Remember His Name

Survivors of Suicide Loss Support Group - Madison, NJ

Posted: Apr 10, 2019

Remember His Name

I jumped into a cab last week after the end of a busy day in Chicago. I was heading back to the hotel to get some rest. My mind was full of a thousand things that I needed to finish on my business trip. Within a few seconds of entering the cab a song came on the radio. I am sure the cab driver was preoccupied with the downtown traffic and did not even notice the song, but I did. I’m sure the lyrics are familiar:

“Would you know my name

If I saw you in heaven?

Would it be the same

If I saw you in heaven?

I must be strong and carry on

'Cause I know I don't belong here in heaven”

Eric Clapton’s song, “Tears in Heaven”, which is about his deceased son Conner, hit me like a bolt of lightning.

Today marks the 10th year since our son John died by suicide on April 10, 2009. In between all of those work deliverables I had in my mind, I was also thinking about what I would be doing today. It’s is easy to get buried in work when you have lost a loved one. Facing the grief in your heart takes a lot of strength. The song on the radio caused all of my thoughts about work to disappear and caused me to focus on John and our family.

Needless to say, the tears started to stream down my cheeks.

When you lose a child, all of your future memories with them are stolen away from you and all you are left with are the old memories. The gold rush of future dreams and life’s ambitions were taken from our son in a flash. I cherish the old memories, in fact there are no words to describe how much the old photos, videos and memories in my heart are worth to me. The rush of memories that came to me in that cab ride drowned out the rush hour traffic. I knew that my wife and I would be spending today thinking about John and talking about John to whomever would listen.

I also reflected with some sorrow that after ten years, very few people are thinking about John. Many people have moved on with their lives and their deceased friend and relative has become more of an afterthought to them now. Over the last several years very few people mention John’s name to us unprompted. I understand and accept that. They don’t walk past his empty bedroom every day. They don’t have his family pictures staring back at them from the table top picture frames. I am starting to feel that it has fallen to my wife, our daughter and I to keep his John’s name and memories alive.

I sometimes worry that I will forget some aspect of John’s life and that another part of him will also disappear. While a loved one physically leaves this world when they die, they never leave the hearts of those who loved them. We carry their laugh, their voice, their hugs and oh so many memories in our hearts.

The loss of a child is not something you get over. Last year Willie Nelson released a song 27 years after his son Billy died by suicide. The chorus of the song goes:

"It's not somethin' you get over, But it's somethin' you get through”

You heal, but you are never healed. There is a gaping wound in your heart forever, but we rarely show it to anyone. We integrate our loss into our lives. We go back to living and loving, singing and dancing. But we also are carrying a weight that we can never drop. If we drop our loved one that died, we feel like we will lose them forever.

So the words of the song hit me in the soft spot in my heart and emotions. Unless dementia steals John’s name from me, I will never forget John’s name and my memories of him. I can’t imagine any scenario where he would forget my name either. We have a lifetime of stories to share when I meet him again, god willing.

My Catholic upbringing has me confident that John is in heaven. John left this planet better than he found it and while his death was a tragic loss to many, his legacy has gone on to make the world a better place. When my day comes, I am sure we will not forget each other’s name. I am sure that the infinite love we shared will come racing back to my broken heart. I pray that it would not only “be the same”, but that it will be even better. Heaven is a great place, and while I would have preferred that John had spent the last ten years with us in person, heaven is an ok place for him to be. I looked down at the book of remembrance in church this morning and John’s name is there, and it will always be remembered there. It is also a reminder where he is waiting for us to join him in the future.

Mentioning John’s name to us is a gift. We would take it over gold, silver or diamonds any day. Some things that you can give to others are just more valuable then you could ever imagine. If you want to give a gift to someone who has lost someone close to them, mention their name. The tears that flow are just the love that we have kept bottled up since they left our lives. Please share stories, pictures, video and most importantly their name with those who have been left behind after a tragic death.

I ask only one thing today, please remember his name.