All loss is hard. All loss is lonely.
But there is something about losing a child that puts it in another category.
I have experienced other types of loss. The loss of my brother, George, in 1992. Indeed, I loved and miss him very much. The loss of Bryce’s mom, Gayle in 1998 when I thought I had lost my life. I grieved for her, but I still had Bryce. The loss of my job at Camp Chanco in 2008, but by the grace of God I got new one at St. John's. The loss of my dad in 2009 whom I looked up to and loved very much. The loss of my mom in 2018, was very hard and devastating, as we loved her so much, but she was ill.
Then, just over 2 weeks ago my son, Bryce. In a single phone call, by a very courageous friend, a voice proclaimed that Bryce was killed in a single vehicle accident. My life, as I knew it, came to a complete halt. I lost all hope and joy.
The thought of never seeing Bryce again, never hearing his laugh, never hearing the sound of his voice, never hearing him say “ love you dad,” was just unfathomable and then Nothing – just silence, emptiness. Never seeing his smile, never seeing him upset or happy, ever again. I have never felt longing like this in my life….longing to see his face again, and knowing deep in my soul, that this one for Bryce, I cannot fix. Now, so many things that have given me joy and pleasure in life turns into hurt and despair in an instant. There is a piece of the whole that is missing, my son, missing.
As I thought I was a good parent, I was always able somehow to fix things, or make things better for Bryce. This I cannot fix. This I cannot make better. On top of everything else, I feel helpless….out of control and hopeless. I don’t want to forget a single second of Bryce’s life or forget him for a single minute. This is what I fear as time passes.
My life doesn’t seem to fit together anymore. Things that felt right, now feel wrong. As a priest I am supposed to be strong and stoic, and faith filled in the face of adversity. But when it comes to this kind of adversity loss, I am only human, and I know it.
A part of me has died, a real, beautiful, living part of me has died, yet I am still living, left behind to try to pick up pieces of my shattered and broken life and not having a clue where to begin. A part of me does not exist anymore and that is scary as hell. Where can I find my future now...with this hole where my heart once was, everything feels so empty?
But, but….and there is a “but,” there in the back of my mind, in my soul there is something that tells me yes, I am alive, and because I am alive, I have a future, and with a future, I have hope and with hope I have faith, and with faith, I will love and live again. With this faith I remember that I am not the only father who has lost a son. God too lost his son Jesus, and even in that death, there is life again. It is not the same life, but a life that is changed, not ended.
And so, because of the graciousness and loving embrace of so many people, I can feel the loving embrace of God in my life. The faith I do embrace is today somewhat buried underneath a great cloud of darkness, yet there is an ember of light that is beginning to dispel the darkness. And I know Bryce is indeed alright.
I am not yet sure of the timing of my return at the moment, it may be in increments, starting a couple of days in the week and then returning on a Sunday, or full-in, starting on a Sunday. But I will be sure to let “Red,” our incredible Senior Warden know what is going on and he will relate it to you as the days pass.
I do want you to know that I have chosen Saturday, November 4th as the day we will Celebrate Bryce’s life and his new life with Christ and indeed his mother and grandparents as well. The service will begin at 12 noon. Bishop Haynes has graciously consented to be the Officiant, and the Reverend David W. Davenport, Bryce’s godfather will preach the homily at the service. If you plan to attend, please bring a lawn chair to sit in as we probably do not have enough chairs to accommodate all. Bryce’s full obituary will be found online through Welch’s funeral home website if it is not there before this is posted to our website and facebook.
I thank you all at St. John’s for having “my back” in this most challenging time of our lives. For the many notes and cards, e-mails, and texts and with the gifts you have given us for “Happy,” Bryce’s constant companion, Kathy and I send you our love as well, with constant gratitude for you and the community of St. John’s, Hopewell.
“Happy” is doing surprisingly well through his own trauma, but still has a way to go to be completely well. May God’s grace fill your empty places with the brightness of his countenance this day and always, I am, your faithful servant,