Gospel Chapel for Sunday school.  I'm speaking for us both but we loved it.  I found it fun.  Lots of kids from the adjacent army camp attended and on Thursday evenings the Chapel held Bible club.   I think I attended until I was about 14 or so.  The Gospel chapel was part of the Mennonite ministries and in the 50's and '60's the church was a bit more fundamentalist than it is today. I think there was a lot more emphasis on the Old Testament God, a God of anger and retribution, kind of a scary deity to be feared.   Lots of things were sins but we could be forgiven our sins by believing in Jesus..thus gaining access to His father, God.   At that time, there were still lots of evangelical faith healers, performers of miracles, in whom one only had to come with enough belief and true regret to be freed of whatever illness they had.  I know there is are still churches who practice the laying on of hands and the casting out of demons but my days of belief in those things are long gone.  How I wish those kind of miracles had been true.  I would have had my demons cast out as a child..certainly as a young woman.  Would my son still be here?

In a conversation with a cousin recently, speaking of our lost children as they lost a son to a car accident, she said "Let's face it, when the Big Guy upstairs decides it's time, it's time," and I remembered being very angry with God when Michael died.  Suddenly I had this thought....have I been praying to the wrong person, I never pray to Jesus, but to God.  Fear...uh oh.  Then the rational part of me said that no, in our religion it's about belief in Jesus, acceptance and faith...and poor God....He gets blamed for everything...what kind of loving God would allow babies to have cancer, to have lives brutally taken away in the manner they can be?  So...when we pray for the healing for people, for an end to poverty, war, all the terrible things in this world, are we putting the owness back on His shoulders?  This part of my faith I don't understand.   

These are some things I have heard many times, and certainly this year:  "All things come to those who pray"..."God doesn't bring us to something He won't bring us through" response to these would be...."No they don't and Yes He does"  Please don't misunderstand me, I am a religious woman and I love my God, but to me, this is like saying "I wish I may, I wish I might, Have the Wish, I wish tonight", preceded by Dear Lord. And I KNOW, that we do come to things that we can't get through, even WITH least not get through in the way we want.  Going back to the Gospel chapel, we were taught that praying for something for ourselves was a sin.  Much like the Presbyterian side of my religious upbringing, which would have been the Sin of....I don't know...would it be Vanity...Selfishness more likely. 

When Michael died I said God came and took my boy Home. I believe that He knew Michael was suffering, and was saddened by what he saw, and was just there, waiting when the end came.   I believe that my God let's the world take care of itself and is saddened at what he sees, the illness, the hate, the destruction of our environment, the social injustice, but I don't believe He steps in to intervene.  Do I believe that things are pre-destinined.  To be honest, I have no idea, maybe every minute is just a big roll of the dice. 

Why did I write this today?  Because I've been wondering at why young people develop illnesses to which there are no cures, why evil people stay healthy.  I'm still trying to make sense of things, probably because then I will feel a little control.  Ultimately, I am responsible for my own behaviour, my values, my beliefs. 

I'm reminded of cartoons that used to come on tv where a little angel would sit on one shoulder and a little devil would be on the other.  Right now the three of us are having a good healthy debate.  I'm past the fear that debating some beliefs means the little devil wins.  I think dialogue is important..the little guy is outnumbered here.  I have questions I wish could be answered but I know the answer is probably in the form of one word: FAITH.  I do have faith...but I still don't understand.  Why, if we pray enough, can't our prayers be answered? 

I want my son back.  I am guilty of whatever sin that would be...Presbyterians from the 1800's would give it some kind of name probably to do with not accepting my/our fate.  I am guilty of that, certainly.  I have no choice to accept it but I hate it.  No one EVER should lose a child.  No one.

Dear God, please help me come to some kind of understand.  Thank you for the blessing in my life...I do not take them for granted..but I'm floundering here". 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bring on the dust

Yesterday I had a meltdown in the middle of the afternoon, came home, took my meds for panic attacks and spent the afternoon curled up on the floor in front of the fireplace with my boy.

This morning I was up as usual at 5:00, was dressed by 6:00, bed stripped, laundry in, bathrooms scoured, dishes done by 8:00 am.  What gives?   Yesterday was sunny, today is raining.  I'm reveling in the cold rain. 

Coming from and being part of a family lineage of mood dysregulation I should be used to the ups and downs, the surges of energy that come with the up times.  Years ago, I discovered that one way of dealing with pain or unhappiness was to find something to be in complete control of so I developed a bit of an eating disorder.  It started by just wanting to be a bit thinner, believing at that time, that if I was a bit thinner everything else would work itself out.   Of course, it doesn't work that way...but it's all about the control (and lack of ). This morning as I was scrubbing the bathroom with Q-tips, I thought, "oooh,  I could be on to something here...I can control this.  Maybe this is what I do on my low days....scrub, organize, fold"...And so I wonder "What's all this fuss about compulsive behaviour?"  (as long as it's not destructive compulsive behaviour).  I'm rambling, I know, and the point I am trying to make is that right now the way my sadness manifests itself is a bit unpredictable and a bit out of my control. So, I need something I can control.  Today I am in control of dust and knowing that will get me through the rest of the day.  We get to go to the Memorial garden today to visit our son at his former workplace, and then we are off to individual appointments in regard to Michael.  It will be a tiring afternoon but I am energized because I kicked dirt's behind today!  It's nice to be on the swell of a wave..since I share the crashes, I wanted to share the climb.